Destination: Downtown

The U.K.’s recent High Street rejuvenation project mirrors the challenge posed to independent retailers found on Main Street USA. Mary Portas, the U.K.’s publicly recognized authority on retail, was challenged by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in late May to bring back the bustle to the U.K.’s town centers, also known as High Street. A report published by the Ernst & Young Item Club confirms the challenge ahead, forecasting that U.K. High Street spending will not return to pre-recession levels until 2013, and consumer spending is only expected to rise by about two percent each year until 2020. In a BBC report, the U.K.’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, appears determined to overcome this forecast, saying, “The High Street should be at the very heart of every community, bringing people together, providing essential services and creating jobs and investment.”

For those retailers in the U.S. who feel unaided without this one woman team and her nearly 74,000 Twitter followers and 15,000 Facebook fans, there is at least one name behind Main Street revitalization they can count on, Mast General Store. As South Carolina online publication, The State, explains, “Like Main Streets around the country, businesses along Columbia’s [SC] once thriving retail strip began moving out as people moved en masse to the suburbs, and enclosed malls became a hot new trend in retail.” However, with the introduction of Mast General Store to its Main Street lineup in late May, Columbia, SC, brought the downtown buzz back. Retail recruiter for Columbia’s City Center Partnerhsip, Amy Stone, expresses excitement, saying, “People from 50 miles away are going to drive to downtown Columbia now, because they want to shop at that business. We’re really right on the cusp of some tremendously exciting things.”

Dating back to the late 1800s as a state of the art outdoor outfitter, mixed with an old fashioned country store, Mast General Store is a rustic charm retailer that is perfect for cities focused on revitalizing their Main Streets. The store has become a partner in helping these efforts take place in a half-dozen cities in the South, such as Greenville and Knoxville, TN. According to president of operations, Fred Martin, “We receive emails and phone calls literally every day, because of so many people wanting to get their downtowns back. They’ve seen what has happened historically when Mast comes into town, so they hope Mast will come help them save their town.”

This information has been adapted from an original piece found in the online publication, The State.