Big brands are looking to smaller suburbs as major metropolises struggle to support retail amidst a steep decline in foot traffic. In the US, national chains are shifting their focus away from city centers, vacating high-profile locations. On Broadway in Manhattan, more than 300 storefronts are vacant—a 78% increase from 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported. J.C. Penny, Neiman Marcus, Le Pain Quotidien, Kate Spade and Subway are among the national chains that have permanently closed Manhattan branches.
In the UK, footfall and spending data likewise show a shift from city centers to suburbs. Traffic on Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street and Mayfair—some of London’s premier shopping streets—is 63% below 2019 levels, according to an August 2020 report from New West End Company (NWEC).
Beyond business, urban residents are also looking to suburban areas for a change of pace. Manhattan residential sales contracts dropped 31% in August, while deals in the suburbs and Florida surged, according to a report from Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel.
With many offices still closed for the foreseeable future, the flexibility of working from home is prompting many employees to reconsider where that “home” is located. Over the summer, this led to a rise in extended stays. Now, it’s driving the growth of more permanent “Zoom towns”—popular vacation destinations where home prices are surging thanks to remote workers seeking scenic settings.