Shopping Center Business

FEB 2018

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

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OPEN-AIR RETAIL 48 • SHOPPING CENTER BUSINESS • February 2018 creative with signage, paint colors, etc., which gives Bethesda Row a unique and authentic neighborhood aesthetic." Stores are no longer as large today be- cause, in many cases, stock rooms are a thing of the past. Retailers and landlords are getting creative with this trend as they integrate online purchasing into the retail environment and let down some of the former era's rigidity in size and style. When Urban Country came to Bethes- da Row 10 years ago, for example, the business required a high volume of mer- chandise and storage, but Corwin says relocating tenants and combining spaces as retail models evolve has been critical to its success. Today, Urban Country is in a smaller space that can feature homewares but that also has allowed the building of a design resource and consultation center as Ur- ban Country shifted its focus to design services. Customizing footprints and exteriors is a trend at most successful outdoor centers, as they physically reshape them- selves, not only to walk in lockstep with online shopping patterns, but to offer ex- citing experiences you can't buy behind a screen. "Ten or 20 years ago, a typical store would have been 80 to 120 feet deep," says Sean Selby, principal of Boston-based architecture firm Arrowstreet. "There were rule-of-thumb typical dimensions that we would work with. But the technologies available today, like home delivery or in-store pickup, are al- lowing store footprints to adjust to better serve the customer. Smaller stockrooms and less space devoted to fixed check- out stations equates to smaller store footprints, and this is an opportunity for retailer and landlord alike." Selby adds that in this new configura- tion, the retailer gets a a maximized lay- out, and with the extra square footage giv- en back to the development, the landlord has the option to add more stores or ex- plore other uses like an office, residential or fitness component. "I see a lot of potential for a recalibra- tion of how landlords will start to program their centers," Selby says. "There will be more variety and a wider mix of uses. This is an exciting problem to solve." Bethesda Row's merchandising mix is almost constantly evolving, and what helps keep the center so interesting to its market is its host of bricks-and-mortar stores for online retailers. The outdoor center is home to four, soon to be five, clicks-to-bricks retailers. At these smaller-format stores, shoppers can see and try on products even if their final transaction happens online. At Warby Parker, Bonobos and Minis- try of Supply, that's the idea. A small in- ventory allows shoppers to find their fit and style, and place their order directly with the sales person, which can create a personal connection that is lost in online shopping. Similarly, Amazon books, opening lat- er this year, solves for the discoverability problem with online shopping, enabling shoppers to pick up a book that catches their eye and page through. Stocking best- sellers and local authors, Amazon Books will showcase books with covers facing out, not spines, displaying the book's Amazon rating. Other retailers and fast-casual concepts are using Bethesda Row as a proving ground. Cava debuted its first fast-casu- al outpost at the outdoor retail center in 2011, and Sweetgreen has opened its third location — and first outside down- town Washington, D.C. Most recently, Drybar opened in Octo- ber 2017, and Anthropologie announced it will open its new Anthropologie & Co. concept, which will be the second loca- tion in the country to feature a restaurant. "Mixed-use developments should feel authentic," Corwin says. "They should blend seamlessly into the neighborhoods they serve while providing customers with engaging experiences and convenient amenities such as community gathering spaces, ease of access, technology and dynamic retail restaurant and entertain- ment choices." RETAIL REINVENTION Many open-air centers that have been bolstered by their locations and access but that have sat dormant for too long have a lot of work to do to catch that coveted Millennial shopper. "A lot of these open air centers are, and I'll put this in quotes, 'no places,'" says David Parrish, principal with RDL Archi- tects. "They're just not places you want to go and hang around." In 2015, RDL introduced a placemak- ing studio that mixes staff skills to achieve a unique and different placemaking effect that goes beyond buildings and fresh coats of paint. The studio is made up not just of Federal Realty has been carefully shaping and reshaping Bethesda Row near Washington, D.C., for years. It has been successful in changing store footprints to quickly adapt to new business models and bringing clicks-to-bricks retailers into the center. Courtesy of Federal Realty Trust Investment Trust.

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