Note to Norton: North Conway is alive and well

To the editor:William Norton’s analysis of North Conway’s commercial real estate market in the New Hampshire Business Review (“The state of retail in North Conway,” March 23-April 5 NHBR) based on a drive through the town and a stay at an unnamed inn (in an entirely different town no less), was disappointing and inaccurate.Further, his analysis of the impact Merrimack will have on both Tilton and North Conway retailers is the exact opposite of what national retailers are telling us and our own analysis based on 25 years in outlet retailing.Outlet centers are typically successful in two markets — those located near urban areas and those located in tourist destinations. The Merrimack center will be successful because it is ideally located for residents of northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. Although a lovely area, Merrimack is not a tourist mecca. North Conway is a destination resort area, and it serves as the region’s shopping center for all of northern New Hampshire and western Maine, with an increasingly important Quebec and eastern Canada customer.Tilton is heavily dependent upon the residents of Concord and Manchester and is very likely to be negatively affected by the opening of a mega outlet center just 27 miles south of its doors.And basing his analysis of the North Conway vacancy rate by driving down the “strip” resulted in a gross miscalculation.Yes, there has been a retail transition happening in North Conway that has resulted in some highly visible vacancies of less than prime properties, but there is nowhere near a 35 percent vacancy rate.North Conway has not been immune to the drag of this recession, however the last four years have seen the grand openings of dozens of new and expanded retail stores including the state-of-the-art LEED-certified building for LL Bean, and newcomers such as Coach, American Eagle Outfitters, Justice and Under Armour. Timberland just opened a beautiful new store.Retail is all about change, and to be successful, landlords must bring in fresh and exciting retailers to keep their properties competitive.A recent discussion with the sales manager of one of North Conway’s largest lodging properties revealed that its occupancy is the best it’s been in five years despite the lack of snow. She attributes that to the sheer variety of experiences available to visitors including shopping, outdoor fun, family entertainment options, and the always-available breathtaking scenery.North Conway has been the backyard playground for millions of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and Connecticut families for over one hundred years and my guess is it will be for at least another hundred. The best part is there is an amazing community in North Conway of wonderfully energized, motivated and educated families, retirees and young people that bring a vitality found only where there’s an abundance of outdoor adventures and entrepreneurial drive.My advice to businesses looking to expand in New Hampshire is hurry up and get to North Conway for opportunities apparently missed by the pundits. Dorthea SeyboldRetail general managerOVP Management Inc. Co-ownerConway Scenic Railroad

Categories: Cook on Concord, Opinion