Nantucket bans all chain stores from its streets

The upscale island of Nantucket, off the coast of Massachusetts, USA, has recently voted unanimously to restrict businesses with more than 14 stores nation-wide from setting up shop on the island. The legislation comes after Ralph Lauren moved in last year and paid $6.5 million US for the privilege.

Residents of the island are concerned for their unique heritage and don’t want the cobbled streets of their idyllic home to look the same as most other shopping districts across America. Ms. Hudson, a bookshop owner of the area, said, “as the country starts to look like everywhere else, this was about protecting our uniqueness” (Usborne, 2006). Although the ban will stop large retail chains from budding in Nantucket’s Main Street, residents cannot rid themselves of the ones already present, such as Ralph Lauren and Lily Pulitzer.

Because of the odd nature of tourism trading, however, it may be that the chains will not be able to adapt to life in Nantucket and choose to leave, as did Crabtree & Evelyn. Since the population of Nantucket Island fluctuates drastically from winter to summer (10,000 to 50,000 people, respectively), a large number of retail stores are closed in the cooler months. While local stores are used to the extreme swing in the number of shoppers, large stores such as the new Ralph Lauren may find it difficult to survive. Nantucket is a somewhat elite vacation spot and a tourist’s taste may differ from that of the usual shopper.

The residents’ voted ban follows similar bans across the US, namely in tourist centres such as Bristol, Rhode Island, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, and Ogunquit, Maine. The proclaimed enemy of these protected areas is in fact Wal-Mart, blamed time and time again for the weakened economies of hundreds of towns and cities world-wide. Residents of Nantucket are pleased that the recent ban will stop chain stores with regulated uniforms, d├ęcor, menus and stock from turning such a diverse and distinctive area into the usual shopping district.

Thanks to the legislation, inhabitants of the island can feel gratified by the knowledge that what they and tourists spend money on will sustain other residents and their businesses, directly boosting the economy. In the global village of today, that makes Nantucket even more unique.

Usborne, D. (2006, April 8). Mind the Gap? US resort bans nation’s favourite retailers. The Independent. Retrieved from