The State of Retail Companies in Norwalk

February 4, 2019

As part of the market study for the West Avenue-Wall Street Area Development Plan, an analysis of retail establishments was conducted, based on consumer expenditure data, to see if the area is over- or under-served by different types of retail stores. Are there enough stores to fulfill residents’ needs or are they going elsewhere to shop? Conversely, is there a surplus of stores, attracting a lot of people from outside the area. The study looked at a both the direct Wall Street – West Avenue district as well as farther out encompassing most of Norwalk.

Within the Wall Street – West Avenue District

The area within a one mile radius of the Wall Street-West Avenue Redevelopment Area has a population of 24,831, or 9,858 households. The median disposable household income was $46,456 in 2018, and per capita income was $32,239.

This area is home to many convenience retail stores. These are retail establishments carrying goods and services for which customers are not willing to travel very far such as convenience stores, pharmacies, small groceries, and coffee shops. These stores tend to be smaller and rely on local traffic. Within this area, there are ten retail segments that have a surplus, where supply exceeds the area’s demand. These include food and drinking service places, gas stations, health & personal care stores, motor vehicle & parts dealers, book, periodical and music stores. This surplus means there is more spending in the area than would be anticipated given the population. However, additional housing development in the immediate area would increase demand for convenience-oriented retail, which may allow for additional establishments to be supported.

Four retail categories are currently experiencing demand higher than supply in the area (this gap has an estimated value of $18 million per year). The largest of these are general merchandise stores and, most relevant to this area, food and beverage stores. There is an opportunity for more retail businesses such as a food and beverage store to capture demand in this area.

3-Miles Around Wall Street-West Avenue

This geographic area includes a population of 93,508 comprising 35,605 households, with a median disposable household income of $60,897 and a per capita income of $45,477. Typical retail in this area includes larger groceries and drug stores, discount stores, and general merchandise, apparel, electronics, home goods, and sporting goods stores. The types of retail stores that have more demand than the number of current stores can handle include clothing and accessories (primarily shoe stores), gasoline stations, motor vehicle and parts dealers, restaurants and eating places, and building materials, garden equipment and supply stores.

There are several types of retail establishments in this geographic range where overall retail sales exceed the expected demand for the area, so shoppers are being drawn from outside the region. These include electronics and appliance stores, furniture and home furnishings, and food and beverage stores.

Current State of Retail and Future Outlook

As Norwalk and the Wall Street-West Avenue district consider what kind of retail is needed in the area, it’s good to take a look at the state of retail in the region and in Norwalk. In the last 12 months, Fairfield County was among the five metro areas with the largest declines in rental rates year-over-year, as well as the largest decrease in retail employment. Nationwide, while most retail sectors continue to shrink, restaurants and e-commerce businesses increased their employment in many metro areas, and were the fastest growing retail sectors. Companies that filled in vacated retail space include gyms, grocery stores, trampoline parks, and furniture stores, as well as non-retail businesses such as self-storage.

Norwalk currently has one of the few new malls under construction nationwide. The SoNo Collection, scheduled to open in 2019, will feature over 675,000 square feet of retail space, including Nordstrom’s and Bloomingdale’s; 58,000 square feet of restaurant space, and over 3,000 parking spaces. This mall is expected to have a large, regional draw. The new mall will offer the types of retail stores in Norwalk where there is a larger demand than the city is now offering, for example general merchandise, clothing and accessories, and food and beverage stores, as well as draw shoppers from outside the immediate area.

Read the Full Draft of the Wall Street/West Avenue Neighborhood Plan
(The study begins on page 84)