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Business Strategy

What is Happening to the Retail Landscape in Green Bay?

Door to small boutique clothing store with we’re open sign on front door

If you’re like me, you’re still shaking your head wondering what happened to Port Plaza Mall. Once a robust mecca of retail happiness, it slid into oblivion sometime in the late 90s. And now, it appears you’ll be thinking the same about Bay Park Square. Once the freshman “suburban” mall, it became our go-to shopping headquarters. Now it seems to be following the same fate. First, Elder Berman … then Younkers … and now, many of the secondary stores are closing including the latest, Things Remembered. While the future of the mall has not been announced, it does not look promising. This depletion of retail stores is also mirrored at Fox River Mall in Appleton.

Yet, there are more small, locally-owned retailers entering the area than ever before. Besselli, Willow, ZuLou, Wild Ginger are just a few of the women’s clothiers, plus there’s The Heel, Pete’s Garage, Reader’s Loft and more. This begs the question: How are they succeeding when retail giants, formerly pillars of the community, are failing?

We’ve all heard the success of Amazon killing the big box retailer and that’s true. Why venture through the traffic, struggle for a good parking spot and waste your time trudging through a store for a generic product you can simply order online with the push of a button? This convenience has made us selective shoppers and we’re only willing to buy local when the experience is worth the hassle.

In other words, if brick and mortar stores want to survive, they must provide a full sensory experience to the consumer. That includes offering something to drink, appealing store displays, unique exclusive items and an overall fun experience for the user. They should not overlook the store’s furnishings, chances to interact with the product face-to-face and sensory satisfaction such as scented candles burning in the background, coffee brewing for all to enjoy and a friendly pooch ready and waiting to be pet.

I don’t foresee this trend changing anytime soon. We love the convenience of Amazon yet we all cringe when we hear about another bankrupt retailer. Collectively we need to shift our mindset and either make the decision to always shop locally or realize, once these stores are closed, they are likely gone for good and we will all be dependent on online shopping. In the meantime, kudos to the local businesses that figured it out and are giving customers what they crave. Your future looks bright!