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Thread: Is there a trend away from chain stores?

  1. #1

    Is there a trend away from chain stores?

    At one time urban centers were dominated by unique retail. Except for a few national chains like Woolworths you could go from city to city and find completely unique one of a kind stores on every street. Today of course if those cities even have stores anymore they are most likely going to be major national chains. America went chain crazy especially over the last 20 years.

    I was looking at some of Dan's Austin pictures recently and did not recognize a single chain store among the many illustrated. In Chicago you can go through endless miles of dense neighborhood commercial strips without seeing more than a sprinkle of Gaps or such. In my own home town of Buffalo you will not find any chains in the neighborhood commercial areas ELmwood, Hertel, and Allentown (though this has more to do with local economic stagnation than anything.) I also heard that some commercial development / restoration project in Toronto (the name slips me right now) has banned chains from leasing.

    I know my own preference is local versus chains (especially for restaurants). I wonder, is there a new trend toward local? or are my observations anecdotal based on my own biases?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
    Dec 2008
    the delta
    A simple answer would be no, there is not a trend away from chain stores. The typical chain store likes tens of thousands of floor area and older areas you've mentioned can not provide that. For every unique neighborhood with these types of shops there is at least one (probably more) area of chain stores. Most cities' population lay outside of the urban center (as we planners like to think of it) and those ares tend to have strip malls and chain grocers. Where I come from only 18% of the metro's population is in "the city" but it is exactly as you described - where do the other 82% shop - not in neighborhood nodes.

    Look at the socioeconomic group that tends to shop at small independent shops - it's usually your more well-off groups (I believe there was even a thread about that awhile back).

  3. #3
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
    Feb 2004
    on my 15 minute break
    Quote Originally posted by steel View post
    I wonder, is there a new trend toward local? or are my observations anecdotal based on my own biases?
    There's certainly more talk/interest about it, but absent any emperical data to the contrary I'd have to say the trend of chains marches on. The economy might be causing a hiccup right now, but I think we'll see locals only occupying a certain market niche until the price of gas goes skyrocketing.

    Both chains and locals offer certain advantages and disadvantages. I don't think Americans' love of predictability (something chains offer) is likely to change soon.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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