Bankruptcy of national chains and one set to close in Chittenden County

Published: May. 11, 2023 at 5:31 PM EDT
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WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Three major national chains with outlets in Chittenden County have recently announced bankruptcy, raising questions about both the health of the larger retail economy as well as local communities’ adaptability.

Both Bed Bath & Beyond and David’s Bridal announced last month they are shuttering their doors. This week, it was the Christmas Tree Shops. Officials in Williston, where two of the stores are located, say they are preparing for a future that still brings people the shopping options they need locally, no matter what current trends are.

Shoppers this week eagerly headed to Bed Bath & Beyond to get some deals. Despite the clearance sale, some say they are sad about the closure.

“They just carry a variety of items and some unusual products and I will miss it,” said Sharon Rae Quinn of Williston.

But the closure of big box stores in Williston isn’t new. Others have departed over the years and their spaces have eventually been filled.

Williston Planning Director Matt Boulanger is confident that can happen again. “The story of big box stores in Williston is that we have some but not so many that they tend to stay vacant for a long time,” he said.

Williston recently revamped its zoning to allow for many types of land use including desperately needed housing mixed with retail. “Ultimately, in the next 25, 30, 50 years and beyond, a shift out of the large format retail and a shift to a more diversified Taft Corners that includes more mixed-use, residential, and smaller office uses as well,” Boulanger said.

This type of flexibility with zoning and change in how we use our spaces is exactly what is needed as shopping evolves, according to Jane Kolodinsky, Chair of the Community Development and Applied Economics Department at the University of Vermont. She says the pandemic accelerated the shift toward online shopping and that for brick-and-mortar retail to survive anywhere, it requires retailers to offer a diversity of options.

“We think about what happens to the one-horse town when the one-horse leaves. What happens to the one-horse Amazon when Amazon decides to do something else? So, not sure that the biggest, most efficient, and cheapest way ultimately meets the needs of consumers, workers, and local economies,” she said.

Until then, some consumers may miss Bed Bath & Beyond while others still prefer shopping at home. “I usually do most of my shopping online,” said Angel Dunham of Crown Point, N.Y. “Price of gas -- I don’t have to travel -- I can have it shipped to my house. Usually, you can get better deals.”

Williston’s planning department also says if there ever is a time when big box stores no longer want to fill any vacancies in the town, they hope people can get creative and maybe turn the spaces into recreation or other community gathering spots.

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