Lack of Retail in Brooklyn Means $6 Billion Lost, Study Finds


    A report released Wednesday by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce may give major retailers a serious case of financial FOMO.

    The study, which examined Brooklyn’s retail scene, found major gaps adding up to $6 billion in unmet economic potential, according to Crain’s.

    The greatest retail hole? Cars.

    While Brooklyn may be known as the borough of fixies and bike lanes, the Chamber study found that we missed out on $2.6 billion due to our lack of car dealerships and auto parts shops. Brooklyn’s dearth of gas stations docked another $1.3 billion from our economy, with residents filling up in New Jersey or Long Island.

    Brooklyn may have a handful of destination grocery stores, but shoppers took $629 million to supermarkets outside of the borough, according to the study. Another $1.1 billion was lost in general merchandise sales.

    “Central Brooklyn, north Brooklyn, east Brooklyn — deserts. There are no stores,” president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Carlo Scissura told Crain’s.

    Scissura’s hyperbolic comment notwithstanding, a number of high-profile retailers have recently opened their first outposts in the borough, including Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, J.Crew, Uniqlo, Barneys, Target, JCPenney, and others in areas from Atlantic Avenue to Gowanus to Williamsburg to the Gateway Center in East New York. For years, Brooklyn’s Fulton Mall has been one of the top three most popular shopping districts in all of New York City.

    Brooklyn Grocery Store Comparison -- Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Fairway

    Whole Foods opened in Gowanus in 2013. Photo by Hannah Frishberg

    It’s true that in recent years, Brooklyn has been losing gas stations to residential development. Where there was once a Shell Station in Cobble Hill, for example, there’s now a demolition site preparing the ground for a new mixed-use development.

    As for car dealerships, Bay Ridge has at least three. Though, historically, Brooklyn was once a thriving automobile mecca — particularly along Bedford Avenue’s “Automobile Row” in Central Brooklyn.


    Brooklyn’s Downtown shopping district Fulton Mall has been a destination for more than a century. Photo by Barbara Eldredge

    All those billions could mean big money for the borough. There’s no question that Brooklyn’s retail landscape has room for improvement. Scissura hopes the report will help him convince even more retailers to expand into the Brooklyn market.

    But we wouldn’t fault you for thinking that the lack of car dealerships along Atlantic or Bedford avenues — where they were once common — might be worth the financial loss.

    [Source: Crain’s | Top photo: Barbara Eldredge]


    Uniqlo opened at the Atlantic Terminal Mall in 2013. Photo by Steve Sherman

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