In today’s retail environment landlords can struggle with filling vacant space as retailer’s close stores. It’s tempting to cast a wide net when looking to fill a vacant storefront, but many of the successful landlords are taking a more strategic approach to merchandising and transforming their centers along the way. The new buzz is called “lifestyling” and it’s how landlords are making their neighborhood retail centers relevant again.
Neighborhood retail centers performed the role of Main Street in suburbs where no Main Street existed. They conveniently clustered several retailers and they offered abundant parking. The neighborhood center then took a back seat to the mall, the power center, and most recently the lifestyle center. Today, every retail center continues to change and evolve due to shifting consumer habits, threats from ecommerce and market relevance.
When you lifestyle a neighborhood retail center you begin by thinking about what consumers are really looking for day-to-day. And what many of today’s consumers, particularly millennials, are looking for is an experience. That might mean a new restaurant experience, like a kabob place for lunch. Or it might mean an activity with your friend, maybe a massage or a cappuccino. These service-oriented activities can’t be fulfilled online. They have to be experienced in person.
Many landlords start the lifestyling process by building around existing tenants. A grocery store is often the center’s anchor and is a good jumping off point. Then consider a quick-service-restaurant; QSRs are proving extremely popular and are a welcome addition to strip centers. So are boutique fitness facilities such as yoga studios. Salons, spa services, juice bars and coffee shops also develop a loyal and regular customer base. Entertainment uses can also infuse experiential retail into your center. Adult-themed and family centered entertainment will be driven by market demand. In addition to retail and entertainment, some landlords are considering adding a residential or hospitality component adding to or in replacement of retail gross leasable area. The synergy of all these uses working together creates an attractive destination that checks many boxes for multi-taskers, and that’s what you want to offer. Lifestyling the neighborhood retail center with the right merchandising mix and use components will mitigate future threats of ecommerce by balancing internet resistant uses with convenience.
Convenience was the driving force behind the development of neighborhood retail centers in the first place. The same feature that attracted neighbors in the 1950’s and 60’s is still relevant today. It’s just a matter of discovering how tastes and habits have changed, developing a merchandising strategy to satisfy those tastes, and patiently looking for just the right tenants and uses.