Where do Big Box Stores Fit in Vermont?

Published 05/05 2014 08:03PM

Updated 05/05 2014 08:16PM

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - This town of 6,000 has a robust retail scene but shoppers can't always find what they're looking for locally.

“I believe in shopping locally. However you stopped me because I have an Amazon box in my hand,” Jennifer Stefani said referring to a game she bought online.

“It seems convenient and quick and anything that we want we can find there.”

There's no way this college town could compete with the online giant. But Ben Wilson wants to find out how Middlebury could do better.

“85 percent of the population wants additional retail options in town and that's a pretty overwhelming numbers,” Wilson said.

Wilson is director of the Better Middlebury Partnership. His organization and the town wanted to find out the strengths and weaknesses of the shopping scene here.

“We're hopeful that some local owners will expand to fill some of these needs,” Wilson said.

So they contracted a company to administer a survey to shoppers. The survey asks consumers all kinds of questions from how far they’re willing to travel to shop to whether downtown is a destination for them.

The same company has asked these questions in towns across Vermont. In Middlebury and elsewhere, the driving factor for the survey is usually whether a big box store would be a good fit in a tiny town.

“It is certainly a part of it but this is not an effort to figure out you know big box or no big box it's much bigger than that,” Wilson said.

Beyond the Wal-Mart’s on Targets of the world Wilson says he wants to know what people really want but can't find where they live.

“A big box store would not have this game either I’d have to say,” Stefani said.

“Unless somebody wants to open a really cool game store in town which I think would be a good idea.”

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