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mallguy

Downtown Tourism impacts on Retail Issues

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Perhaps you should have read that article on Carl Sobocinski a couple weeks ago in the Greenville Journal. He for one (and he's not alone) believes Greenville definitely has the foundation for a very strong and successful dining destination in Downtown. With the undeniable growth in tourism, the always steady business conference climate, and the (re)education of local citizens regarding the history and positive changes, I can totally envision downtown becoming more well known as a true "tourist town." There really should be no denying that it has reached that level to an extent already. Just spend time here on a weekend or even an evening during the week. Take notice of the license plates as well. They are in town from places all over the U.S. and Canada - always. This is only a part of the picture, as there are also many visiting from other nations. While most of these are not in town merely to go sightseeing, they do that just the same, and are pleasantly surprised by what they experience here. I don't see any of this going backward - just continuing to get better. :hi:

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One thing I know about Greenwich, CT, is that most people would have a very hard time living there because of the extremely high cost of living. I have a close friend with family there, and they say it is outrageous how hard you have to work just to survive in a common apartment or condo. Comparing Greenville to Greenwich is probably not a good idea as we do not appear to be heading in that direction any time soon.

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One thing I know about Greenwich, CT, is that most people would have a very hard time living there because of the extremely high cost of living. I have a close friend with family there, and they say it is outrageous how hard you have to work just to survive in a common apartment or condo. Comparing Greenville to Greenwich is probably not a good idea as we do not appear to be heading in that direction any time soon.

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I think Greenville will be undergoing a huge change in the next 10-20 years. The baby boomer generation is starting to retire. While many have not done a great job of prepping for retirement, many have. Greenville is perfectly situated to take advantage of the looming retirees.

There are very few communities that offer the climate, affordability, and big city amenities without many of the big city problems like Greenville does. While many are choosing to sell their much-more-expensive homes to locate in communities like the Cliffs, many will choose to live downtown.

As a result, I could very easily see retail heading downtown to take advantage of it in the next decade or so.

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I think that the point made about Mast General is correct and a very valid one. The community had to break our backs and go through a law suit just to get Mast General(which is a great retailer, but not high end, or national in nature). You guys can't imagine what incentives it takes to lure high end retail downtown, developers/municipalities have to take into account the parking, infrastructure, population, mixing of uses, accessibility etc..., and that is if and only if the retailers are interested in going in an urban environement which usually means that the incomes or the tourism are extremely high. I do agree that Greenville tourism and retirement just keeps getting better and better, but if you look at the incomes in a 3 mile from downtown Greenville they are not even over $50,000 average, or $40,000 median. Most higher end retailers need $75,000 average and $60,000 median to even consider a trade area. As far as dining goes, Carl is a great guy and the Soby's concepts are very original and high end, and the food is great. Having said that the national restaurants look for very strong daytime populations. I believe currently that approximately 20,000 people work in downtown Greenville, and I might be high on that number. Compare that with the 60,000+ in downtown Charlotte, which is the #2 financial capital in the US. They are just starting to get higher end restaurants within the last 5-10 years, and their downtown permanent population is almost 10,000 people in a one mile radius, and 100,000 people in a 3 mile radius, with 2 interstates running by it,and over 1,000 homes being added in the one mile radius per year. They still do not have any high end retail downtown, to put things in perspective for Greenville and its timeline.

I don't say this to discourage or disparage, I am merely pointing out the facts, and the true reality of how hard it is to convince national retailers and restaurants to come back into urban areas, that are not extremely densely populated.

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I think that the point made about Mast General is correct and a very valid one. The community had to break our backs and go through a law suit just to get Mast General(which is a great retailer, but not high end, or national in nature). You guys can't imagine what incentives it takes to lure high end retail downtown, developers/municipalities have to take into account the parking, infrastructure, population, mixing of uses, accessibility etc..., and that is if and only if the retailers are interested in going in an urban environement which usually means that the incomes or the tourism are extremely high...I don't say this to discourage or disparage, I am merely pointing out the facts, and the true reality of how hard it is to convince national retailers and restaurants to come back into urban areas, that are not extremely densely populated.

