Revisiting Main Street Balancing Chain and Local Retail in a Historic City’s Downtown

Litvin, S. W., & Rosene, J. T.

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Litvin, S. W., & Rosene, J. T. (2016). Revisiting Main Street Balancing Chain and Local Retail in a Historic City’s Downtown. Journal of Travel Research, 0047287516652237.

Destination Competitiveness , Heritage , Retail , Shopping , Sustainable Development , Urban Development

The success of a city’s retail core is largely dependent on the composition and organization of its merchant constituents. Not only should the price-point and products of a city’s retail align with its resident and visitor demographics, but the stores should be strategically balanced to maximize consumer spending and interest. Heritage destinations dependent on the tourism market should pay special attention to this issue, assuring their visitors a valuable shopping experience while simultaneously preserving the destination’s cultural appeal. This case study considers the rapidly evolving shopping district of Charleston, South Carolina, focusing specifically on the retail core’s recent influx of chain merchants to what was once predominantly a local main street. An historical account, paired with and an in-depth survey of merchants, is presented. The research builds upon previous studies that have considered the issue of merchant mix from the perspective of the city’s stakeholders, tourists and residents.

Main finding
The main street called King Street in Charleston, South Carolina is studied from the perspective of the merchants. In recent years, commercial gentrification emerged thanks to the redevelopment of the streetscape, property investment and influx of merchants that made the city become a popular destination for tourists. The balance between national chain stores and local merchants has slowly decreased and more local merchants would help to restore the balance. While, national chain stores are seen as the most important contributor to the success of the street, the low-end chain stores form a threat for the quality of the downtown area. Two strategies are presented: firstly, city leadership is encouraged for creative economic development planning which involves the incentive and rental contract guarantees for small-scale retail. Secondly, landlords are encouraged the evaluate the the prospective merchant in light of the existing mix of merchants and to not submit power to the highest bidder.

Description of method used in the article
Survey sent out to merchants on the street

Policy implications

Organising categories

Physical types
Geographic locations