As promised, today GM presents his compiled numbers for his survey of Georgetown. In the course of cleaning up the data, he revised (yet again) some of the preliminary numbers he shared earlier this week. So without further ado, the results:
Well, sorry, some more ado. GM would like to insert his normal caveats here. 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 (for instance, he counts realtors but not lawyers). ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
GM counted 451 shops this year. That is a sharp drop from the historic numbers. It was 509 when GM counted in 2019 right before Covid. It hasn’t been below 500 since GM counted 498 in 2016. The last time GM counted so few shops was back in 2010 when he counted 443, but that was one of the first couple years GM did the survey and was missing a ton of shops from his count.
There’s always a bit of an error rate. GM missing some shops that opened or closed each time he goes out (sometimes is genuinely hard to tell whether a business is still in business or not!) But that would only account for a handful of shops in either direction. The drop from 2019 to 2022 was 58, or over 11%. This was a genuinely sharp decline.
But, as GM argued earlier this week, given the challenges that Covid presented for retail and restaurants, maybe 11% is not that bad considering!
Chains vs. Small or Independent
One of the main reasons GM first started this survey was to push back against the accusation that Georgetown is only chain stores. Consistently over the years, the numbers showed that a comfortable majority of establishments in Georgetown were independent. (What counts as independent is even more of a gray area than what counts as a “shop”. For instance, GM considers small local chains like Pizzeria Paradiso or Shop Made DC to be independent, but does not consider small but geographically dispersed chains like the new Bitty and Beau’s to be independent for this measure. But then if it just has a couple of locations total, spread out over several states, like Jaco or L.A. Burdick, once again GM calls that independent. As GM’s daughter would put it, it’s “more of a vibe thing”. In either event, most shops are very clearly either independent or chain.)
All that said…here are the numbers:
There are 300 independent shops and 151 chain stores in Georgetown, giving a ratio of 67% independent. That compares with 2019’s numbers, which were 331 and 178 respectively, a similar 65% independent ratio. These numbers demonstrate that covid affected chains and independent shops at a fairly similar rate.
Of course, as always, this is a pure headcount, not a square footage count. If you were to count the square footage of the respective classifications, chains would surely dominate. But then again, with huge stores like Brooks Brothers and the Gap closing, they would similarly dominate the decline.
Here is how the different establishments break out in terms of categories:
This compares with 2019’s chart:
All in all, the main takeaway from this year’s survey is that a lot has changed, but even more has stayed the same. And covid landed a solid uppercut, but Georgetown’s still standing strong.