Retail is a mixed bag across the country. Malls in smaller cities are struggling, as former anchor tenants like Sears and J.C. Penney have closed stores, and many smaller shops have shuttered. Larger retail has shifted to shopping complexes anchored by a Walmart or other big-box store. Drive through any community other than Portland and notice the abundance of unfilled retail space.
Smaller malls and shopping centers were popping up all over the place in Maine three decades ago. This pretty much sealed the deal for Mom and Pop small hardware stores and other locally-owned shopping options. Now, many of those same strip malls and retail havens have multiple vacant storefronts.
If video killed the radio star in 1979, then online giants like Amazon killed the local book store, as well as other retailers 35 years later. Nothing to get perturbed about—just another example of our unwinding—and greatness long gone.
Ten years ago, if you released an independently-produced book, you could sell it at Bookland, Mr. Paperback, and even Borders. Mr. Paperback had 10 stores scattered across the state. They made book distribution easy for small press publishers. Even a chain like Borders—their two locations in Bangor and South Portland sold close to 300 copies of my first book. Losing these bricks-and-mortar book retailers has made indie publishing challenging for everyone save the one-percenters.
It makes me wonder what our local retail options might be in another 10 years.