Will chains oust local stores in downtown Chicago?

Buckingham Fountain in Chicago's South Loop

A recent article in the Chicago Journal caught my eye today. It spoke about the increase in retail vacancies on South Michigan Avenue, a popular shopping and dining area in the South Loop neighborhood of downtown Chicago. Due to rising rents, many independent retail shops are forced to close or move, with chain stores sometimes taking their place.

Will indie shops disappear in downtown Chicago?

The article was timely for me, having just returned from a vacation to a Florida island community where chain stores are practically non-existent. I realized that one of the things I love about visiting this island—or any new place for that matter—is stopping into independent boutiques or coffee shops and chatting with the owners. I also recall my days at Columbia College in the South Loop, which included walks to the local art supply store or bookstore. Will this all but disappear in Chicago? As the article pointed out, high parking fees can deter locals from shopping in downtown areas, while tourists tend to spend their money on food and dining. However, I can’t imagine that all Chicago visitors want to buy fast food or cheap, mass-produced souvenirs.

What can be done to promote local business?

What is the solution to keeping local retail business alive in downtown Chicago? Locals like myself need to make more of an effort to visit independent businesses downtown. Perhaps the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau can create a “Shop Local” campaign to encourage visitors to shop at local boutiques. Share your thoughts in the comments. Read the Chicago Journal article.