Best Locations for Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Key Takeaways

  • Atlanta, GA (#1); Miami, FL (#2); and Minneapolis, MN (#3) are the best cities to open a brick-and-mortar store.
  • El Paso, TX, is the worst city to open a brick-and-mortar (#50).
  • New York City, NY, has the highest number of retail spaces for rent.
  • San Francisco, CA, has the highest walkability score and the most consumer spending per household.

The Best Ecosystem for Retail

Since pandemic restrictions have loosened, retail businesses have seen a steady return to in-person shopping. In this landscape, finding the right location is key to driving sales. To identify the best cities to open a brick-and-mortar store, we looked at numerous variables, including foot traffic, accessibility, and demand. Our meta ranking will show you the best places to open a brick-and-mortar store and which areas you might want to avoid.

Setting Up Shop

While the demand for in-person shopping has surged, deciding where to buy, sell, or invest in a physical store location requires careful consideration. Below you’ll find the best and worst spots to set up shop and why.

Foot traffic can be a significant factor in determining how many people will visit a store. That’s why walkability might be the most important of all the guidelines we used to score U.S. cities. For this metric, we used a combination of pedestrian friendliness and the distance between shops. We also accounted for consumer spending per household and how many retail spaces were available for rent. Finally, we analyzed online searches about businesses in the area to find out what consumers in each area were looking for.

Atlanta, GA; Miami, FL; and Minneapolis, MN, were the top three cities for new brick-and-mortar stores, all with final scores over 60. Ranking last was El Paso, TX, with a score of 30. Areas with a culture of pedestrian foot traffic (like New York City, NY, and San Francisco, CA) held their own in the top five. These cities also had many customers looking for local shops and entrepreneurs looking to open them.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Next, we broke down each city by what makes them the most or least lucrative areas for new physical stores. Let’s look at the best and worst spots in the nation.

San Francisco was the most walkable, with an overall walkability score of 89. Boston, MA (83), and New York City (82) were also convenient for consumers on foot. In last place was a tie between Charlotte, NC, and Jacksonville, FL, both scoring a meager 26 on the walkability scale. Close behind were Nashville, TN (29) and Raleigh, NC (31), suggesting these are more car-dependent localities.

San Francisco also led the pack with the highest consumer spending per household ($145,537) — more than three times that of last-place contender Detroit, MI ($40,760). Meanwhile, in San Jose, CA, and Louisville, KY, each household spent over $120,000 on average in the past year, and in bottom-ranked Milwaukee, WI, and Tucson, AZ, it was closer to $50,000.

As for available retail spaces, New York City had a whopping 2,612 rentals available — almost double the amount of third-place Los Angeles, CA (1,372). Baltimore, MD, and Louisville had far fewer: less than 70 rentals each.

To measure local interest in brick-and-mortar stores, we examined online search trends in each city. Atlanta and Minneapolis ranked among the top three cities for people interested in stores near them and for entrepreneurs searching for how to open a store or start a business. Tampa, FL, had the most residents interested in opening their own stores (44 per 100,000 residents), while Los Angeles had the least (only 6 per 100,000).

Despite New York City ranking highly for walkability and available retail space, there was a noticeable lack of interest in searches for local businesses and their hours or how to open one. With so many spaces available and rental prices hitting historic lows, now might be a good time to open up shop in the Big Apple.

Not Just Another Brick in the Wall

A brick-and-mortar shop needs more than good visual presentation, marketing, and hospitality. To succeed, it also needs to be easily accessible and suit local interests — both of which factor into customers’ overall experience. You’ll likely find retail opportunities like these in metropolitan cities in many corners of the U.S., like Atlanta, Miami, Minneapolis, New York City, and San Francisco. Now that you know where to set up shop, all you need is the capital to invest in the right market at the right time.


The meta-ranking for the best overall cities for brick-and-mortar stores synthesized the following seven variables for each city:

  • Walkability score [weight = 20%]
  • Average consumer expenditure per household [weight = 20%]
  • Number of retail spaces for rent (this will vary; data was obtained on September 2, 2022) [weight = 20%]
  • Search volume from Google Adwords for the following four queries:
    • “Local businesses near me” [weight = 10%]
    • “Stores open near me” [weight = 10%]
    • “How to start a business” [weight = 10%]
    • “How to open a store” [weight = 10%)]

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