As a rule, I’m skeptical of chains stores and restaurants. Sometimes intentionally and sometimes not, my favorite places to eat and shop tend to be independent. What’s more, as I’ve traveled, I typically enjoy eating at mom and pop restaurants and buying stuff from local producers.
However, as Provo looks to revitalize it’s downtown, welcoming some chains might A) provide anchor businesses for the commercial community, B) draw a new variety of clientele (namely, the significant demographic that shops or eats at chains but currently steers clear of downtown), C) generally increase foot traffic, and (last but not least) D) be profitable for the chain itself.
In other words, there is a clear economic incentive — for all parties — to put a few chain businesses in downtown Provo. I also think some well-chosen chains would actually bolster local businesses in the area, as any consumer influx would be positive. And while this idea isn’t revolutionary — what struggling downtown wouldn’t want big, successful retailers? — Provo is unique because it has a growing population and an expanding creative class.
In other words, Provo’s demographics actually make the addition of a few chains a viable idea. Provo isn’t a shrinking Eastern or Midwestern city. Provo isn’t reeling from a post-manufacturing collapse. The housing crisis didn’t wipe out the city the way it did to many places in the Southwest. So while the economy in Provo struggles like it does everywhere, the future for the city looks more like that of a BRIC nation, rather than like, say, Detroit.
Finally, bringing in some successful retailers wouldn’t just be nice. Rather, it’s an economic imperative. A recent post on Mayor John Curtis’ blog shared the city’s sales tax numbers. Provo’s are up by 2.82% over last year! Unfortunately, thats lower than every single other city on the mayor’s list. In most cases, it’s a lot lower. That means the city’s coffers are growing more slowly than those of its neighbors. There’s less money for improvement, and I think its safe to say we’re losing the war convince companies to locate in Provo.
For all these reasons, and others, Provo should bring some chain retailers into downtown. In subsequent posts I’ll share some retailers that I believe would filled empty niches in the city and that wouldn’t cannibalize existing business. Because while successful businesses are important for downtown Provo, not just any will do.