Shopping Center Business

MAY 2015

Shopping Center Business is the leading monthly business magazine for the retail real estate industry.

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260 • SHOPPING CENTER BUSINESS • MAY 2015 Jeff Shaw Retailers fnd portable success with shops in modifed shipping containers. Built To Move W hen David Campbell started Boxman Studios in 2009, it was out of curiosity. A former real estate broker and developer, he was looking for a new concept after the 2008 crash of the real estate market. Campbell came across an article on shipping container architecture and saw the promise in potential uses, from hos- pitals to foodservice to retail. "He got a container, found a yard, had a buddy who could weld, and started cut- ting into it to see what he could come up with," says Vinay Patel, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company's market- ing strategist. Boxman Studios ended up on the front end of a major trend: custom-fabricating shipping containers into portable shops and booths. In its first six years, the company has already moved four times to larger spaces. In 2014, Inc. magazine named Boxman the fastest growing company in Charlotte, noting that the company increased annual revenue more than 3,000 percent from 2010 to 2013, bringing in $4.3 million in 2013 alone. Clients purchasing custom- ized shipping containers from Boxman include Google, Red Bull and Samsung. GoinG To The Consumer As online retailers continue to take market share away from brick-and-mortar shops, Patel says small, mobile, pop-up shopping is one way to fight back. "With an online retailer, there's no touch or feel. The consumer still values being able to inspect the product," says Patel. "The compromise is going to your consumer instead of waiting for them to come to you." Reaching out to customers is one of the reasons shipping containers have become a staple at events like festivals, concerts and sporting events — where retailers know their target consumers will already be. Containers make appearances at most major sporting events now, including the Super Bowl, X Games and NHL play- offs, says Erik Patten, global sales and business development manager at Steel Space Concepts, another shipping con- tainer fabricator with offices in Quebec and Boston. "It's a great alternative in terms of cost as well as a lack of brick and mortar. If you're looking to have some visibility at an event, it's a great way to have a retail location but in a temporary format," Pat- ten says. The versatility and transportability of the shipping containers is what makes them most valuable, he adds. Retailers can get in and out of an area quickly and easily, even locations where having a full shop would be difficult or cost-prohibitive. "There seemed to be a need for it," says Patten. "This is a great way to recycle a product and transform it into a mobile marketing or retail platform." Seasonal retailers also benefit strongly from having a customizable and portable retail shop, according to Boxman's Pa- tel. The products can go where they're in demand, without worrying about be- ing anchored in a brick-and-mortar store year-round. "If you sell outdoor gear, you can head to Florida or Southern California in the summer months and sell surfing gear or scuba gear," says Patel. "Then when win- ter hits, you move out to Colorado and sell skiing gear. Going where your cus- At the Buffalo, New York, Canalside development, shipping containers built by Boxman Studios serve as both the ticket booth and the rental center for ice skates in the winter and bicycles and kayaks in the summer. Sportswear brand Zoot uses a Popshopolis-designed expandable shipping container to sell clothing at marathons and triathlons throughout the country, setting up shop wherever their target market will already be.

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