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Retail is never static


New store concepts and trends in retail are typically launched in major metropolitan cities and work their way over time into secondary and tertiary markets. Retailers ultimately expand the new store concepts into markets like Lancaster if its demographic and psychographic characteristics are a match for their target customer and adequate sales projections meet thresholds for profitable sales. Hence, as there will  always be new store concepts in “roll-out,” shopping centers being built and leased in Lancaster today may not be what we design and build five to ten years from now. Otherwise, the rapid growth of e-commence and its impact on footprint and store size will change not only the environment within the four walls of the bricks and mortar stores, but the shopping center too. More mixed-use, well-merchandised, lifestyle-type shopping centers seem to be a prudent approach to responding to certain of the changes in the market.   

More and more, people today, particularly young professionals and empty-nesters want the places where they live, work, shop, dine, and play to be in close proximity if not within walking distance of each other. Downtowns and other near-urban-infill areas are attracting development for these constituents.

As for malls, there are some in tertiary markets that probably should never have been built. Some are even being “de-malled” and converted into open-air shopping centers. However, because they are always adapting, the dominant super-regional malls, such as Park City Center, and “fortress malls” such as The Malls at King of Prussia remain relevant, progressive, and exciting places and are doing extremely well. And, in Lancaster there is yet unmet demand for “large format-category dominant” retailers which likely will account for a large share of new square footage in retail developments in the near term.

Impact of technology

Technology keeps advancing and is having a profound impact on retailing. Store operators never stop asking themselves what they can do to serve their customers, attract more business, and stay ahead of their competitors. They’re investing significantly in technology and tweaking constantly.

In part, e-commerce can be  considered a modern version of catalog shopping that has grow exponentially over the past several decades … from Sear Roebuck & Co. and JCPenney to the literally thousands of specialty catalog business that emerged.  A generation ago, companies found ways to make their catalog and store operations function as complements. Today they are doing the same thing with omni-channel sales.

Many catalog business ultimately have emerged as brick & mortar stores such as Restoration Hardware, Coldwater Creek, and the list goes on and on.   Watch for the e-commerce sites to open ‘bricks & mortar” stores too.

One example is HoneyBaked Ham. For years people ordered products from their catalogs for holiday gifts. Now the catalog which continues has led to the internet and you can order online. Recently HoneyBaked introduced cafe stores in selected markets. Now in addition to buying online, people can visit the story to have a shopping and dining experience, as well as purchase a gift certificates for others.

Blended shopping experience

Serving customers online and offline is becoming a preference among consumers. According to Forrester Research, shoppers said that visiting a store served as the most important source of product research before the purchase in every major consumer category except travel.

Retail stores can double as fulfillment centers. Amazon.com is toying with the idea of opening brick-and-mortar stores, in part as a way to expedite order fulfillment. While e-tailers work to provide a one-day delivery proposition, retailers will make their footprints increasingly efficient and perfect their physical and online presence.

The factors that make up a successful retail site will become even more important: location, visibility, accessibility, parking, environment, and favorable demographics all play a role in determining whether a project will be sustainable.

H. Stephen Evans, Senior Vice President and Managing Director – Retail Division, High Associates Ltd.