The Modern Airport is the Destination

The Modern Airport is the Destination 1440 428 ASG

Imagine visiting an airport that not only serves as a transport hub, but also doubles as an adventure park, shopping mall, and sanctuary for relaxation.

In today’s travel landscape, airports are redefining themselves as destinations in their own right, offering travelers and locals alike experiences that go beyond the usual concept of an airport. Whether you’re looking for a taste of local culture, thrilling entertainment or an oasis to escape the stresses of travel, airports are evolving to cater to a diverse range of preferences and needs.

The timing couldn’t be more important. Industry experts say an expected 9.4 billion passengers are expected to travel by air in 2024, an important milestone as the global industry continues to recover post-pandemic. By comparison, the year 2019 saw 9.2 billion airline passengers.

The transformation of airports into dynamic, multifaceted spaces reflects a growing trend that enhances the travel experience, making the journey as memorable as the destination. Here’s how they’re doing it.

Amplifying Local: Airports Embracing Regional Flavors and Culture

At Adelaide Airport in South Australia, you’ll find 100 Miles, a restaurant with a unique philosophy: It exclusively uses ingredients procured from within a 100-mile radius of the establishment. Embracing the flavors of the region, this innovative eatery offers a menu featuring locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients sourced from the city’s Central Market and paired with South Australian wine.

The conceptual restaurant amplifies local flair and offers the nearly 6.5 million passengers traveling through the airport each year a taste of the region’s culture and products.

Yet 100 Miles isn’t just a restaurant; it’s a snapshot of the modern airport, reflecting the growing trend of providing authentic and locally-inspired experiences to travelers.

Across the ocean in Seattle, an expansion currently under way of the C Concourse at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is inspired by the Pacific Northwest landscape. The more than 145,500-square-foot expansion, expected to be complete in 2027, adds four additional stories above the airport’s existing concourse.

With enhanced views of the surrounding Olympic Mountains as the backdrop, the project provides travelers with additional dining and retail spaces, as well as amenities like interfaith prayer and meditation rooms and a nursing suite. A marketplace located in the middle of the concourse will be modeled after Seattle’s famous farmers’ markets and will serve as a location for more retail kiosks and musician performances.

As part of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s multi-year redevelopment plans, Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport will see a boost of local flair. D.C.-area coffee shops, gift shops and apparel shops will add locations inside the airports, alongside a new restaurant at Dulles from Fabio Trabocchi, a celebrity chef and owner of the Italian restaurant Sfoglina, which is nestled in the northern D.C. neighborhood of Van Ness.

Revamped Retail: Transforming Airports into Entertainment Destinations

Airports are not only redesigning retail and entertainment spaces to cater to the preferences of today’s travelers, but also becoming entertainment hubs – not simply a necessary stop.

At Perth Airport in Western Australia, guests can escape a haunted house, explore a space station, or battle pirates on the high seas– all while never leaving the first level of Terminal 1 International. It’s all part of the airport’s enhanced VR experience, Gaming Point, which offers VR escape rooms to elevate the travel experience. Gaming Point also allows guests to choose from a library of more than 50,000 games to play on state-of-the-art gaming desktops. Once gamers leave the airport, they can continue to play using their own Steam network account.

Have a long layover? No problem. Check out the flight museum or the used book store at the Milwaukee Mitchell airport, or play interactive games in Buzz Zones at the Hong Kong International Airport. Immerse yourself in art at one of Miami International Airport’s galleries, or make sure you plan a special trip through the Munich Airport during the holidays where you’ll find a Christmas market that features an ice skating rink, carousel and an open market selling handmade crafts.

Airport Innovation: Setting New Standards for Comfort

It’s not all about entertainment. International airports are also elevating passenger comfort and relaxation during layovers.

At the forefront of innovation, Auckland Airport’s Strata Lounge boasts private wellness pods that visitors can book in advance. These pods create a calming ambiance through gentle, customizable lighting, immersive floor-to-ceiling photographic murals of tranquil forest landscapes, and modular sofas that can be converted into single and twin sizes.

At Dubai International Airport, global travel hospitality brand Airport Dimensions has installed its largest “Sleep and Fly” lounge where guests can unwind and even take a power nap in between flights. Afterward, guests can freshen up in luxurious showers stocked with Ayurvedic spa products, enhancing the sense of relaxation and rejuvenation.

The “Sleep and Fly” lounge is a prime example of how airports are setting new standards for airport comfort, reflecting a growing trend in which airports worldwide are redefining the passenger experience. As travelers increasingly seek unique and enjoyable layover experiences, these airports are taking the lead in offering services that elevate the airport experience to new heights.

Airports as Community Hubs: Enticing Locals to the Airport

While most people who walk through the automatic doors of an airport are on their way to somewhere else, more airports are reimagining what it means to be a community hub.

By transforming airports into hubs for socializing, recreation and even a whole day of entertainment, they are no longer simply places for travelers in transit. This shift in perspective is enticing locals to visit the airport for activities – many of which have nothing to do with traveling.

One example of this transformation that sets the standard for airports serving as the new mall is the Changi Airport in Singapore, home to the Jewel mall. Nearly 300 retail and dining outlets offer a variety of airport shopping center experiences at the mall. Near these airport retailers is a 150,000-square-foot Canopy Park that includes gardens, topiary walks, bouncing nets, mazes and giant slides that create a fun airport experience. While these areas are part of the airport complex, they are located in the landside zone and are accessible to anyone – flight ticket or not.

At the Detroit Metro Airport, visitors have access to two terminals with a DTW Destination Pass, and at Orlando International Airport, you can visit terminal C with a visitor pass. While these passes allow family and friends to surprise loved ones arriving at any of the gates near the terminals, it also offers an opportunity for locals to access a PGA tour shop, gather for a drink at a taproom, get a massage and eat at one of dozens of restaurants.

The distinction between travelers and locals blurs in these locations, as airports are increasingly working to invite everyone to explore a world of social interaction within their confines.

