It’s been a busy month around here!  
We held a fabulous Business After Hours event at Greenfield Savings Bank on Wednesday, February 15, with a great presentation by Karen Cartier on email fraud prevention!  These networking events bring members together from a wide range of disciplines who meet new people, network, and discover new business connections. Don’t miss the next one on March 16 at the Greenfield Cooperative Bank.

On February 11, we held our first Fabulous February Fringe Festival.  Over 100 people attended events throughout the day including the Women’s Film Festival, the announcement of our second round of HATCH (Hilltown Arts and Thriving Community Happenings) artists, and the first ever Shad Ladder Radio presentation.  Each event was met with thunderous applause and tremendous support! It was a great day and the start of something big for West County Arts & Culture!

In late January, I attended a workshop convened by the Massachusetts Downtown Initiative through the Mass. Dept. of Housing and Community Development.  We spent the day learning about new initiatives, study findings, and innovative practices that will keep commercial centers alive and thriving. In this post, I want to share with you some of the trends and findings I learned about at that meeting.

According to 2016 studies, consumer confidence is up and retail and restaurant sales are expected to increase 3.7% in 2017.  Researchers predict significant restaurant growth, particularly in the" grab and go" options attractive to millennials, who comprise 25% of the market segment. Baby boomers are another 25% of the market segment and 1,000 boomers will be retiring EVERY DAY between now and 2019.

Trends in consumer tastes point toward an uptick in the desire for “experiential shopping;” people are looking for places to connect with other people in their shopping and eating adventures. Good news for our smaller commercial enterprises that offer opportunities to connect in creative ways.  Examples of how to provide this experiential effect include sidewalk cafes, music and art options in the mix, and places to mingle and connect throughout the commercial center.  Walkability is a big plus with shade, places to sit, and attractive shop windows.

Another prediction: self-driving cars are expected to take off (no pun intended) in the next five years. Use of these vehicles may change the way we think about transportation and impact parking decisions. Imagine your driverless car dropping you off, driving to park in outlying areas, and then retrieving you on command after shopping!  

Growth industries include wellness, sharing economy enterprises (rent/reuse/recycle), and again, restaurants. Today, 46% of people will venture into a new town or neighborhood to try a new restaurant – more than any other reason (to attend cultural events, shop, or recreation).  

There was a lot more information at the workshop that I’ll share in the coming months - next month: ideas on how to stay competitive as the internet – retail’s “invisible competitor” -- continues to grab market share.  

Happy almost Spring!  


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