by Adam Palmer
The retail sector, an essential economic engine that contributes almost $4 trillion to the country’s annual GDP, has long been recognized as the nation’s largest job creator in downtown business districts and along small-town main streets.
According to the National Retail Federation, with more than 80,000 retail establishments here in Massachusetts, the industry accounts for approximately 1.2 million jobs in Boston and beyond. Thankfully, after a long pause, and with the adoption of many new protocols and practices, the Bay State is once again open for business.
The National League of Cities believes that retail will remain a key contributor to local economies throughout the U.S. Many merchants at brick-and-mortar stores, who pivoted to introduce online platforms and contactless shopping at the height of the pandemic, are now welcoming visitors who are eager to shop locally.
Clearly, the support of loyal patrons is essential to the growth of businesses large and small. And that’s good news for retailers, the Massachusetts workforce, vendors, service providers, and consumers.
Many will be surprised to learn that online shopping represents less than 10% of all retail sales in the U.S. While e-commerce remains popular, even major online retailers like Amazon and Wayfair have introduced storefronts. Smart consumers often use brand websites to conduct research and compare prices while in-person shopping allows customers to try on apparel for size or touch and feel products to determine their quality. In reality, consumers are “omnichannel shoppers” who make purchases both onsite and online.
Today’s customers are looking for more than simple transactions. In order to succeed, retailers must constantly evolve, reinvent, innovate, and reimagine the way they conduct business. More than ever, retailers must consider the range of products they feature, the diversity of their suppliers, and the range of services they offer.
Consumer preferences are changing, and retailers must be ready to embrace new trends such as a heightened interest in sustainability and flexible policies. For example, companies like Nordstrom and Marshalls allow shoppers to return online purchases at their retail locations. Whether in-store or online, convenience and savings are a driving force for savvy shoppers.
Over the years, JM Electrical has been fortunate to partner on several major retail projects including a number of stores on Newbury Street, the upscale shopping district in Boston’s Back Bay.
Most recently we have been working on two high-traffic retail outlets. JM is part of the team renovating the beautiful Tiffany & Company store at Copley Place, Boston’s premier luxury shopping center, which is home to more than 50 stores and restaurants. And less than 10 miles away at Arsenal Yards, a mixed-use, smart growth development located in Watertown, Mass., we are part of the team building the Nike Unite Store.
Retailers provide much more than just places to shop. By offering comfortable spaces and beautiful surroundings, and by emphasizing customer service and other amenities, retailers create jobs and contribute to the vibrancy of our communities.
Adam Palmer is director of operations and project executive at JM Electrical.