Wellness in Travel: Enhancing Passenger Well-Being

1 in 3 business travelers say the journey itself is the most stressful stage of their trip out of town. And in a post-pandemic world, only about a third of those traveling for business are happy to be back on the road, citing stress and exhaustion for their hesitance.

Even those traveling for vacation often experience stress. More than 90% of Americans say traveling can be stressful.

Many airports are seeing an opportunity to address this stress by enhancing the passenger experience. While comfortable lounge chairs, calming teas and neck warmers to relax tension may sound like pampering tools found in a luxurious spa, they are actually part of the Centurion Lounge space at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Airports like this one are increasingly focused on promoting passenger well-being by introducing a range of amenities and services that cater to holistic health, relaxation and mental peace. This shift in perspective reflects a broader trend in the travel industry, as travelers seek ways to alleviate the stress and anxiety often associated with journeys.

Other key developments in this wellness-centric transformation include:

Bringing nature into the terminal through incorporating natural elements like dog parks and walking paths.
Offering healthier dining options like at Newcastle International Airport in the UK, where you can find a range of vegan, vegetarian and other healthy food options.
Wellness-centric lounges that offer private sanctuaries to de-stress and take a break from the airport crowds.
Digital gyms like at the Incheon Airport in South Korea, where passengers can participate in interactive visual workouts for different ages.
Wellness services, including flu shots, IV infusions, diagnostic testing and even virtual yoga and meditation services offered through XpresSpa at airports in New York, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City.
Noise pollution reductions that eliminate loudspeaker announcements (and additional passenger stress) at Zurich Airport.

From celebrating local culture where passengers can embrace regional flavors to ensuring visitors are entertained or comforted, airports have undergone a remarkable transformation. With more than 9 billion passengers expected to travel by air in 2024, it’s crucial for airports to evolve and carefully craft elevated experiences so that they are not merely a means to an end.

The way and why people travel are changing. Read about The New Bucket List Travel:

The Retail Store Prototype is Dead

The Retail Store Prototype is Dead 1440 428 ASG

Once upon a time, when a store launched, there was a flagship on 5th Avenue in New York City that served as the prototype store. From there, a standard cookie-cutter rollout of smaller, but similar, stores proliferated across the country as the brand grew. In fact, it became so cookie-cutter that it led our CEO, Carrie Barclay, to write about the threat of retail homogeny in 2017.

As Carrie wrote then, homogeny is for milk, not for retail. Today, those prescient words are proving themselves again and again.

Time to Toss Out the Recipe Book

There is no cookie-cutter roll out anymore. In fact, without the right data, it’s hard to know where to locate a new retail store, let alone the design that should be implemented.
You might instinctively think New York City is where you need to be, but the data may point to better success in Indianapolis.

Most retailers vying for today’s customers must be able to deliver a hyper-personal, customized experience that is different in every location. The store a brand opens in Buffalo, New York simply cannot be the same store as the one in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Retail Location Strategy and Store Design Are Intertwined

Today’s retail location strategy and store design must be relevant and deliberate. Rollout is a complex dance where every store is now a prototype.

As retailers try to control the cost of building, sourcing materials from the local area is a smart approach, but that means different material boards for each region; styles and materials for stores in the Pacific Northwest will be different from those in the Midwest.

Rather than see this as another wall barring retail growth, brands can embrace the opportunity to use location, materials, and product mix together as a way to provide a unique experience in every store. Not only do local customers appreciate the local feel, but travelers enjoy going into to a store they love in a different location and noticing local or regional differences in the retail environment.

“Don’t go too quickly. Take it slow. You don’t need to go from 0 to 20 stores in a year—especially if you’re just starting out. You don’t have to commit to rolling something out across the entire fleet. Give yourself the chance to evaluate what works and what doesn’t. How does it work for the staff? Customers? What if we can’t duplicate it? Or if you must change it for every single store? Someone needs to be the keeper of the standards and organization, and that’s where we step in,” says Jennifer Crawford, Senior Project Manager at ASG.

Opportunity to Meet Customers Where They Are

Post-pandemic, consumers are shopping closer to home, but they still seek unique and memorable experiences when shopping in person – and they do love to shop in person. These factors are shifting location strategies for retailers, leading to store openings outside of the typical launch areas – and introducing unique store designs for certain neighborhoods and college campuses.

“You can maintain a national footprint and effectively leverage regional and localized design. Bringing these strategies to scale can be a differentiator for retailers who want to thrive, not just survive.”

—Carrie Barclay, President and CEO of ASG

When assessing retail spaces, location data emerges as a distinct form of insight, capable of revealing unexplored opportunities for every potential location. This data explores more than just traffic patterns, structures, and roadways. In addition to all that information, it also reveals extensive demographic data about the consumers living in the area, including median income, home values, and more.

With data-driven insights, brands can test a variety of different prototypes to see what works where. Small-format stores and flagships can benefit from the insights that give a human touch to the brand.

How Are Brands Repositioning?

Retailer solebox is a shoe company in which every location is specifically designed for where it’s located. Their website explains, “The stores all have their own design concept and stand for themselves – what connects them is the carefully curated assortment. The latest sneakers, streetwear from different continents but also some pieces from the high fashion world can be found at solebox.”

Jeni’s is a popular ice cream shop with more than 25+ locations. Travelers love seeking out Jeni’s in the towns they visit because they know they’ll find something different at each location. Jeni’s has developed a winning strategy of choosing a location, like Congress Street in Austin, Texas, and then creating flavors based on the local market. They also appeal to customers’ desire for sustainability and inclusivity by using Direct Trade ingredients, employing a diverse team of people, and working to improve our environmental and social impact.

“People go on first dates at Jeni’s Scoop Shops, people get proposed to, and have their weddings with us…Our customers send our ice cream for Mother’s Day, bereavement gifts, and anniversary gifts. We are a part of people’s lives,” said Chelsea Clements, former director of ecommerce at Jeni’s, to ShopperHQ.

