Georgetown Maxxing Out?

In our last Georgetowner print issue, we ran a brief item about Arcteryx. In that piece we stuck to the facts, but something troubled us. Arcteryx is a high-end Canadian outdoor sporting goods retailer that is opening a new 31,000-squarefoot store at CityCenter. Georgetown was originally the favored location for the shop but was passed on because the company believed that the local clientele here simply do not have pockets deep enough to afford the luxury goods they hawk, nor could it draw in the well-heeled, if they had to be in mixed company with the likes of middle-class targeted retailers such Forever 21, DSW, or worse, discount seller T.J. Maxx.

Arcteryx didn’t work hard to hide their disdain for Georgetown. In a recent interview published in the Washington Business Journal, the company’s deal broker Edward Goldmeier of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank speaks of the company’s choice as something of a no brainer, stating, “It really aligned them much closer with what they felt were the complementary stores that would attract their customer.” As further icing on the dissing cake, Goldmeier added, “With no disrespect to T.J. Maxx, but when that starts to be the big face in Georgetown as opposed to what was originally proposed as a Bloomingdale’s, it does affect an outsider’s view of what’s going on there.”

Arcteryx’s position – at least as stated by Goldmeier – does serve a useful purpose in bringing a question that has (generally) only been quietly discussed in the open air: Is Georgetown cheapening its own brand? That argument presumes a couple of givens. First, that a brand exists. Second, that the discount retailers, which are willing and able to pay the exorbitant rents here, are somehow failing the community. And finally, that those retailers are, at best, enemies of us all by their mere existence.

Determining the right path forward, retail-wise, does demand a bit of tiptoeing. To consider Georgetown an exclusive shopping enclave of the rich, super-educated and downright powerful does seem a bit on the ugly side. The alternative to that extreme would be to allow the Georgetown retail environment to fall to the lowest common denominator, a sort of race to the bottom for the easy money. In reality, neither of these things is happening. We are not likely to turn into a giant strip mall nor are we are going to become a moat-protected castle of unfettered opulence and unseemly consumerism. We are likely to be what we’ve always been – a place that is real.

Georgetown has this keen ability to change and adapt as the world around it changes. The current of dynamism, changeability and the natural course of retail evolution are what allow our community to thrive. That’s something Arcteryx just failed to grasp. We hope the best for them as they take on the masses at CityCenter. We just ask that they remember their own words if the world changes out from under them.

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