Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Not all Chains are Created Equal

The Washington City Paper cites our 'Best Chain on Main' competition in a recent piece entitled "Subway Economics: Why D.C. Needs More Chains". What most people don't realize, they argue, is that some of the regions most beloved 'mom-and-pop' stores are in fact chain stores. Ace Hardware, for instance, sells license agreements to small operators, one of whom owns seven small hardware stores in the D.C. region. Most would never know that these stores are all owned by the same individual, because each store bears the name of neighborhood on the awning. This strategy allows independent retailers to benefit from economies of scale, while contributing to the local vibe that makes every neighborhood unique.

In light of Walmart's desire for entry into the D.C. market, the paper argues that these smaller independent chains should be encouraged to grow and thrive. Richard Layman, a D.C. blogger whose blog Rebuilding Place in Urban Space recently cited our contest, also speaks to how his position on chains has grown more nuanced over time. Throughout his professional career, he has come to realize that not all chains are created equal, and that chains can help a district improve its competitive position within the market by offering shoppers a diverse and attractive tenant mix. We tend to agree - but recognize that this is not always a popular position...

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