The Resilience of Rural Retail

The pandemic has had a traumatic effect on retail, causing a significant increase in bankruptcies, store closures, and property forfeitures. Miles away in the countryside, however, a different narrative is playing out. Retail in rural communities is comparatively thriving.

Throughout the past decade, national chains have closed many of their stores located in smaller, agricultural towns in hopes of filling their portfolio with stores in denser markets. With the onset of the pandemic, however, rural retailers have experienced a resurgence as residents have been staying closer to home in fear of high infection rates in bigger cities.

In addition to safety, this revival can also be attributed to the fact that these communities are more likely to possess a larger percentage of retail that fulfills basic needs, the most popular category in retail since the pandemic began.

Retailers with a rural presence like Dollar General are seeing sales in its rural stores outpace its urban ones. The CEO of Tractor Supply Co. predicts that this “rural revitalization” evidenced over the past nine months will continue throughout 2021.

This uptick in rural retail mirrors an occurrence during the Great Recession. The more isolated properties were, the better they often performed in comparison to major metros. The closeness associated with rural communities has helped them become more resistant to the negative economic effects of the pandemic. When residents see an owner’s business struggling to survive, it is not just stranger, it is their neighbor.

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