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I think you should use King St as a comparative barometer, so to speak. King St exists because of tourism as much as Charleston's own population. With Main St I think that when you start seeing some major national retailers, like King St, you will know that the tourism element of Greenville has finally made it to that next level.

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I think you should use King St as a comparative barometer, so to speak. King St exists because of tourism as much as Charleston's own population. With Main St I think that when you start seeing some major national retailers, like King St, you will know that the tourism element of Greenville has finally made it to that next level.

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I believe downtown Greenville has an element that Charleston is currently weaker in - a very strong corporate business climate. While I look forward to the steady growth of tourism here, it is the growth of our corporations that is just as (if not moreso) important.

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How high end are you thinking with the national retailers? Depending on that, the time table could vary a great deal. Of course this all depends on the tourism, which I think is definitely headed in the right direction.

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I agree with the posts above about Charleston's more limited corporate presence than Greenville. Southeastrebusiness.com has city write-ups that describe both cities' office markets. Downtown Greenville has a much larger share of regional office space than downtown (is that the right word?) Charleston, which should help Greenville. Whether or not downtown workers are enough to support mall-type chains or whatever downtown is the big question; Greenville has above 3 million sf of office space downtown, which isn't huge (and which is far smaller than say Charlotte), but it is better than nothing.

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I agree with the posts above about Charleston's more limited corporate presence than Greenville. Southeastrebusiness.com has city write-ups that describe both cities' office markets. Downtown Greenville has a much larger share of regional office space than downtown (is that the right word?) Charleston, which should help Greenville. Whether or not downtown workers are enough to support mall-type chains or whatever downtown is the big question; Greenville has above 3 million sf of office space downtown, which isn't huge (and which is far smaller than say Charlotte), but it is better than nothing.

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:hi: The Greenville downtown is widely recognized as the neatest and most progressive downtown in the Carolinas other than Charleston. I think that is a great compliment given where the city has come in the past 20 years, when it was not on anyone's radar screen. I am excited about the possibilities for the future for retail in downtown, but am also realistic in the timeframe for that the expectations of those retailers. If the community of Greenville continues to do the right thing and add population, restaurants, more cultural venues etc... the retailers and restaurants will take more notice and consider it a viable option.

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There is an interesting article in today's Greenville News about a new collaboration between downtown business workers and residents. There appears to be an effort underway to help maintain the high quality of life here at the grass roots level. The City will be involved as well.

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What are people's views about any new department stores moving back downtown or at least into Greenville?

In the 1970s, Greenville had at least 10 department stores among downtown and various malls, and from then until around 2000, Greenville had 10 regular department stores at three malls. Now it has 5, plus I'd guess Mast downtown counts as one, and central neighborhoods have Mast, at most, which doesn't really sell standard department store clothes, etc., rather than the slew of Belk's and Ivey's scattered around in the 1970s.

So the number of department stores has plummeted despite rapid population growth, particularly in close-in areas.

Does anyone think that Belk or anyone else will at some point open even a small department store maybe on Augusta or Woodruff Road or downtown? Or is Haywood what we'll have, at most, for a long time to come? I see an opportunity; not everyone wants to drive out to Haywood Road for a pair of socks and a blue dress shirt.

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What are people's views about any new department stores moving back downtown or at least into Greenville?

In the 1970s, Greenville had at least 10 department stores among downtown and various malls, and from then until around 2000, Greenville had 10 regular department stores at three malls. Now it has 5, plus I'd guess Mast downtown counts as one, and central neighborhoods have Mast, at most, which doesn't really sell standard department store clothes, etc., rather than the slew of Belk's and Ivey's scattered around in the 1970s.

