America’s retail landscape isn’t what it used to be. Thanks in large part to the popularity of online shopping, bricks-and-mortar stores are fading fast. Once-great names like Sears and J.C. Penney are on the ropes. Malls have been hollowed out or abandoned altogether. Many Main Streets across Middle America are strips of boarded-up storefronts.
The statistics are grim, but all is not lost. Not every town’s shopping landscape looks like the set of a dystopian video game. If you still long for the good old days when you could touch and feel something before handing over your credit card, here are seven cities that have managed to preserve their shopping bona fides and are worth considering as you plan your next vacation or weekend getaway.
Outfitter L.L. Bean put this coastal town north of Portland on the map more than 100 years ago, and continues to dominate the shopping landscape. The flagship store is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and is surrounded by outlet shops of all stripes and sizes — from Coach leather to J. Crew to Orvis — that attract some 3 million visitors a year to one of New England’s most popular shopping meccas
Santa Fe, N.M.
For obvious reasons, Santa Fe is a hotbed of all-things-Southwest — bolo ties, turquoise jewelry and anything related to Native American artistry. But it’s also much, much more. Canyon Road is packed with art galleries of all kinds, the area’s flea markets are full of one-of-a-kind finds, and the up-and-coming Railyard District has no shortage of eclectic boutiques and unusual gift and curio shops.
Charleston pops up on many best-of-USA lists, and for good reason. Temperatures are mild in the nonsummer months, there are world-class restaurants and the compact historic center remains eminently walkable. Downtown shopping centers around King Street, the south end of which is chock-a-block with high-end antique shops and the middle and upper reaches of which are full of eclectic, independent retailers and buzzy restaurants and bars.