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Retail Traffic

Drawing Conclusions

From the revival of the mall to “pop-up” shopping, trends are changing the retail real estate industry and the way it markets its goods. Did you hear the one about… The Web-based Burger King poulet did whatever you wanted him to, in real time. RTKL Associates, with foot planted firmly in cheek, comments on retailing today.


We admit it. We were one of the first (if not the loudest) to proclaim the death of the mall. Its tired format, the monotony of repetitious shops, uninspired anchors, all that asphalt. What's a new millennium shopper to do? Just when we thought the patient was dead on the table comes a small flicker of life. Malls are actually beginning to evolve, defribillated by an investment community that never lost faith. Hybrid centers, dynamic food-based environments, civic uses, even outward-facing tenants that change the tyranny of a mall's internal focus. Could this be the start of a resurgence?


Although we're spending more than ever on home improvement, and sinking big bucks into luxurious kitchens and bathrooms, we also feel a renewed interest in being close to the urban hubbub. Nice hardwoods still sell, but now so do walkable distances to Starbucks. Home and retail are linked more than ever, from mixed-use developments, which are increasingly achieving the right densities, pedestrian flow, scale and tenant mix, down to the smallest detail, like cafes spilling onto the “street,” a public plaza, or a canopy and comfortable furnishings. As consumers continue to expect more “life” in their shopping, developers and retailers will continue to see the benefits of investing in nesting.


Thank Target for making it accessible, but thank Apple for making it cool. Design is back in vogue. Again. After a few failed and flawed attempts at high art (Koolhaus' Prada and Selfridge's in Birmingham, England, are two notable examples) that left shoppers confused and bewildered, popular retail has begun to define a simple and clear language that goes something like this: Stuff needs to not only work it also has to look good. Design differentiates. Who would've thunk it?


Now that shopping is far from a 9-to-5 enterprise, and retailers have awakened to the idea of fostering a deeper sense of loyalty among their customers, today's shopping environments have become more social gathering places than purveyors of product. Think Starbucks' wireless hubs and comfy chairs — they actually encourage people to hang out. So what gives? Today's shoppers are looking for environments that are comfortable, authentic and, more than anything, value humor and soft sell over high-pressure sales staff lurking like vultures. Is it any wonder the guerrilla marketing techniques of, say, are striking a chord?


Underpinning the social aspects of the new retail is a deep sense of community and cause. If Livestrong bracelets (and the rainbow of others they spawned), Fair Trade products, even community-based literacy programs are symbols of what's to come, the future of retail may just have a moral and social conscience. Enter the pop-up — stores that show up in key locations for a small period of time, the proceeds of which go to a worthy cause, like breast cancer research. Shoppers are expecting retailers to take a stand on issues of meaning and relevance … even if it masks sweatshop labor practices or a profit-driven engine elsewhere.

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