Survey Details Loss of Local Retail Presence on Main Street

Some categories have persisted

November 21, 2017

A survey of consumers across 24 countries found a pervasive sense that certain types of stores are disappearing from local shopping areas.

In particular, consumers reported seeing fewer bookstores, newsstands and furniture stores as compared with three years ago. By contrast, they reported seeing more or as many drugstores, takeout food outlets and chain stores.  

The survey, conducted by Ipsos in October 2017, found that 39% of US respondents reported seeing fewer bookstores, while 30% reported seeing fewer appliance stores.  A similar number reported seeing fewer independently operated shops.

The sense of a loss of retail presence paralleled (but not exactly) shoppers' shifting purchasing habits. The survey found that more than 20% of US respondents reported less frequent in-store shopping for clothes, appliances, furniture and books.

The survey also queried users on activities such as going to the movies or eating a meal in a restaurant. 

Going out to a bar, for instance, was significantly less common than three years ago, with 30% of US respondents reporting that they did this less often, and 12% saying they did it more often. Similarly, more than one-third of US respondents said they are going to the movies less frequently, compared with 16% who said they did this more often.

Coffee house visits, gym visits and salon visits were flat to slightly down, a lesser decline than for many of the other surveyed activities.  

A mere 1% of US respondents reported eating at restaurants less frequently (vs. 28% who said they ate out more frequently), a result that is somewhat surprising given other recent measures of industry heath. The US restaurant industry has experienced declining traffic for six straight quarters, according to NPD Group data. 

One of the key contributors to the decline is higher menu prices, which stand in contrast to falling food prices at grocery stores. NPD data shows the average restaurant check rose 2.6% in the second quarter, the latest quarter for which data is available. NPD said the increase was the largest in several years.