Recently, Marietta Main Street shared an article that rural marketing expert Becky McCray wrote for Main Street America. The article is titled, “The Future of Retail,” and in it, McCray tells the story of what she calls “retail’s big split.” The split goes like this according to McCray. Everybody in the world of retail, whether they are big stores or small, are being pressured to add online shopping options. Big box stores are emphasizing the convenience of online ordering (take note of Amazon’s new “we” ship to your car” campaign–how can a big box store compete with that?). There is a catch with the techno craze, however. According to McCray, people are shopping online, but they are not buying online.
The Comfort of Shopping Local and Small
The article cites a statistic noting that online sales make up less than 10% of all retail sales even though 96% of Americans polled said that they shop online. Even though such a large majority noted that they do shop online, only 65% of what they buy is bought online. The rest is bought in physical stores.
You might think, as McCray leads you to think, that big box stores would be the beneficiaries of that remaining 35%. However, physical stores have a problem. While being pressured to make the online buying experience pristine, McCray notes that the same stores are being pressured to create a “mom and pop” service feel in their stores. Here is where things get very interesting. McCray cites a study from MasterCard Spending Pulse for Small Business that notes that small retailers have grown FASTER than the big box stores steadily since 2012. The “shop local” campaign is no longer just a slogan. It has become a movement.
Helping Local Retailers Feel Big
The temptation for small towns is to try to lure those big chains into town. The logic is that these big box stores will create many
more jobs. Maybe a new parking lot needs to be developed, so construction work will increase as well. McCray notes that one of the keys for small towns is to remember that “retailers can’t do it alone.” She notes that Main Street programs, chambers, and other groups in the town need to step up and support their small local shops. Moreover, she notes that Main Street can help by bridging the gap between small retailers. Instead of nurturing a competitive environment, small town organizations need to create the concept of a shopping district where all of the small retailers combine to create something bigger than any one of them.
Where Marietta, Ohio Wins Big
When one reads McCray’s advice to small towns and small town retailers, it is apparent that Marietta is already well ahead of the game, and much of that is thanks to our own Marietta Main Street and our Chamber of Commerce. Downtown Marietta retailers are supportive of each other both online and offline. They are willing to collaborate for fun events like First Fridays, and they are willing to help each other out during tough times, like the flooding that hit during early 2018. Marietta Main Street works diligently to create this nurturing environment, and it pays dividends for everyone in the downtown district and beyond.
We are privileged to be able to help small restaurants and retailers find a home in our resurgent Historic river town. The decision to move into a downtown Marietta spot does not just guarantee you a big welcome from the community at large. Becoming a downtown restaurant or retailer makes you a part of a tightly knit, collaborative community. Marietta is bridging the gap and winning the future.