Hot Stove Summary: Feb 16, 2018
Thanks to everyone who attended the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce Hot Stove event, February 16th, 2018 at Eastern Maine Community College and sponsored by Quirk. Special thanks to James Gerety with Simon Properties who joined us to provide insight and information regarding the future of retail and the Bangor Mall. We also appreciate the City Councilors, Legislators and Congressional reps who joined us for a conversation about the “hot” issues in Washington and Augusta.
What follows is a summation of what was discussed in broad terms. This is meant to give you a sense and flavor of the discussions. If you are interested in knowing more and participating in the conversation, please plan to join us for our next Hot Stove event, Saturday March 17th.
Retail and the mall:
James Gerety discussed the retail sector including the history of the Bangor mall, what changes the sector is experiencing both locally and nationally and what the future holds. The baby boomer generation and their shopping habits were driven by their lifestyle: getting married after college, purchasing a home and raising a family necessitated the need for a lot of retail square footage. Today’s generation are delaying marriage, home purchases, starting families, paying student debt. They are less interested in “collecting” things and more interested in simplifying their lives. That is part of what is driving the changes in the retail sector.
Although stores are closing nationally (Sears, Macys, GAP, etc.), there will be more stores opening in 2018. Brick and mortar stores continue to attract consumers who are seeking the shopping “experience”. Retailers need to adapt to the experience they are looking for: Shoppers enjoy the “sport” and the “hunt”, and also want the convenience of getting what they want, getting out quickly and getting the best deal. We will see more of these types of stores opening: supermarkets, drug stores, hard goods, restaurants, convenience stores. Even Amazon is setting up brick and mortar stores to continue their penetration into the retail market.
Online shopping compared to brick and mortar (what consumers enjoy)
- Touch factor: Consumers like to see, touch and try on before they buy
- Social: Consumers enjoy the social experience of going out to shop
- Returns: Returns to brick and mortar stores increase the chance the consumer will purchase more before leaving the store, that is not as true when returning an item purchased online.
- Environmental impact: Brick and mortar shopping has less impact and packaging material waste compared to online shopping.
To meet the need for consumers who want the best of both worlds (online and brick & mortar) shopping, many retailers are adopting the “pick up in store” model to encourage online shopping, but local pick up and purchasing.
The Bangor Mall is not going anywhere and will transition like the rest of the retail industry has to transition to meet the needs of today’s consumers. The mall serves a large geographic area and demographic.
There will be a change of ownership and the new owners will likely focus on:
- Leasing more of the retail space
- Offer more of what consumers want
- Polish up the facility and surrounding area
This is a good thing and there are a lot of good things happening in the region. It’s important to keep the narrative positive.
- Lots of good things happening in the community and region.
- Stressed keeping the narrative positive!
- City councilors commented: we want to support all businesses as they adapt, change, come and go.
- When it comes to business attraction and transitions – these things take time. Urged people to be patient.
- It is a good thing to have some vacant commercial space available to attract new businesses.
- Need to work together with Augusta to make the community attractive to business.
- Tax structure and base needs to be considered.
- Encouraged group to be more intentional about buying local.
Reps for Collins and Poliquin were present and provided updates re: DACA, Affordable Care Act, the budget. That led to a conversation about the budget process and some expressed concerns. In light of the Florida school shooting, the question was asked about how they plan to address this issue.
A lot of conversation about the citizen referendum process and the conversations underway to assess what works and what should be changed. The Governmental Operations Committee is working on this and expects to release a report in 4 months. Minimum wage conversation continues as does marijuana implementation.