Opinion

The Medford magnet

The city of Medford and its residents start the holiday season early this year with Wegmans opening a 400-employee superstore on the site of the former Meadow Glen Mall. The national retailer has already made itself well known in Medford by getting involved in local charities and making a push to give jobs to city residents.

If there’s anyone in the city who doesn’t think Wegmans will be a positive addition to Medford, they are doing a great job staying out of sight. The retailer is opening its local store with a cafe and other features in the wake of similar grand openings by Dick’s Sporting Goods and Petco.

It’s not every day that communities big or small welcome new employers who display Wegmans’ interest in being a good neighbor. Wegmans operates stores spanning a region ranging from Virginia to Pennsylvania. It doesn’t take a leap of logic to imagine store executives spent a considerable amount of time studying Medford before deciding to build a 120,000 square-foot store in the city.

Why Medford? The city has a reputation as a well-governed Boston semi-suburb with a nice downtown and residents who make enough money to spend it. But that rationale only explains part of why the Wegmans is coming to Medford.

Rest of the answer lies in the changing American retail landscape. Amazon and other online giants are making malls obsolete. There is no need for consumers to wander around for two hours browsing when they can sit in their favorite chair with their smartphone.

Places like Meadow Glen are going the way of the horse and buggy and the cassette tape. But the mall, with help from city officials, is now home to Kohl’s, Marshalls, Petco, and Dick’s with Wegmans ready to open.

The retail convergence on Meadow Glen will bring in customers without subjecting them to the mall experience. Plunking five stores on one location allows for incidental shopping and clustered shopping.

Incidental shoppers may run into Wegmans for groceries and jump over to Dick’s or Marshalls for birthday gifts before picking up the pet food. Cluster shoppers will make all five Meadow Glen stores a shopping destination so they can cross a few items off their list.

Medford didn’t corner the market on how to attract big stores. Lynn, Revere and certainly Saugus are having various level of success boosting their business profile. But Medford is demonstrating that the size of community, its location on a major highway and its existing business profile can add up to competing on a national stage for a major employer.

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