American clothing and accessory retailer Vineyard Vines was founded in 1998 on Martha’s Vineyard by brothers Shep & Ian Murray, who still lead the company. They now operate more than 70 retail locations, including an outlet division, a successful e-commerce business, a domestic distribution center, and expanding corporate headquarters. Shep & Ian’s philosophy that “every day should feel this good” and “if you’re doing what you love, you’ll be successful” is a major part of their brand. In 2020, they reevaluated their location strategy and, working with ASG, discovered that the brand does best along the coastlines.

To compete effectively for today’s experience-driven consumer, retailers must toss out their old playbooks and develop location and design strategies that connect with consumers where they are. The traditional store prototype is dead; now, every store is a prototype that allows the brand to learn more about what customers want and fine-tune their approach.

Read more about ASG’s retail location and insights tool, ASGEdge, which helps retailers examine potential sites using a forward-looking modeling that scrutinizes an extensive list of variables, including proximity to competitors, demographic insights, and consumer behavior.

Medtail is Moving In

Medtail is Moving In 1440 428 ASG

Once one of the largest shopping centers in Tennessee, One Hundred Oaks in Nashville faced a prolonged downward spiral. Like many malls, it enjoyed success as a thriving urban shopping hub with nearly 900,000 square feet of retail space. However, the story of One Hundred Oaks mirrors a broader trend seen across America, where malls struggle and eventually succumb to closure due to changing consumer preferences, community migration, and the rise of e-commerce.

Nearly half of the former mall’s property is dedicated to Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s clinical and administrative support operations with 22 specialty clinics, a pharmacy, imaging center, and laboratory.

The opportunity came at a time when Vanderbilt University Medical Center needed to expand its services to keep up with patient demand. Despite the unconventional nature of the location at the time, the transformation of the One Hundred Oaks site made sense. It was just four miles away from downtown Nashville—creating a medical space at a time when there was a demand for accessible health care.

With an aging Boomer population, increased healthcare demands and shifting consumer preferences, it’s no surprise that repurposing retail space has become a strategic necessity. It has created a dynamic landscape that continues to evolve as both the health care and retail industries face unique challenges.


Meet Medtail

Referred to as “Medtail,” this transformation within retail stems from healthcare tenants moving away from expansive hospitals and independent structures to more accessible locations to deliver in-person services that cannot be accessed through online platforms.

And these healthcare services aren’t only the vision centers, dental clinics, or urgent care facilities you typically see occupying former malls, strip malls, and other commercial spaces. Health and wellness providers of all kinds—therapists, sleep clinics, dermatology centers, and even university medical systems, as we’ve learned—are playing a pivotal role in revolutionizing the healthcare real estate sector.

Today, major healthcare systems, including the University of Rochester, are embracing this trend. The university constructed a 350,000-square-foot ambulatory orthopedic facility at The Marketplace Mall site in Henrietta, New York. The $227 million project—the largest offsite project the university has ever undertaken—will include an outpatient surgery center and a physical therapy space.

Similarly to the former One Hundred Oaks space, the University of Rochester project is an example of how new life can be breathed into an unoccupied retail space—the outpatient surgical center is a former Sears store—by converting it into a space that meets the country’s growing demand for more healthcare infrastructure.

At a time when a healthcare worker shortage and endemic COVID-19 are making the outlook of the healthcare industry less clear, one trend is evident: There is a dire need for more healthcare infrastructure. And that infrastructure may look different than expected, but it’s transforming the way we access medical care.

The Face of Medtail

Successful Medtail businesses have a keen awareness of the demand for accessible healthcare solutions. These setups strategically position healthcare services in high-traffic areas, making medical attention conveniently available where people already frequent, redefining the accessibility and approachability of healthcare.

A Tether Advisors survey found that nearly 80% of private equity, commercial real estate, and retail healthcare respondents believe Medtail investment will increase. You don’t have to look far to see proof.

  • VillageMD and Walgreens are opening of nearly 600+ full-services doctors’ offices. The clinics, located inside Walgreens pharmacy locations, will staff more than 3,600 primary care providers. The company says at least half the locations will be in medically underserved areas.
  • In Winona, Minnesota, a once vacant Kmart now serves as a primary care clinic for Gundersen Health System. Vacant since 2014, the building now houses several medical specialty offices, including family and internal medicine, pediatrics, women’s health, imaging services, occupational therapy, and an eye clinic.
  • About four hours north in Duluth, Minnesota, developer Kraus-Anderson converted a former Younkers department store into an adult and pediatric therapy facility for Essentia Health. The 45,000-square-foot facility includes gym spaces, treatment rooms, and spaces for rehabilitation psychology and support groups.
  • After an economic downturn during the pandemic, the Good ‘N Plenty restaurant closed in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Well Spring Care Inc. purchased the 8.5-acre property in 2022 to convert the structure into a 24/7 medical clinic for the Amish community.

Research shows that nearly 20% of retail space is now leased by medical providers, up from 16% in 2010, and it shows no signs of stopping.

What’s Driving Medtail?

What’s behind this surge in utilizing retail space for medical services? One of the biggest key drivers is convenience.

While convenience may mean proximity to one consumer, it may mean avoiding enormous hospital campuses to another. A vast majority of hospital and health systems say they expect a continued increase in outpatient volumes through this year and beyond. In fact, 95% of health leaders surveyed in the Guidehouse and Healthcare Financial Management Association report say outpatient volumes will increase this year alone, and 40% expect jumps of 10% or more.

While many patients may prefer to bypass navigating through complex facilities to find a physician or healthcare specialist, these statistics also beg the question: Is there even enough room at current healthcare facilities to accommodate rising patient numbers?

Small communities in remote areas also once had little access to medical facilities, with patients forced to drive dozens of miles to see a specialist. With Medtail’s rise, rural patients are now seeing more options available to them.

There has also been a shift in how healthcare has embraced preventative wellness, recognizing the importance of proactive measures and offering services that empower individuals to maintain their health and well-being before issues arise.

Look no further than Dollar General to illustrate this transformation. Not to be left in the dust by Medtail leaders Amazon, CVS, Walmart and Best Buy, the discount retailer created a healthcare advisory panel to assess opportunities in Medtail and healthcare under its DG Wellbeing brand.

