NEW YORK — Mom and pop never had issues like these to deal with.

Once upon a time, local retailers opened stores downtown and served their communities, of which they had an intimate knowledge. But in an era of national and international chains, malls and megamalls, retailers want to know as much as possible about an area before they take the plunge of opening a unit. For example, are area residents affluent? Do they have a propensity for spending money on apparel and accessories? Is there enough population density to support a new store?

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