As discussed a few times over the last couple days, GM recently finished his annual survey of stores in Georgetown (again, just for reference sake, “stores” in this context means stores, restaurants, salons, etc.; basically any commercial space except pure office space). He’s sliced and diced the numbers and is ready to serve them up.
This year GM counted a total of 510 stores in Georgetown. This is a drop from the 527 he counted last year. As noted last week, this doesn’t mean Georgetown lost a net of 17 stores; it’s a bit worse than that. That’s because every year GM counts a few more stores that he overlooked in previous years.
When you just isolate out the openings and closings, the situation looks a lot worse. There were 78 closings in Georgetown in 2011. That compares with a total of 43 closings from the year before, and 47 the year before that. That’s a 81% increase in store closings. Put in context: 15% of stores open in February 2010 are now closed.
You might think that the gutting of the mall is causing this increase, but that’s not the whole story. Yes, 38 of the closings were in the mall (compared with only 16 the year before) but that still means that 40 non-mall stores closed. Last year only 27 non-mall stores closed. That’s a 48% increase.
The good news is that there was a corresponding increase in openings to somewhat offset this gloom. There were 43 openings in 2011. That compares with 30 the year before, and 22 the year before that. So that means there were almost twice the number of stores opening in 2011 than in 2009. That’s some good momentum.
But there are still more new vacancies now then there was a year ago, 35 to be exact (to make the total number of vacancies 117). That’s an increase in vacancies of almost 300% over last year’s 13 net loss. This increase probably can be mostly attributable to the mall. Thus the overall story is that the pace of turnover (i.e. old stores being replaced by new stores) increased from 2010 to 2011, but the spike in vacancies in the mall means the net losses are way up.
Independent vs. Chain
GM started this annual exercise to demonstrate that despite Georgetown’s reputation as a place full of chains, the overall makeup of the stores tilts decidedly towards independent shops. As predicted a while back, the closure of all the mall stores took a toll on the overall percentage of independent shops: 70% of shops are independent, 28% are chains, and 2% are regional chains (i.e. Washington-area chains like Daily Grill). That compares with 73%, 26%, and 2% respectively for 2010.
Digging into the numbers we see how independent’s lost ground. We lost 65 independent shops versus 13 chain. That means 83% of the closures were independent shops, even though they only made up 73% at the beginning of the year.
And independent shops were not replacing themselves at the same rate as the chains. Only 58% of new stores were independents.
GM loves to tout the variety of stores you’ll find in Georgetown. And the overall makeup of stores is mostly the same as in prior years:
As in prior years, clothing stores and restaurants/bars make up just about 50% of all the stores in Georgetown. Art, antiques, interior, and furniture stores make up another solid 20%. The “sweets” category, which GM added last year (even though it really should be a subset of restaurants) continues to grow robustly. There were 12 sweets stores last year (i.e., ice cream, froyo, cupcakes, chocolate, etc.). Now there’s 16.
Last year GM wrote the following:
So as we look ahead to 2011, GM thinks we can say that the worst is behind us. Plenty of new establishments are planned to be opened this year. While they skew heavily towards chains (e.g. Brooks Brothers, All Saints, Calvin Klein, etc.) keep in mind that there would need to be 200 more chain stores before they matched the number of independent stores we have. (Although, GM should not lean too heavily on the saintly reputation of independent stores. A lot of those independent stores are those run down stores on Wisconsin between P and N).
GM was wrong to say the worst was behind us (any year we lose Furin’s has to be considered worse than the years before it) but the pick up in new store openings does suggest a positive direction.
Also he wrote:
Either way, it’s important to stop and remember once in a while: if you’re in Georgetown you’re within walking distance of over five-hundred stores, restaurants, and other establishments. No other neighborhood in the District can come even close to that sort of density.
This is still very much true. While we’ve lost some great and helpful stores over the last year, we still have so much left.