Earlier this year, Dollar General began teaming up with DocGo, a mobile health and transportation service provider, to pilot three mobile health clinics. Large vans in three Tennessee store parking lots now offer customers basic, preventive, and urgent care services, as well as lab testing to reach underserved populations in high-traffic areas.

Malls experienced among the highest vacancy rates in the fourth quarter of 2022, with an average rate of 8.7%. General retail locations fared much better at just 2.5%. The number of empty office buildings looked even more bleak, with a record 963 million square feet of office space unoccupied in the United States at the end of the first quarter of 2023.

Commercial leasing agents may feel like they have their work cut out for them. Yet reusing underutilized retail space offers a glimmer of hope and opportunity in these changing times. Opening retail spaces to health and wellness businesses can not only bring new life to empty storefronts while also tapping into the growing demand for accessible medical services.

Incorporating Medtail is just one way malls are transforming to reflect consumer behavior. Learn about an exciting new chapter for the modern mall.

Wellness Real Estate: Building Healthier Retail Spaces

Wellness Real Estate: Building Healthier Retail Spaces 1440 428 ASG

Amidst the towering urban landscape, a quiet revolution in building design and construction is unfolding–one that goes beyond aesthetics and focuses on the essence of human well-being. While brick and mortar is often thought of as static and unyielding, looking at retail spaces through a human-centered-design lens, we see incredible potential to create healthier, and more liveable, shoppable, and workable spaces. By considering human health in building design, construction, and management of retail spaces, retailers can contribute to a healthier future for us all.

The wellness economy stood at $4.4 trillion in 2020, according to a report from the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), of which $275 billion came from the Wellness Real Estate sector. The sector has a projected annual growth rate of 16.1% through 2025, thanks to increased consumer awareness following the pandemic about the critical role that external environments play in our physical health and well-being.

The GWI defines the Wellness Real Estate Sector as “the construction of residential and commercial/institutional properties that incorporate intentional wellness elements in their design, materials and building, as well as their amenities, services and/or programming.”

There is great potential to create healthier retail spaces wherein employees and customers thrive. So what makes a retail space ripe for wellness-centered improvements? And will the investments pay off?

Certifying Well-Being

Although you’ve probably heard of LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, there are newer accreditations in the wellness real estate space–WELL Certification (from the International WELL Building Institute, or IWBI) and Fitwel Certification (created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. General Services Administration).

Although all certifications focus on using healthy, sustainable construction practices and building operations, WELL and Fitwel focus more on the relationship between a building and its occupants’ health and wellness, while LEED focuses more on environmental impact and sustainability.

WELL, which is also available in the home building industry, takes a more comprehensive and stringent approach with rigorous requirements and an emphasis on indoor environmental quality that translates well to an entire shopping center; whereas, single or even a fleet of retail spaces may be better served by the Fitwel certification, which is an American standard known to be more flexible and less costly.

Each certification has its own unique focus and criteria, so choosing the most suitable one will depend on the specific goals and priorities of your retail project.

Critics of the WELL Building Standard and other wellness real estate certifications claim they represent an overhyped, high-cost way for companies to “tick boxes” for recognition, rather than a genuine commitment to creating healthier spaces. Regardless of whether a company or homebuilder meets all the criteria for the standard, proponents say the goal is to move the needle further, democratizing human-centered design.

“Our goal is not just to sell a bunch of certifications,” said IWBI CEO Rachel Hodgdon in an interview with Axios. “Our goal is … can we look back 15 years from now and say the average home is built differently because of the work that we did on this system, regardless of whether they have a WELL score or not.”

Healthy Buildings as Retail Strategy

Today’s values-based, wellness-minded consumers demand retailers to do more than preach their beliefs; they want to see retailers put it into action. And getting healthy-building certified is one way to show tenants and shoppers that you are doing more than just listening.

Take it from Tanger Factory Outlet Centers Inc., one of thousands of real estate companies executing a post-pandemic strategy to promote long-term wellness and safety. The company achieved the IWBI’s WELL Health-Safety Rating for its 36 North American shopping centers and its North Carolina-based corporate headquarters in early 2023.

The designation, “defines health leadership related to cleaning and sanitation, emergency preparedness, air and water quality and other facilities management criteria.” The goal: to ensure consumer and employee comfort and safety and “build confidence that our facilities are a safe place for communities to gather,” said Tanger EVP and COO Leslie Swanson in a statement.

IWBI says it is enrolling an average of nearly 4 million square feet of projects per day in WELL Certification initiatives, with active engagements with more than 20 percent of the Fortune 500, including retail destinations like Tanger outlets, the offices of corporate giants like Goldman Sachs, Accenture and EY, and iconic structures like the Empire State Building and Yankee Stadium.

ROI and Wellness Real Estate

Although we know that healthier buildings significantly improve worker satisfaction, wellness, and productivity, it can be trickier to quantify the financial benefits of certification for landlords—even when the value proposition of healthy buildings seems clear.
In a healthy building, a retailer is better positioned to survive the next pandemic while maximizing wellness for its staff and shoppers alike in the meantime. It’s also a way to differentiate your properties, remain competitive, and prepare for the future.

“Real estate owners are driving demand for healthy buildings as they seek to retain tenants and strengthen leasing activity in a time when the pandemic still casts a long shadow on occupancy,” said Wendy Feldman Block, executive managing director for the global real estate advisory firm Savills to Now, she says, many property owners and occupiers with portfolios are budgeting for certification. “Landlords know they have to talk about what they’re doing to protect health and safety. They have to be competitive.”

Wellness Real Estate Realized

A Chic Showroom
The Mohawk Group Showroom in New York City is LEED Gold and WELL Platinum certified and incorporates features like biophilic design elements, incorporating natural daylight throughout the building, stocking healthy food for employees and guests, enhancing acoustic comfort, ensuring better air quality indoors and incorporating a living wall. The “designer-focused high-performing, sustainable commercial flooring company” also offers employees complimentary off-site gym memberships.

