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A Brighter Future for Downtown Businesses?

  • Retail and real estate consultant offers forecast on the future of downtown economies
  • Downtowns have endured numerous economic challenges through a balance of retail, dining, and entertainment
  • In Connecticut, the number of small businesses has grown by 9 percent and restaurant openings outnumber closings in some cities

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

The traditional downtown business community has seen major challenges in recent decades from economic pressures and competitors. These have included the rise of shopping malls, the Great Recession, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, there has also been a persistent push to maintain and revitalize downtown economies. Michael Berne, president of the retail planning and real estate consulting firm MJB Consulting, foresees a rosy outlook for downtown retail businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Berne argues that downtown stores are less vulnerable to the rise of e-commerce than large chain stores, which need to compete with digital marketplaces on interchangeable commodities, convenience, and selection
  • Downtown economies, by contrast, have developed a sustainable formula balancing retail, dining, and entertainment
  • Berne says restaurant openings have outnumbered closings in some Connecticut cities, and that small business growth in the state is up 9 percent compared to last year
  • Downtowns could also gain from the displaced residents of shuttered shopping centers or emerging brands establishing a brick-and-mortar presence

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