Downtown Bellingham offers a diverse selection of retail establishments specializing in clothing, home and kitchen, books, food & wine, and much more. For those looking for one of a kind knick-knacks, pieces of art, and antique clothing, downtown Bellingham is an ideal location. Others who are seeking experiences can visit numerous museums or theaters; these establishments largely epitomize the people of Bellingham, artsy, cultural, out-door loving, and unique. For those looking to make a conscious effort to support family-owned, one of a kind stores, the options are plentiful.
Downtown Bellingham Retail Market Snapshot – 2018
With over 15 clothing stores falling under the category of either specialty / boutique / consignment, those who consider themselves to be ‘bargain hunters’ will have no problem finding that one piece of clothing that they know for sure no one else at the party will be wearing. The customer service is bound to be great, as the owners are often in-store, sharing their passion for the business they own with the customers who walk through the doors. This being said, those who prefer the latest trends from large brand name such as Nike, Patagonia, Levi’s, Etc, are going to have a difficult time finding what they’re looking for. Most of these stores assiduously stray from these brands to support smaller companies, which is part of what makes Bellingham great.
However, it’s worth noting that there is no shortage of Bellingham residents who enjoy these mainstream brands, and who would prefer to purchase them from a smaller family owned retailors rather than large big-box departments stores at Bellis Fair mall, or ordering the products online. Based on the current breakdown of products offered in the stores of downtown Bellingham retail establishments, residents are forced to do just that. If you’re hoping to find the newest pair of Jordan’s, or the latest season of Patagonia jackets for the upcoming winter in Downtown Bellingham retail shops, you’re going to have a very difficult time. Most retail establishments generate a business model surrounding giving the people what they want. This is simply not the case for retail in downtown Bellingham. In addition to the lack of mainstream brands, is the lack of high-end choices as well. According to the 2016 Census, the average household income for all Bellingham residents was $61,156, 6% higher than the average US household income of $57,617, with an additional 28.9% of households in Bellingham earning $75,000 or more . Although Bellingham is far from a tech-hub or silicon valley, there is a significant portion of Bellingham residents who have well-paying jobs, and there should be some reflection of that in local retail offerings. That’s not to say that Bellingham should scrap its moral compass, and make a conscious effort to toss aside everything that makes Bellingham unique. Rather, just offer more diverse options of retail establishments for those who seek them out, giving the people of Bellingham the ability to purchase the brands they want, while supporting locally owned stores. Perhaps it’s a fine line between insisting on staying local, and being outright uncompetitive.