Panel: Brick and mortar stores not dead
Kandice Bell / The Newnan Times-Herald

Brick and mortar stores are not dead, and historic downtowns such as downtown Newnan are drawing crowds, according to a retail/downtown industry panel.

The Newnan-Coweta Chamber hosted a State of Commerce/Retail Lunch on Wednesday, at the former Jos. A. Bank store at 376 Newnan Crossing Bypass in Ashley Park.

A panel discussion was moderated by City of Newnan Assistant City Manager Hasco Craver. Panel speakers included Ashley Park General Manager Mark Curran, Senior Project Manager Retail-Commercial Guy “Mill” Graves with Electric Cities of Georgia, Senoia Downtown Development Authority Chairman Suzanne Helfman and Main Street Newnan Manager Courtney Harcourt.

The chamber’s popular State of Community Lunch Series began last year with programs that focused on local government, education and health care. A program earlier this year focused on economic development, so chamber leaders decided it was time for a focus on Coweta’s growing retail sector.

Local economic strength is helping area shoppers keep retail options that are slipping away in other parts of Georgia and the country as major national chains close underperforming stores.

Earlier this year, three major chains announced multiple store closings – JCPenney, HHGregg and Gander Mountain – JCPenney is the only retailer of those three that will remain open locally.

Graves said that although it is being portrayed that brick and mortar is going downhill, he said online sales only accounted for 8.5 percent of retail sales last quarter. He said big retail chains are beginning to invest in technology and how to make purchasing more convenient for the customer.

“They’re trying to react where they see the industry going,” he said.

Graves said stores may focus more on consolidating to give more attention to stores that are doing well.

“The story that isn’t being told is that ‘Class…