A ‘Mega Lifestyle’ Retail Fleet
City’super became the world’s first supermarket to achieve WELL Certification at the Gold level in 2018, with an eye toward both marketing and wellness for shoppers and employees. “Our vision was not only to differentiate the store from the marketplace, but also to promote health and sustainability in the retail industry,” said President of City Super Group, Jiahua Wu. “To win the WELL award is a great achievement; we were dedicated to green living through seven dimensions: air, water, light, nutrition, fitness, comfort, and spirit.”
With healthy buildings a non-negotiable for the mega lifestyle retailer, they prove they mean business by offering a desirable experience for shoppers “who enjoy the finer things in life” at their stores in Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Taiwan.

A Cutting-Edge Mixed-Use Building
With all of the wellness real estate considerations as table stakes, a new retail and office building takes wellness real estate to the next level. A new addition to Atlanta’s Ponce City Market will open in early 2024 with Pottery Barn taking over an 18,000 square-foot space at the new 619 Ponce building. Once built, its developers expect it to be net-zero carbon ready, LEEDv4 Core & Shell certified and Fitwel certified.

The building, with 87,000 square feet of office space and 27,000 square feet of retail space, was designed as a mass timber structure to prioritize the use of human health by minimizing chemicals of concern and supports the local economy by sourcing materials, including timber, from within 100 miles where possible. Mass timber typically comes from Canada, Austria, or Germany, design-focused real estate investment and management firm Jamestown owns and sustainably manages more than 100,000 acres of U.S. timberlands it uses in construction.

According to Real Estate Weekly, the project is “a great example of how true architectural and structural design collaboration, along with engaging local timber suppliers, can lead to a highly creative and efficient mass timber design.”

Empowering Wellness, Inspiring Retail

In pursuit of a healthier tomorrow, WELL and FitWel have emerged as guiding lights for the retail industry, transforming spaces and redefining what it means to live and work in a human-centered space. By embracing the forward-thinking principles behind WELL and Fitwel concepts, retailers have a unique opportunity to create environments that prioritize the health and vitality of both employees and customers.

How can retailers capture—and keep—a shopper’s attention? Enter the micro experience. Read about it here >

Alpha-Powered Brands: Shaping the Future of Shopping

Alpha-Powered Brands: Shaping the Future of Shopping 1440 428 ASG

Wielding their purchasing power and influence on family shopping decisions, Generation Alpha is setting trends and raising expectations for brands. How are these young consumers driving exciting opportunities for retail brands?

Gen Alpha‘s considerable influence on retail brands and the future of shopping stems from their role in family shopping decisions. While they may not have their own income, their influence on their parents’ purchasing decisions is substantial. Generation Alpha is known to be confident and vocal about their preferences, often influencing the brands their parents choose to buy from. Retail brands that understand and cater to the desires and aspirations of this generation can gain their loyalty and win over their parents as well.

If marketers think Gen Z is the most lucrative consumer group today, then it’s time to think again. Generation Alpha (those born from the mid-early 2010s and still being born until the mid-2020s) is tipped to be the wealthiest, most educated and technologically connected demographic of them all.“ – The Drum

Generation Alpha’s emphasis on sustainability and social responsibility is influencing retail brands to adopt more eco-friendly practices. This generation is conscious of the environmental impact of their consumption and expects brands to prioritize sustainability. Retail brands that demonstrate their commitment to social and environmental causes can resonate with Generation Alpha and earn their loyalty.

Alpha-Powered Brands

Gen Alpha’s Spheres of Retail Influence

Generation Alpha is the first truly digital-native generation, born between 2010 and 2025. The oldest Gen Alphas are barely in their teens, but their influence is already being felt throughout food, fashion, and retail. Their distinct shopping habits—from their access to technology and mostly Millennial parents—set them apart from previous generations.

Growing up with not just smartphones and tablets, but also voice-activated assistants, AI, and social influence as a way of life, they have never known a world without technology. As a result, their expectations for the shopping experience are shaped by the convenience and instant gratification that technology provides. Generation Alpha expects seamless digital experiences, personalized recommendations, and fast delivery. They are quick to adapt to new technology and are comfortable using a variety of devices and platforms to make purchases.

Retail brands need to understand and cater to these preferences to effectively engage with this generation. Let’s look at some brands targeting each of the three distinct Alpha age groups: baby, tween, and teen Alphas.

Baby Alphas: Parent-Driven Influence

For baby Alphas, parents (often Millennials) are buying products that align with their values and concerns while introducing the little tikes to brands and products that may carry forward through several stages of development. These products often represent a form of nostalgia for the parent. They’re also looking for products that are non-toxic, reducing pfas (forever chemicals), biodegradable, plant-based, low sugar, and cross-functional.

Results from recent research indicate that companies spend over $16 billion annually on marketing to tap into young children’s $286 billion influence on adult spending, Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. Payne’s book also highlighted findings that children as young as 2 can recognize brands on shelves and that they have recognition of 300-400 brands by age 10.

Alpha-Powered Brands

Brands to Note

LaloLalo was founded by two dads and appeals to parents who want products that work as hard as they do. Lalo’s primary products include a multifunctional highchair, a table and chair play set, and a baby bathtub, along with a variety of accessories. All the products are manufactured using non-toxic EVA and FDA-approved BPA-free plastics.

Little SpoonLittle Spoon appeals to parents of baby and toddler Alphas by providing them with a new approach to food. Using clean, organic ingredients and age-appropriate balanced nutrition with vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian options and the goal of creating health habits from the start.

LoveveryLovevery creates toys designed to maximize the neurological development of babies and toddlers. The founders wanted “to help parents by giving them the toys and educational information they needed to help foster babies’ development through play and experiences.” The subscription company ships toys (and flash cards with info about how to use the toys with baby) every two months. Then, once baby turns one, the boxes ship every three months with a selection of activities.

Tween Alphas: Kid Influence Gains Momentum

Instead of earmarking pages in a Sears catalog, these kids have their own Amazon Wishlists and a loud voice in determining where their parents shop, what they buy, and where they eat. They value experiences over products, omnichannel experiences and profiles, meta experiences, and customizable products. Legacy brands are working hard to connect with this group and their parents.

