“Logic will take you from A to B, imagination will take you everywhere." - Albert Einstein
I really enjoy the above quote for many reasons. On one hand, the first half of the quote might best describe most city governments throughout the country. Those city and government organizations are run by good and well meaning people; they are smart and very creative within the box they reside. However, it is the second half of the quote that best describes forward-thinking city governments, which are very few and far between.
What separates the many communities in the first group versus those very few communities in the second group? That is very simple; it would be their dedicated forward thinking toward revitalizing and transforming their cities for the new economy that is barreling down the tracks, heading right for every town USA. Of course, most communities believe they have time and there are no worries. But in reality, the economic transformation is coming in a timeframe measured in a few short years, not a few decades.
There are many discussions, points of view and thoughts on what will make-up that new economy. But when we consolidate those into a couple points that nearly everyone seems to more or less agree on, we can see that regardless of one’s point of view, rapid change is certainly upon us.
The first point we all seem to agree on is that retail is undergoing a rapid transformation. Getting this one right is critical. It is rapidly becoming a retail situation of the haves and have-nots. On one end, the discount retailers such as Dollar Tree are doing very well; growing in fact. On the other end, while there is a shaking out so to speak with retailers on the high end, as a group those retailers are doing OK. The hardest hit group in what many are calling the “Retail Apocalypse of 2017” are the middle sector retail establishments which are falling by the wayside at a faster rate than one can imagine; and the bloodbath is far from over.
The apocalypse of 2017 for the middle retail group isn’t over, it will continue for years. The unfortunate issue here is that this will hit the small and mid-sized communities the hardest. If your community is lined with mid-level National Retail, prepare for the end and be be prepared to turn that to your advantage. Another point that bears repeating addresses online marketplaces. Many in both small and large communities are flocking to the convenience of online shopping leaving their local communities hung out to dry. I am not one that believes all online shopping is bad; there are things that you cannot get in local communities and it makes sense to get them the most convenient way possible. While some online shopping can actually be a healthy thing for a community, when the balance swings too far, make no mistake, communities will be devastated.
While the methods may vary, when it comes down to it, forward thinking communities understand one basic law of their transformation; The Law of Local. They understand that every dollar they keep within the boundaries of their communities are vital and essential. They understand and commit all their time, resources and energy on creating a local retail base, a local restaurant base and a local experience. They understand that with few exceptions, the continued courting of National chains and big boxes are a thing of the past. They understand that those same dollars devoted in years past to national chains that suck your community dry, slow and steadily, are best put to use building their community’s local base. They make local entrepreneurship easy, affordable and wanted.
Oftentimes when writing this weekly column, I feel I am saying some of the same things over, just with slight variations. While that may be true, I also understand that one of the major laws of marketing is that the message must be conveyed between six and seven times before the message really sticks. Communities can look at it the same way, keep preaching the local message, keep conveying your shop hyper-local message and keep fighting for your future. If your community is to have a bright future, understand the dynamics of today are not only nice, but critical for your survival in a cruel and unrelenting economic environment.
John A. Newby is the author of the "Building Main Street, Not Wall Street" weekly column dedicated to helping local communities keep their consumer dollars local. He can be reached by email at: john@UniquelyUSA.net