So the number of department stores has plummeted despite rapid population growth, particularly in close-in areas.

Does anyone think that Belk or anyone else will at some point open even a small department store maybe on Augusta or Woodruff Road or downtown? Or is Haywood what we'll have, at most, for a long time to come? I see an opportunity; not everyone wants to drive out to Haywood Road for a pair of socks and a blue dress shirt.

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Good question. I would be interested in knowing what goes in to that as well. I would guess that it has more to do with where the money is located rather than the metro average. I would wager that there are a lot more people with higher incomes concentrated in downtown Charleston than in Greenville, and its that concentration that gives it a boost for those upscale stores like Saks and Gucci. Charleston attracts a ton of rich yankees too, who love to come down and spend money.

I don't get the impression that any other place in SC has that kind of vibe (at least not yet). And I certainly mean no disrespect to Greenville's efforts to attract tourism with that statement. I just think Charleston has a very unique status with regards to its downtown that only a few other cities in America have (eg: Boston).

I do agree though, that from the resident's perspective, there is probably a fair amoutn of demand to do regular shopping downtown instead of at a mall or someplace on Woodruff. Department stores, and I think the other mall chains would probably do well in an urban setting. Its like you have said though, at what critical mass does a company start considering urban locations over suburban ones?

It might be good to look at Charlotte in this instance. They aren't getting department stores Uptown, but the areas adjacent to Uptown are seeing a lot of traditionally suburban box stores as infill developments. Thats what I'd like to see for Greenville, and the other large cities in this state as well.

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Good points, Spartan. I also think the perception that Charleston has "old money" plays a role (even if it's a small one). Although the blocks of very expensive houses along the battery all have owners - and they have to spend their money somewhere.

I suppose another question would involve the amount of business stores like Saks do in Charleston. I wonder how it compares to Saks locations elsewhere?

But with respect to Greenville, someone is also paying for the high-end condos popping up around downtown. Those 8-10 luxury condos in the 98 East McBee building sure sold quickly, and they were going for around $1 million each I believe. Ridgeland at the Park, with their $750,000+ price tags, are selling well also. There is also the Augusta Road crowd. So there is money in the downtown area, and seemingly more of it every year. Whether that comes close to what Charleston has, and will thus ever result in high-end retail downtown, remains to be seen.

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The Saks in Charleston is much smaller than a "normal" Saks from what I understand, so it may be hard to compare?

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Good points, Spartan. I also think the perception that Charleston has "old money" plays a role (even if it's a small one). Although the blocks of very expensive houses along the battery all have owners - and they have to spend their money somewhere.

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You would be surprised at how much "old money" shops in places you would have thought were not for them. Take the 8 o'clock Superette for example.

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It might be good to look at Charlotte in this instance. They aren't getting department stores Uptown, but the areas adjacent to Uptown are seeing a lot of traditionally suburban box stores as infill developments. Thats what I'd like to see for Greenville, and the other large cities in this state as well.

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In regard to the post about downtown department stores. This will be highly unlikely for a long time in downtown Greenville. Please see my earlier post on this topic, but I will go into further detail on this. Even though for many that live in downtown or further north in Greenville County, Haywood Mall seems far away, it really is only about 4 miles from downtown, which in the retail world of a market like Greenville is very close. Unless Haywood begins to struggle none of those anchors will look to leave, and none will do a second store due to proximity to Haywood. The only hopes would be Saks, Barneys, or Nordstroms. None of those will consider due to demographic incomes, as well as the fact that they want to capture the entire market if they were to do a deal in the upstate. You can not capture the entire market by going into downtown. The site needs to be more regional, hence the reason why if/when they consider coming here they will look at Haywood or Woodruff Road corridors first.

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Good points. But I think the issue is this: can tourism combined with Downtown residents reach the point that it can sustain mall-type stores (not necssarily department stores)?

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In regard to the post about downtown department stores. This will be highly unlikely for a long time in downtown Greenville.

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