“The way most companies look at consumers is ‘well, who’s got disposable income?’ We don’t look at it that way. We look at who is setting the agenda. Who is the future?” – Nike’s CEO, John Donahoe, told Vogue Business.

Brands to Note:

BusyKidBusyKid is an app designed to help kids learn to budget and understand the value of money early. Kids earn money from their parents by doing chores, or parents can help enterprising tweens launch their own business. The kids get a Visa Spend Card they can use anywhere Visa is accepted, and parents see every transaction made, so kids and teens can learn how to spend wisely.

ToyBoxToyBox is “empowering the next generation of young and creative minds by making cool technologies easy to use.” Tapping into a generation used to creating their own content, ToyBox gives kids the chance put together their own toys on the site, which are then 3D printed and shipped to them.

Ziggy ZazaZiggy Zaza is an Australian-based fashion retailer that ships worldwide.  The sustainable and environmentally conscious brand is “inspired by art, adventure and the wild and wonderful imagination of our children.”

Teen Alphas: Collaborative Purchasing

Throughout history, teens have been an influential consumer group. Remember Beatlemania? When brands can tap into that teen spirit and connect authentically with their target market, they can win big. Just ask billionaire Kylie Jenner, whose cosmetics empire markets directly to the teen girl demographic on social media.

Teen Alphas are influencers who not only have their own spending money, but also collaborate with their parents in making retail decisions, with a larger-than-expected voice in collaborative purchasing and family shopping.

Brands to Note

RobloxRoblox is a social gaming platform with more than 52 million users, most of whom are under the age of 17. The app lets users play and create games, chat with others online and earn and spend virtual money. The platform also hosts live events like in-game concerts.

Hanna AnderssonHanna Andersson targets the Alpha generation from infant through age 14 by offering sustainable, organic clothing made for play, with a focus on social responsibility, diversity, and inclusion.

JohnnyJohnny footwear is a Kickstarter company that was successfully funded and features the world’s first shoe that rapidly biodegrades underground and grows into an apple tree.

Harnessing their unparalleled command of technology, these digital natives are orchestrating a transformation in retail, unlike any seen in previous generations. As the cohort continues to grow up, retailers have an opportunity not just to adapt, but to flourish.

Kids aren’t the only ones with buying power these days; the pet retail economy is booming. Read more:

A-List Joints: Exploring Celebrity Cannabis Retail

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The best cannabis dispensaries are designed to be memorable spaces—both aesthetically pleasing and functional. And when they are owned by a celebrity, well, you expect to see their famous persona interjected into the space. With nearly half of Americans living in a legal cannabis state, marijuana has gone mainstream—and plenty of famous cannabis users are betting on the burgeoning industry with cannabis retail endeavors of their own, creating innovative retail spaces and experiences.

Elevating Cannabis Retail Experience

Every shopper, regardless of the product, wants to move seamlessly through the funnel while feeling both familiar with the process and intrigued by innovation. Shoppers want to be entertained, find what they are looking for, and ensure all their questions and concerns are addressed. Today’s consumers are sophisticated, and they will increasingly shop for an experience over a product. When you can purchase the same product from a variety of retailers, where are you going to spend your time and money? The retailer offering the experience that most aligns to your expectations and desires.

“Cannabis brands of all sizes, from multistate operators to mom-and-pop shops, have stepped up to the challenge of rising consumer expectations,” said Kathee Brewer, editorial director at trade journal mg Magazine. “Whether online or in-person, contemporary dispensaries are pushing the boundaries of the retail experience, opening new avenues for consumer exploration and washing away the negative connotations of the past. With experiential activities, futuristic design, whiz-bang technology, and more, the cannabis retail environment is forging ahead into a new era.”

The Woods

Last year a new kind of cannabis retailer, The Woods, opened with a dispensary and consumption lounge in West Hollywood, focusing on organic, sun-grown, California strains. There you can find everything from smoking apparatuses to flower and edibles all in a gorgeous space that feels like you’ve been transported out of busy LA into a tranquil oasis. The Ganja Giggle Garden offers state-of-the-art air filters, climate control, and luxurious views of the luscious gardens and koi pond. You can even rent a private cabana and chill in the consumption lounge.

Celeb Connection:

Cannabis legalization activist Woody Harrelson and political commentator Bill Maher are among the owners.


Harrelson is not the only celebrity who focuses on every detail. Actor, Comedian, and Filmmaker Seth Rogen, owner of Houseplant, hand picks and personally tests each cannabis strain his lifestyle brand sells online and through retail partners. He sells his hand-picked strains in pre-rolled artisan-crafted joints available at select California dispensaries. Houseplant offers ashtrays, lighters, and lifestyle products for sale online—including the “By Seth” line of products that “draw inspiration from original designs or items from Seth’s personal collection, while others embody his profound admiration for ashtrays.”

Celeb Connection:

Besties actor Seth Rogen and comedian and filmmaker Evan Goldberg.


Cookies co-founder and rapper Berner “built the brand from humble beginnings in the Bay Area to a worldwide lifestyle brand.” Considered “America’s first legal weed empire,” the Cookies brand is thought to be worth at least $1 billion; the Cookies clothing line alone did over $50 million in sales in 2021. The brand is continuing its expansion path; between 2018 and 2022, Cookies grew from zero to 49 retail marijuana dispensaries. The company also added two flagship clothing stores, in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Its two-story Las Vegas retail flagship is being redesigned to emphasize experiential elements like a vortex entry, hologram booth, craps table, and rap station.

Celeb Connection:

Rapper and entrepreneur Berner’s brand boomed when friend rapper Wiz Khalifa began rapping about Cookies.

Josephine & Billie’s

The first dispensary by and for women of color, Josephine & Billie’s in south Los Angeles transports visitors to a speakeasy in the Harlem Renaissance. Named for the Jazz-era icons Josephine Baker and Billie Holiday who were once persecuted for their cannabis use, the vibe is cool and contemporary while harking back to the Harlem speakeasies and tea pads of the 1920s and 30s where Black thinkers, musicians, artists and activists would gather and discuss social issues over a joint and jazz. With events like Tea and Terpenes and regular board game nights and record release parties, the aim is to build community among women within the predominantly Black and brown neighborhood they serve. If you’re there, drop the not-so-secret passphrase, “Billie sent me,” for access to the backroom lounge filled with books about history and social justice.

