Blog Viewer

Main Spotlight: Local Development and the Future of Retail with the OECD

July 19, 2022 | Main Spotlight: Local Development and the Future of Retail with the OECD | By: Marta Olmos, Communications Coordinator for Main Street America | 
Mercado in Kendall Whittier Main Street, Oklahoma.

Last week, Norma Ramirez de Meiss, Vice President of Revitalization Services at Main Street America, joined a panel of local development leaders from around the world to discuss the future of small and medium scale retail. The panel included Sydney Alison, Community Engagement Manager at Kendall Whittier Main Street, a 2020 GAMSA winner. The conversation was hosted by the OECD Local Development Forum, an international network of local development practitioners. Other participants included:

  • Jack Markell, U.S. Ambassador to the OECD and former Governor of Delaware
  • Hannah Wright, High Streets Task Force Board member (UK)
  • Pino Di Ioia, CEO of BeaverTails (Canada)
  • Richard Guiney, CEO of Dublin Town (Ireland)
  • CJ Dippel, Senior Policy Advisor for Retail in Amsterdam (Netherlands)
The discussion focused on the factors influencing retail on Main Streets and High Streets across the world and the potential innovations that will shape the future. Below are some key takeaways.

Retail is Changing

The pandemic, the growth of e-commerce, the expansion of remote work, and other shifts have kick-started a transformation in the way retail operates across the world. Adjusted strategies will be crucial for business survival long-term, and local development organizations, like Main Streets, can play a critical role in supporting businesses through this transition. The Main Street Approach is a proven and effective strategy to create vibrant commercial districts that sustain existing businesses and support the creation of new ones.

Visioning and Collaborative Strategy Development

Local, regional, and national collaboration, data-sharing, and planning will be key in developing and maintaining small and medium size retail. High Street activations, like markets, festivals, and other events that increase foot traffic, are an important tool being used in the UK and other countries to support retailers. These efforts are most successful when supported by governments or other organizations, like Main Streets and BIDs. “We have seen how innovative retailers can be,” said Richard Guiney, CEO of Dublin Town (Ireland). “But the locations in which retail is found, particularly city centers, will also have to adapt quickly and in a very dramatic way.”

Experiences are Essential

Placemaking, interactivity, and other experientially driven retail models will be crucial in attracting customers to Main Streets in the future. To compete with digital spaces, businesses and commercial districts alike need to give customers reasons to enter physical spaces and reasons to linger – including fostering multi-use downtown districts, improving the outdoor experience, and completely reimagining public spaces. At the same time, they need to ensure these spaces are welcoming to everyone by considering accessibility, cultural factors, language, and other measures of inclusivity.

Local Governments are Important Allies

Advocacy and partnerships with governments are powerful tools to support local retailers. “For local government, the task is to monitor these developments, like remote working and remote shopping, and then adapt the built environment to it, come up with rules, or support local entrepreneurs as much as possible to cope with these challenges” said CJ Dippel, Senior Policy Advisor for Retail in Amsterdam (Netherlands). As governments are developing new policies that reflect the changing retail environment, allied organizations, like Main Streets and BIDs, need to ensure their perspectives are represented.

Looking Forward

Local, regional, national, and international cooperation and innovation will be critical in navigating the changing future and protecting small and medium sized retailers. “This really shows off the OECD at its best when we find opportunities for the thirty-eight member countries to learn from each other,” said Ambassador Jack Markell, US Representative to the OECD. Watch the entire webinar below to learn more about how local development and retail support services are practiced around the world.

About the OECD Local Development Forum

The OECD Local Development Forum is a network of thousands of individuals worldwide, united by their shared commitment to making their communities more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable. It counts members from over 70 countries. The Local Development Forum is part of the OECD’s Local Employment and Economic Development program (LEED). LEED provides practical solutions for how to create good jobs in great places. It was launched in 1982, when OECD governments were struggling to provide solutions to the jobs crisis of the day and saw a need for an international forum to share innovative approaches to local job creation, social inclusion, and economic development. Since then, it has continued to bring together policy makers and practitioners from around the world to identify, evaluate and disseminate promising approaches to local development.