As mentioned on Monday, GM has finally gotten around to his annual census of stores in Georgetown. His tardiness means that this census reflects more like 15 months, than 12 months, but it nonetheless presents a snapshot of how commercial Georgetown looks right now.
Before going further, GM should mention a little bit about his methodology. First, it’s important to know that it’s more of an art than a science. The term “shop” as used here refers to just about all commercial establishments: retail stores, restaurants, salons, gyms, etc. GM doesn’t count pure office space. The rule of thumb GM uses is if you can walk in without an appointment, it’s a shop. But again, sometimes it’s a close call. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
This year GM counted a total of 506 shops in Georgetown. That’s a slight drop from last year’s total of 508. As you’ll see, that doesn’t mean that there was only a net loss of two shops. Every year GM picks up a few shops that he simply failed to count in previous years. So, as you’ll see, there was a larger net loss of stores than two.
As mentioned Monday, here’s the breakdown of openings and closings:
- Shops opened since Mar. 2014: 43
- Shops closed since Mar. 2014: 51
- Shops the moved within Georgetown: 12
So the actual net loss eight, not two. (And even that number is a little skewed by Macaron Bee, which closed it’s Wisconsin Ave location and merged it with Lady Camelia. GM counted that as a move. Again: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
Last year GM counted a net gain of nine shops. So this is a big turnaround, although it might be more in line with previous years. 2012 and 2013 had net losses of 35 and 13 respectively. Much of this can be explained by the mall. In 2013 the last wave of construction-related closures drove up the numbers. And in 2014, the repopulation of the finished product goosed the openings a bit.
The most stores GM ever counted was 527. With the mall reconfiguration, we’ll probably never see that many shops again. But there are still a bunch of vacant spaces and buildings yet-to-come that will provide opportunities for us to at least get a lot closer to that high water mark.
Chains vs. Independents
One of the primary reasons GM started this survey was to counter the perception that all or most of the stores in Georgetown are just national chains. Even just last month GM was stopped by some tourists and asked where they could find stores that they couldn’t have just found at their mall at home. Again: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. (Actually GM directed them to Book Hill)
Despite this widely held perception, there are still far more independent shops in Georgetown than chains. Of the 506 shops, 66% are not part of chains and 33% are. That’s a slight tick down from last year’s 67%, which itself was a slight drop from the previous year’s 68% number. So it’s fair to point out that the overall mix is very slowly moving towards chains, but it’s very slow and still roughly two thirds are independent.
If this analysis took into account square footage, yes of course the chain number would be a lot higher. But in GM’s opinion the more important question is the variety of shopping experiences available, not the relative sizes.
And speaking of variety, here is how the stores of Georgetown break-out:
Restaurants and clothing stores still dominate. Despite the loss of twelve restaurants last year, restaurants and bars still hold a quarter of all commercial spaces in Georgetown. Actually, clothing stores took a slight hit, dropping from 25% to 23%, which is frankly shocking to GM since so many restaurant spaces are being converted to clothing shops. This is probably explained by the opening of restaurants off of M St., like Fiola Mare and Orange Anchor in the Washington Harbour, Chez Billy Sud on 31st, and After Peacock Room on P St.
The central message of this pie chart every year, though, is that Georgetown still has a remarkable variety of stores. It may have lost some uniqueness over the years, but there is no other neighborhood like it in the District in terms of number and variety of stores.