Celeb Connection:

Josephine & Billie’s received The Parent Company’s first social equity corporate venture fund investment, which billionaire rapper/mogul Jay-Z oversees. The Parent Company houses 17 brands, including Jay-Z’s cannabis brand Monogram.


You can’t talk about cannabis experiences without mentioning Planet 13. Co-CEO Larry Scheffler knows people visit Las Vegas for spectacle, so he created the world’s largest cannabis dispensary—an elaborate, jaw-dropping retail destination. Picture this: you walk through the doors and are greeted by vibrant psychedelic lights dancing across the walls, illuminating an expansive space that feels more like a futuristic theme park than a dispensary. Interactive elements include 15-foot tall giant interactive lotus flowers, an outdoor water feature with LED lights and fog, and a glowing aerial orb show high above the dispensary floor. Its Santa Ana dispensary features an 89-foor digital waterfall, a computerized interactive beach, and a 16-foot octopus sculpture. If you are headed to Vegas in 2024, visit Cannabition, a 12,000 square-foot “whimsical and visually breathtaking environment, tailor-made for cannabis enthusiasts seeking an awe-inspiring and Instagrammable experience.”

Celeb Connection:

Planet 13 Holdings is run by co-CEOs Bob Groesbeck and Larry Scheffler, both former politicians.

Dr. Greenthumb’s

With a handful of California locations and one coming soon to Michigan, Dr. Greenthumb’s have been open in California since the early years of recreational legalization. The vibe reflects their anti-establishment roots as a champion of legacy culture. Dr. Greenthumb’s may have retro vibes, but they are at the forefront when it comes to immersive, tech-driven retail experiences that help drive the brand story. For example, when you pick up a package in their stores, a screen activates and educates you about the strain and allows you to add it to your digital shopping cart. Focusing on omnichannel storytelling and high-touch service is an incredible differentiator, but in-store tech is only one way the brand is exploring innovative ways to show their connection to the culture.

Celeb Connection:

Cypress Hill frontman and 30-year cannabis advocate B-Real owns the dispensaries, as well as the cannabis brands Insane and Dr. Greenthumb.

Today the market is ripe for innovative new retail experiences and cannabis is greenfield for exploring how to use brand story, unique spaces, and star power to elevate retail. What can other retailers learn from these high-profile, celeb-connected cannabis experiences? Will they find inspiration in or motivation from the way cannabis brands are reimagining the in-store experience?

See how ASG helped Grassroots scale a cost-effective cannabis retail fleet >

The Nuances of Retail Store Planning and Construction

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The Nuances of Retail Store Planning & Construction

With ASG Experts Elizabeth Seitz + Jennifer Crawford

Ask ASG’s Elizabeth Seitz to describe what store planning and construction is like these days and she will tell you, “It’s kind of like horse racing, but with bulldogs who all scatter and move around. We veer between lanes to make the shortest and best path.” she says. “We all start off in our own lanes, but if you really want to be efficient, you must cross lanes and work together to get to the finish line.”

Seitz, ASG partner, construction, says working in store planning and construction is ever-changing, and to succeed, you must be adaptable. With over a century worth of combined experience, our Store Planning and Construction team has been navigating the rough industry waters for quite some time. We sat down with Seitz as well as Senior Project Manager Jennifer Crawford about the years they’ve spent becoming masters of the trade and what the current landscape for retail planning and construction looks like.

Q: What led you to a career in store planning and construction?

Elizabeth: I went to school for interior design and the first several years were the same as an architecture student. They wanted me to transfer to architecture after getting good grades in structures/environmental sciences, but I didn’t want to only stamp drawings. That’s how I ended up in design where I got my first internships— at RTKL, Genzler, and I. Magnin stores— which paved my way into retail design.

I found that I was evolving by being in in-house retail design, where you tend to do a little bit of everything from procurement to construction. I was very involved through the whole process of my projects, from concept through execution.

Jennifer: When I was little, I was always rearranging my bedroom every month; I was always into interior design. Over the summers, instead of getting a job, I’d redo the basement, build a deck, and take on other home improvement projects around my family’s home.

After high school, I went to The Ohio State University for interior design to get both an architecture and an interior design education. I ended up falling in love with interior design. I did one internship during school at The Limited. Post-grad, I started working at an architecture firm, and then to dELiA*s to do store design and construction (SD&C). I came over to ASG when dELiA*s decided to outsource their SD&C functions because they were already handling their real estate and I’ve been here for 12 years!

“Store Planning + Construction is all about being reactive all the time and twisting that into being proactive to get ahead of the game. You always want to make sure to keep the horse in front of the cart, even when it gets reversed.” -Elizabeth Seitz

Q: What are the challenges in planning and constructing retail stores?

Jennifer: Right now it’s permitting and construction manpower. Permitting changes from city to city, and the requirements are different every time. Everyone everywhere is facing understaffing, which can really clog things up in a project. There’s nothing you can do about either of those things, except to completely adapt, pull it together, and get things done as timely as possible. Adapting to all the different client programs and how they do things differently is a big hurdle as well, but a lot of the time they’re coming to us because of our knowledge to listen and partner with us.

Q: Is it always the same process between projects?

Elizabeth: There is a good general overarching process you need to know that you can carry between projects, and by knowing the overall process you can tweak the steps. It’s like planning a wedding— it’s all the same whether there are 5 or 500 guests. You can start to tweak based on the goal volume of stores to be built. At a wedding, you can go more over the top if you have 5 people vs. 500, but it’s kind of the opposite when designing stores.

When a smaller volume of stores needs to be designed, it typically comes with a smaller budget than a huge rollout program. You must think logically and use your partners to pivot intentionally. If you can partner better, then you can work faster and cut time out of the schedule to take shortcuts and save resources.

