- Colin Flanders ©️ Seven Days
- Outdoor Gear Exchange's Church Street entrance
The new store at the Essex Experience shopping center will open on November 3. The business then plans to scale back its Burlington location sometime early next year by about 40 percent, down to just the main floor. VTDigger.org first reported the news.
The moves come in response to a 20 to 30 percent decline in sales that co-owner Marc Sherman largely attributes to changing work and shopping habits. The Queen City has lost many of its downtown office workers coming out of the pandemic, including hundreds of state employees who now primarily work remotely. Many of those state employees are expected to move to Waterbury.
"If people weren’t already coming into town for their jobs, they might not be motivated to come into downtown for retail and dining experiences," Sherman said.
OGE also used to benefit from its proximity to the farmers' market, which moved a few years ago from City Hall Park to Pine Street. Meanwhile, other businesses have been responding to the reduced local foot traffic by trimming their hours — a "slow creep" that Sherman said could eventually culminate in a "downward spiral" for businesses that don't find ways to adapt.
The Essex storefront will be 5,000 square feet and will be staffed by existing OGE employees. Sherman, who did not anticipate any layoffs "at this time," said he's already heard positive feedback from shoppers outside of Burlington.
One bit of good news for the shop's longtime frequenters: The Church Street location will maintain its popular consignment shop, though likely at a reduced scale, Sherman said.
"That’s good for everyone, including the planet," Sherman said.