A New Focus on Fun in Retail-Literally

“The death of the department store isn’t the death of brick and mortar retail—we’re just in the midst of a much-needed evolution,” says Metro Commercial Senior Vice President, Brandon Anapol. As discussed in some of Metro’s previous blog entries, longtime retail categories like department stores, office supplies, sporting goods and electronics retailers began consolidating ten years ago in the Great Recession.  Although the economy has rebounded quite nicely over the last decade, Brick and Mortar retail has been in the midst of yet another tremendous paradigm shift.  Customers have come to demand instant gratification at the lowest possible price with the highest level of convenience possible, also known as Amazon Prime. The vacant retail space that will most likely hit the market will require vision, creativity and persistence to backfill.

For the landlords of that space the question is: what now? What sort of use will be appealing enough to lure today’s consumers away from their comfy homes?  What can a retail location offer that you can’t find in your family room or on the Internet? One of the answers is entertainment. We aren’t talking about your old school movie theaters, either. We’re talking about re-invented bowling alleys that offer the vibe and the menu of a cool center city lounge. Food Halls curated by world class chefs, and indoor play zones and adventure parks–for kids and adults.

Metro client in 17 states throughout the Northeast, Urban Air Trampoline Park is one such concept. Recognized as one of the fastest growing franchises in the United States by Entrepreneur TV, Urban Air offers dozens of attractions such as rock walls, laser tag, dodgeball, wall to wall trampolines, basketball dunk tracks, warrior courses, and even indoor skydiving in select locations. Urban Air is flexible when it comes to space. Needing anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 square feet, Urban Air can move into a former department store, a large retailer in a mall, even flex space if the building is in a convenient and visible location. One feature they must have is a clear ceiling height of at least 17’; another must-have is a trade area with an abundance of children from 3 to 14 years of age. Their family concept is so popular that a single location may host over 50 birthday parties in a single weekend!

Another hot option in today’s entertainment landscape is Bowlmor and Bowlero, today’s bowling alleys have a built-in cool factor. Unique and sophisticated food options like pizza cupcakes and premium cocktails served lane-side give Bowlero locations the vibe of an energetic cocktail lounge. Arcades, bocce, billiards and happy hours keep the action lively and the crowds coming. Like Urban Air, Bowlero locations thrive on the right synergy of surrounding retail and complementary entertainment concepts. Power centers and malls make great neighbors for the 30,000 to 40,000 square foot locations.

Food Halls are another hot trend in experiential retail.  Concepts such as Mario Batali’s Eataly are coveted by landlord’s throughout the country looking to add an additional anchor and a “cool factor” to their properties.  While nearly every landlord would love to add a carefully curated and dynamic chef driven food hall to their property, the reality is that these concepts will most likely only thrive in densely populated major metropolitan cities such as New York City.  Of course, Philadelphians have been spoiled with the Reading Terminal Market, which has been a food hall decades before that buzz word term even existed.

Retail has always been that third place filling the gap between work and home.  The boom in restaurants, including the fast casual category and coffee shops, recreation and entertainment options is being fueled by millennials.  Putting family fun, entertainment and socializing venues under one roof is a new way to look at retail space. Like all stories about evolution, it’s about surviving and thriving. These days, that looks like fun!

Copyright 2017 Metro Commercial Real Estate, LLC