Vermont Retail Market

Until recently, Vermont has been largely ignored by major retailers. Companies are typically hesitant to enter a new market without a clear blueprint for success. Fortunately, it has dawned upon many national and regional retailers that entering a new, underserved market can be beneficial.

Brian Waxler, principal of Pomerleau Real Estate, a Burlington, Vermont-based firm that owns and manages more than 2 million square feet in greater Burlington , says that the market has been waiting on a surge of national players for some time. “National retailers have discovered Vermont and realize it is an untapped market,” he says. Due to the scarcity of developable space, it took some time for major retailers to gain entrance into the market.

Large retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Best Buy, TJ Maxx and Linens ‘n Things have recently opened stores in the Burlington market. Also, Lowe’s Home Improvement has signed a lease in South Burlington with plans to open this year. Smaller companies such as iParty, Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, J. Crew and Ashley’s Home Center have all entered the Vermont market in the past year. Just outside Burlington, MapleTree Place, an approximately 300,000-square-foot office and retail development in the town of Williston, has aided in bringing in these large retailers as well as several smaller national brands. MapleTree Place, which is developed and owned by Starwood Ceruzzi, features space for big boxes, smaller retailers, and office space. As leasing agent for the complex, Pomerleau secured many retailers, the most recent a lease with Christmas Tree Shops, which moved into approximately 46,638 square feet at the new shopping center. Other tenants secured by Pomerleau include Chili’s, Longhorn Steakhouse and Starbucks Coffee, along with the majority of the tenants occupying the center.

According to Waxler, “[MapleTree Place’s] impact on the market has been very positive and the space is filling quickly, along with other vacancies in the market. The development has allowed large retailers and other smaller national retailers to finally enter the Vermont/greater Burlington market, which is not typically development friendly.”

With only a limited amount of new retail space opening, the retailers that acted quickly gained entrance into the market and those who did not were left out. Development is slowing in the greater Burlington area and beginning to move into other cities, such as Montpelier, Berlin and St. Albans. Largely because of the scarcity of vacancies in greater Burlington and the higher cost of living there, housing is growing rapidly in these secondary markets. Subsequently, interest from retailers has been growing.

Though the market is not large, retail in greater Burlington has continually performed well, with vacancy standing at 6.7 percent for the entire marketplace and reaching only 5.6 percent in Burlington’s central business district.

The national retailers that have entered the market have found definite success without having a negative impact on existing business, says Waxler. “Small retailers and nationals are both doing very well,” he says. “Local retailers have been able to adapt and thrive.”

©2005 France Publications, Inc. Duplication or reproduction of this article not permitted without authorization from France Publications, Inc. For information on reprints of this article contact Barbara Sherer at (630) 554-6054.

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