We see so many headlines about the "retail apocalypse" - and hear so many debates about whether it is real or not. It is true that some proportion of the many chain store closures in the past few years is because the chains expanded too rapidly and were over-leveraged. But it is also true that, at this point in 2019, there have already been more chain store closures than in all of 2018. Under all the rhetoric about the retail apocalypse, there are some profound demographic, psychographic, and economic shifts taking place that are shaping a new retail reality. It's important to separate these two parallel phenomena.
The Community Land Use and Economics Group is a small, specialized, consulting firm that helps community leaders create vibrant downtowns and neighborhood commercial centers. Our work focuses on developing forward-looking economic transformation strategies, with particular emphasis on cultivating locally owned businesses, removing regulatory and financial barriers, creating effective incentives to stimulate new investment, reusing older and historic commercial buildings, and outlining practical implementation plans. Our clients include local and state governments, nonprofit organizations, business improvement districts, developers, and planning firms in the US and abroad.
Boombox is helping to launch new entrepreneurs in Chicago by offering architect-designed, climate-controlled shipping container pop-up spaces. The "micro-retail" storefronts are available in five Chicago neighborhoods on lease terms from two weeks to three months.
"Why Rent Control Doesn't Work" on Freakonomics Radio. The data indicate that it helps some (esp. those already in rent-controlled apartments) and initially reduces displacement, but it also reduces mobility and the ability for *new* residents to access rent-controlled units. Also interesting: New York City is about to experiment with a form of commercial rent management, based on mandatory binding arbitration (rather than actually controlling rent increases).
Slightly misleading article, in that online shopping accounts for about 10 percent of ALL retail sales (this article only compares online shopping volume to that of general merchandise stores) - but, still, a major milestone for online sales.
You may have read about the untimely demise of Amtrak's flip-board train information sign in Philadelphia. It was removed last month, the last one of its kind in the US. But there's a small company called Oat Foundry in Philadelphia that still manufactures "split-flap" display boards and they are being installed in restaurants, public spaces, and as interactive art projects (with an app for posting messages). Here’s a video.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Amazon is getting ready to open a new chain of grocery stores, smaller than traditional supermarkets and at a lower price point than its flagship Whole Foods. It's starting in Los Angeles, with expansion planned to Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia. These are expected to take aim at both traditional and smaller-format stores and place a strong emphasis on high-margin health-and-beauty-aid products.
Legacy business programs are invaluable in helping protect independently owned businesses from displacement in hot markets, helping with business succession, and helping tell a community's story, among other things. Let us know if we can help your district create one.
"In a bold move to address its affordable-housing crisis and confront a history of racist housing practices, Minneapolis has decided to eliminate single-family zoning, a classification that has long perpetuated segregation." Here’s the story.
A cafe near Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, offers coffee and snacks to students for free - well, in exchange for some personal information and the opportunity for the barista to tell them about one of the cafe’s sponsors while fixing a customer’s beverage.
Amazon has reordered the retail economy, but (some) physical stores are performing better than ever. The number of retailers is declining. Those that are succeeding are connecting their online storefronts to the instant gratification of their actual storefronts. "Many successful stores are now a cross between a fast-food drive-through and a hotel concierge."
All the Toys R Us stores are now closed, leaving approximately 28.6 million square feet of retail space vacant - and accounting for 21 percent of all store closures in the US so far this year. The companies leasing the vacant space left behind include Big Lots, Hobby Lobby, Burlington Coat Factory, and TJ Maxx, as well as some non-retailers, like medical facilities and coworking spaces. If you have an indie toy store in your downtown or neighborhood, this could be a great time for it to expand its market share.
A suburban Cleveland shopping mall’s solution to filling its long-vacant department store space: lease the space to a self-storage facility. The 162,200 square foot former Macy’s is now being converted to self-storage units. Kind of ironic, isn’t it?