Panama City Beach – Article written by Cebo Campbell
Pier Park, without doubt, has become Panama City Beach’s premier shopping destination and has created a Panama City Beach buzz all throughout the Emerald Coast and vacation markets. The stunning 1 million square foot open-air regional lifestyle center provides some of the best restaurants and stores anywhere. It’s addition has changed and will continue to change Panama City Beach. Below are 5 ways Pier Park has changed Panama City Beach as a tourist town as well as a community.
Centralizing: In a previous article, I said that Pier Park is quickly becoming Panama City Beach’s new downtown. Well, that statement grows truer every day. Years past, the beach was spread out from end to end with tourists making it more difficult to keep the place clean and to police it all. That still occurs today, but Pier Park’s size, draw and location has become the primary place of congregation. While, to some, that may not sound like a big deal, but in doing so it reduces traffic, makes it easier to police any happenings. Also it takes away much of the congestion at the Front Beach Entrance and the City Pier where, before, drew large crowds without providing much to do. Large crowds and no attractions lead to problems. Pier Park provides loads to do and more than enough space to do it in.
Business: In April, 850 Business Magazine published that despite a worsening economy, Pier Park has continued to do well. While retail stores are closing all over the place, the report stated, “The [Simon] company reported an 8.8 percent growth in funds from operations, which chairman and CEO David Simon attributes to the company’s high quality portfolio and strong balance sheet.” Mark Gilbert, executive vice president of Schwartz Media Strategies, was quoted as saying, “The better properties are still doing well,” he says. “(Pier Park) has a great location and better tenants, which is why it is able to sustain its status.” What all this means is that without the Pier Park location businesses could, well, be out of business. Pier Park has provided an attractive lifestyle setting for local and chain businesses to set up shop and flourish.
Buzz: These days, buzz is everything. You can call it whatever you want; buzz , viral or word-of-mouth advertising, but getting customers to spread the word about a you through their social or professional networks is the hottest ticket in the marketing world. Pier Park has created a buzz Panama City Beach hasn’t seen since, well, I can’t remember when. What this means is that people are talking about Pier Park and if they are talking about Pier Park they are talking about Panama City Beach. Providing a venue for things like free concerts, jazz festivals and street fairs, all of a sudden Panama City Beach has new dimensions and people are taking notice.
Competition: If you noticed, during the 4th of July weekend, something happened over on the East side of Panama City Beach that previously had never been done. Capt. Anderson’s restaurant, Boatyard restaurant, The Treasure Ship restaurant, Lighthouse Marina and Pirates Cove Marina, places that had competed intensely for years, coordinated to have their own fireworks show. This was in direct competition to Pier Park’s firework’s display. This is one account of many where business all over Panama City Beach are stepping up their game in order to compete. Places like Mr. Surf’s Surf Shop have revamped and added awesome features to their business to draw tourists away from Pier Park and is a better store for it.
Mindset: Mindset, in my opinion, is the most important factor. For so many years, and in some ways even still, Panama City Beach has been known as a Spring Break destination. A part of that stigma was based on the fact that the city didn’t have anything else on which to hang its hat. With Pier Park, we now have something more. Whether you love or hate Pier Park, it has improved the quality of shopping, dining and activities and provided a reason for tourists to come back to Panama City Beach. That confidence, that “hatrack”, means that the TDC and local business can better focus their advertising and marketing efforts. Because of Pier Park, Panama City Beach is more than just a beach and a lifestyle. With the airport on the way, Pier Park will play an integral part in bringing more people here to visit and to live.
With all that said, I won’t even go into the rumors of the resurrection of Miracle Strip Amusement Park in Pier Park West.
Imagine what that would do.