Georgetown businesses doing OK, but need “people in the street with a dollar in their pocket”

The recession may be “over”, but a shopper walking down Wisconsin Avenue or M Street might see the area’s vacant buildings and “going out of business” signs and get a completely different picture of how Georgetown’s businesses are faring.

After taking such a walk and learning that Commander Salamander would soon be joining the list of Georgetown stores that had either closed or moved in the last year, Vox decided to try to get a clearer picture of the area’s economic climate by talking to James Bracco and Nancy Mirahira at the Georgetown Business Improvement District and John Asadoorian, a retail broker who represents property owners and stores like Rugby and Georgetown Cupcake.

Although some retailers have suffered recently, Georgetown’s businesses weren’t hit any harder than other commercial districts, according to Bracco, the executive director of the BID.

“People are just shopping a little smarter now,” he said, citing the country’s still high unemployment numbers. ”Those are all potential consumers who don’t have money in their pocket to go buy a new pair of jeans, much less a designer couch.”

Asadoorian described Georgetown’s business environment as “pretty good” compared with other areas because of its long history as an established market. While the economy may have hurt some of the businesses that weren’t doing well anyway, he said those stores could have closed for any number of reasons unrelated to their location in Georgetown or the economic climate. Both Asadoorian and Bracco think Georgetown’s retail sales will go up when the right mix of stores are put close together, increasing overall traffic.

Bracco was also cautiously optimistic about the future of Georgetown as a luxury shopping destination, in D.C.

While the Georgetown Metropolitan found in a survey of Georgetown businesses that more and more of these independent stores are moving away from the heart of Georgetown (only 46 percent of stores within one block of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street are independent), Asadoorian said they do not necessarily have a disadvantage because of their out of the way locations.

“You put something up really good, people will go to it.”

For its part, the BID is helping local businesses bring customers to their stores by trying to improve the area’s transportation, safety, and public space. According to Bracco the area’s accessibility is a primary concern this year, saying that better parking and bus routes are a top priority.

Retail sales are “all about synergy, all about traffic,” Bracco said. “You gotta have people in the street with a dollar in their pocket willing to spend their money.”

photo from Flickr user ehpien used under Creative Commons license

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