An Anthropologie Study on Grand Rapids Retail Environment


I am somewhat surprised that there isn’t more of a hub-bub surrounding the recent news that Anthropologie, a trendy & popular woman’s apparel, accessories, and home decor retailer, owned by Urban Outfitters is moving to Breton Village in Fall 2011.  The community has always been striving for well known brand names to move into the area, and Grand Rapids is heading in the right direction  look at some of the other current “cool” tenants of Grand Rapids like the Apple Store, and The North Face (which is opening up next weekend in Woodlawn Mall).

Well part of the reason people still do not think Grand Rapids has arrived could be  because we do not have a Trader Joe’s. (though it shouldn’t be) See examples here – read the comments as well 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
Not to mention Facebook Groups – by the way Trader Joe fans get your act together and consolidate, no wonder why Trade Joe’s doesn’t want a store here, look at this mess below:

So why is it thought that Grand Rapids still hasn’t arrived yet?  The real reason (my hypothesis) is that these stores are not in downtown Grand Rapids.  They are on the outskirts of town, or in the mall (which in many GR proponent view as evil).  Right now when people talk or brag about Grand Rapids they start with downtown, which basically has everything, except for a strong retail shopping presence.  When people talk about other downtown areas that they are found of retail shopping usually comes up, and more often than not the talk leads to international brand name stores, trendy boutiques, and the like.  Perhaps the DeVos family can kick off this initiative as well, after all Pamela DeVos (wife to Dan) is the designer and president of the Pamella Roland brand of designer womans clothes.

So what do you  all think would these type of stores be better off in downtown Grand Rapids and would they be supported and thrive with consumer spending?  Or is the Grand Rapids downtown just not have enough residents and visitors to support a well known retail store yet?

For my other post on Grand Rapids “arriving” click here.

Update:  So did WOOD TV 8 read my blog and get a story idea – click here for text and video .  Very cool of A.K. Rikk’s to use ArtPrize as an opportunity to explore (and exploit the crowds) the feasibility of opening up one of their stores downtown.  The short term leases sound like a great idea, and a good way for a retailer and the city to find a perfect match.  Why wouldn’t the city and property owners be more open to this concept.

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5 responses to “An Anthropologie Study on Grand Rapids Retail Environment

  1. Well, easy to say because it’s not MY money, but I think that Grand Rapids has developed to the point that the new downtown energy would not not only support a somewhat “trendy” retailer, but would feed off it.

    Now, as a guy with a history of giving out dollar-store prizes in class, I’m not the right audience. But perhaps somewhere down Ottawa behind the arena, or any existing property large enough to convert within walking distance of hotels, and I’d bet on it. (And a certain downtown bookstore would certainly appreciate the company!)

    • Thanks for the thoughts. I am not exposed enough to downtown on an everyday basis to get a good sense of the activity, but I have to think that there are some stores that would be an ideal fit. You have all the people working downtown, who might go shopping at lunch or after work, and then you have the diners & bar goers who might go window shopping after hours, likewise you have all the condo residents nearby, and finally as you mentioned the hotel guests/visitors. I guess we will wait and see.

  2. I thought the trend was going towards locally owned businesses, not chains?

    • Thanks Wendy. I broadly define the local population of GR into the following two areas a) social activists, proponents of GR, and local first types b) everyone else. Everyone else consume based on familiarity, and convenience. So whereas you hear about all the good thing the type A population is doing, most consumers probably fall into type B, where it would be nice to drive an extra 20 mins to go to local store, then another 15 mins to go to local store B, but if I go to Big Chain I can just do all my shopping at once.

      Plus big brands are identifiable. You can be reasonably assured that no matter who you talk to they have heard of GAP, H&M, and Nike. When you talk about the major shopping areas like the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, almost all the stores are either designer luxury brand stores, or well known national stores with multiple locations. That is what people talk about and that is what really gets the general populace excited.

      Of course Grand Rapids will probably never get the wide range of stores that are featured in the key retail shopping districts in Chicago and New York, but I think that they can get a good mix of a couple of national brand stores to rally the masses, and then sprinkle in with a lot of smaller local retailers to fill in the gaps and help feed off the energy and masses that the national brand stores bring in.

      But then again I have had no experience in urban design or economic development. I just call it like I see it.

  3. Pingback: Case in Point – People love Big Brands | West Michigan Business Blog

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