Monday, February 6, 2012

The Changing Face Of Retail

Well, actually that headline is a bit misleading, but go here to read an article from the New York Times that discusses reusing retail space for other purposes..

The lead paragraph in the article discusses a mall project opened in Cleveland over 20 years ago to try to bring retail, and traditional retail mall thinking, back into a downtown area.  Now, being from Cleveland, I have some familiarity with that project.  I recall walking into it back in the early 90's and marveling at the scope of the project.  Those of you who are familiar with Cleveland might recall the similarity of The Galleria to the Arcade between Euclid and Superior.

I recall wondering how the Galleria could maintain it's momentum.  It was located in the base of an office building, which might give it some life around lunch time or dinner time, but had no residential impact around it.  It was inconvenient for someone to go there from the suburbs, and why bother, all the stores there were located out in the suburbs as well.

But, getting back to the headline, this article goes on to say that many traditional merchants are closing some of their less productive locations, and are not adding, at least in a traditional sense, more new locations.  Our shopping habits have also changed.  It is pretty easy to order staple merchandise, such as office supplies, underwear, etc. on line and have it delivered at no charge to our doors.  When I was a buyer for a department store, and budgets were tight, I could always get an order passed for basic merchandise, because it was the basic merchandise that brought people in regularly.

If you take away the basic need to go shopping by using the Internet, merchants need to create other methods to bring you into their stores, the endless sales with inflated regular prices being slashed to show a big deal to buy at their sale prices.  There is always a sale!

So, the article discusses re-uses for traditional retail malls, and even Eastland is mentioned.  The reuse almost always turns to creating mini-downtown's in their spaces, town centers if you will.  These efforts are designed to create reasons to bring people there.  The article also alludes to the fact that stores now see the ability to walk in off the street is preferable to walking in through a mall.

Could this be the advent of the return of Retail to downtown Charlotte?  Maybe, but not the way it was in the past.  For years I have been advocating taking the banks, doctors offices, brokerage houses, copy centers, etc. off the street level access it currently enjoys, and putting those things in the Overstreet Mall.  I would then take the merchants and restaurants from the Overstreet Mall and put them on ground level.  Return street life to Charlotte.

Downtown Charlotte already has the town center.  As this expands, we will all see our property values once again increase.

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