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Norton report: Brick-and-mortar retailers won't go away
Still need for 'face-to-face' businesses, real estate forecast states
Norton report
Frank Norton Jr., CEO of The Norton Agency in Gainesville, shares findings from his agency’s 2018 Native Intelligence report Jan. 23 in Braselton. - photo by Jeff Gill

Brick-and-mortar stores may be fading, but their end isn’t in sight either, as e-commerce appears to be leveling off, according to Gainesville-based The Norton Agency’s 2018 economic forecast.

“Demand for face-to-face, high-service … businesses will always be high, especially in North Georgia towns, townships and crossroads,” states the annual report, presented Jan. 23 to a Braselton audience by agency CEO Frank Norton Jr.

“Amazon or HelloFresh can find Demorest or Talmo, but not as often as Atlanta or Cumming,” the report says.

That retail tidbit was one of many findings in the agency’s 46-page report, which was available to several hundred people who gathered at The Venue at Friendship Springs in Braselton in South Hall for the event.

The event, which mixed facts and figures with food, also featured a panel of Norton executives to discuss residential and commercial sectors.

The running theme in this year’s report is comparing current trends to ones over the 90-year span of the agency.

“As a co-owner of a 90-year-old business, to survive we’ve had to adapt,” Norton said. “(My) father reminds us that during that 90 years, we have had 13 downturns and 13 upturns, and both present opportunities along the way.”

As part of this year’s report, the agency “led group discussions with its commercial and residential sales force to seek insight into the leading real estate market trends for North Georgia.”

Here’s a few findings from the report:

Grocery store expansion “is leading the retail footprint.” “People have to eat. Fresh produce is in demand and high-service convenience food is winning the market wars.”

Pizzerias and “other food services” paying rents in shopping centers aren’t renewing leases.

Retail banking “is a walking dinosaur with lobbies empty and drive-through demand falling. Some banks haven’t faced this new reality.”

The modern “land barons are the tech and franchise retail investors looking to diversify portfolios and stabilize fast growing wealth.”

In housing, 2018 design features include the “modern farmhouse look, open floor plans, master (bedrooms) with walk-in closets, quartz countertops and outdoor relaxing places.”

Lake Lanier is a “vibrant market,” with some home prices reaching pre-Great Recession levels.

“Sellers with deep water are clearly winners, with low water properties patiently holding off the market until a full pool returns.”

Also, “buyers of all ages are heading to Lanier for refuge from the ‘concrete jungle’ of Atlanta or as an escape from crowded beach towns or cold weather locations.”

“We’re bullish about our future, but predicting the next 10, 20 or 90 years is a daunting task,” Norton said.

“My brother (president Bob Norton) and I regularly meet to catch up on the myriad moving parts in our business,” he said. “It’s fun when those conversations come around to dreaming big for our firm or ‘the next big idea.’

“We’re not saying what should be done over the next 90 years, rather what are the next big ideas for our region?” Norton said.

Looking at the audience, he finished by saying, “What’s your next big idea?”