Q: What are the biggest differences when working on a prototype design, as opposed to a roll-out program?  

Elizabeth: Budget. budget. budget. The prototype is a different budget than the roll-out program. Revealing the brand image is the key focus when building a prototype all while knowing that when you go to volume, you’ll need to bring the original budget down to make it scalable.

Timing and schedules can’t be forgotten either. Prototypes are always bumpier— you’re in discovery mode regarding brand image. You always have multiple meetings with the client’s brand team to take inventory of what’s working. Once you get into rollout it’s a whole different group of levers you have to push and pull. It becomes all about timing: permitting time, scheduling time, and the number of stores they want to open that year so that they meet their sales goals and projections.

The prototype is where you really get to be explorative to the point where you’re looking at a million different options. In rollout, you home in to get the best price and best quality of materials. I try to use value engineer finishes— it’s just a look! The custom finishes do not always hold up nor have longevity. I love working different angles of the custom, brand-ownable layers to bring down costs with vendors and installations because as we all know, time is money.

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of working in this field?

Elizabeth: Retail is fast-paced and that means you get to design a store, and within the year, it comes to life. You get a strong sense of accomplishment in being a part of the entire process— from dealmaking through opening the doors for sales. Planning and construction require expert-level problem-solving. Planning is like a giant game of Jenga; we make sure everything is perfectly coordinated and fits. It’s a fun challenge to think about building in any type of environment—an external street location, interior mall location, you name it. How do you translate the brand and execute that brand in multiple different avenues?

The other fun thing is that by the time it gets to us, the design concept is figured out; we’re just executing. When it gets into construction and planning, it’s all around the timeline. Get documents, permit, landlord approval, then construction. It’s a finite time we have based off possession date and rent commencement.

Inevitably something will always go wrong. You always must plan for that “oh sh*t!” moment. Having the ability to pivot quickly and bring in partners to solve issues in the moment provides a sense of accomplishment without delay.

Jennifer: I have a passion for value engineering. I’m cheap at heart, so I’m always eager to see what we can do to make things work better for less cost. There are tons of other options that will work just as great as the original that your everyday retail customer will never notice the difference. I love finding the needle in the haystack that fits the solution perfectly.

Q: What is your favorite project you’ve completed over the years?

Jennifer: Tonal 5th Avenue because it was a flagship. It was a fun challenge—a flagship on a budget. Your typical flagship in NYC is going to be millions, but I think we were at $500k at the end of the day here and it turned out amazing. It was super fast too! Our first time looking at the space was at the end of March, and it was finished by Labor Day. Collaborating with their small team— with one creative director— really gave us the opportunity to get into the details and work seamlessly together. We were able to interpret and implement everything from infinity mirrors, edge-lit backlit panels, etc all while reusing the shell as much as possible.

Store Planning and Construction

Q: What advice do you have for brands looking to build their stores and go into brick-and-mortar right now?

Elizabeth: Be thoughtful and planful. When it comes to store planning and construction, think about it not only from space planning but also brand image and store operational perspectives. In theory I can build anything or make anything work, if you give me the time and the money, but that doesn’t always work with the brand and their business projections. If it takes 1.5 weeks to build vs. 2 days, there’s materials and costs you can save. Often operations are not thought of until customers and employees enter the space.

Jennifer: Don’t go too quickly. Take it slow. You don’t need to go from 0 to 20 stores in a year—especially if you’re just starting out. You don’t have to commit to rolling something out across the entire fleet. Give yourself the chance to evaluate what works and what doesn’t. How does it work for the staff? Customers? What if we can’t duplicate it? Or if you must change it for every single store? Someone needs to be the keeper of the standards and organization, and that’s where we step in.

The Micro-Experience Experience

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“Micro-experiences are the next big thing in customer engagement,” proclaims an article on the US Chamber website. That’s a bold statement, considering more robust customer engagement is something that every retailer on the planet is after. How can micro experiences through retail brand collaborations bring customers back for more?

By micro experience, we’re talking about a small-scale, physical activation that brings a branded experience to multiple locations, generating revenue and excitement. It goes beyond the flagship store, reaching every consumer and creating a memorable, intimate interaction with the brand. It offers a novel and immersive experience for those willing to engage on a deeper level.

Micro Experience, Massive Impact

Micro-experiences, unfortunately, took a hit during the pandemic, but their potential impact cannot be overlooked. In 2019, American Girl Doll and L’Occitane exemplified this trend by introducing a joint experience that fostered personal connections with customers.

However, today’s micro experiences go beyond product interactions. They involve creative collaborations like Capital One transforming bank lobbies into cozy cafes in partnership with Peet’s Coffee, or the immersive “cold room” at Canada Goose, where customers can try on parkas. It could even be a local liquor store teaming up with a nearby winery for Friday night tastings. The goal is to deliver a distinctive and lasting impression that enhances brand awareness and loyalty, offering an intimate and exclusive encounter with the brand and its partners.

Answering the Call of Consumers

These integrated, often hands-on experiences can have a significant impact. In fact, more than 20% of consumers told Raydient that they would shop more if retailers offered unique experiences, and a staggering 68.9% of consumers emphasized the importance of a positive in-store experience.

“Brands should invest heavily in ways to recognize and leverage these moments, finding the right time to send a personalized offer that will help solve whatever problem is facing the potential customer at that time. This is about being able to reach the right customer at the right time — a cutting-edge marketing challenge but one that’s increasingly solvable thanks to the technology solutions available today.” KPMG

Integrating Micro Experiences

As retailers consider how to deliver micro experiences to their customers, it’s crucial to think about how the experience can be authentic to the brand. It makes sense that a company that sells parkas would have an ice room. Here are some ways retailers can integrate micro experiences into their stores:

  • Thoughtful Store Layout – Design stores with designated spaces for micro experiences. Areas can be dedicated to interactive displays, product demonstrations, or immersive installations that engage customers and create a memory.
  • Interactive Displays – Incorporate interactive displays that allow customers to touch, feel, and interact with products. This hands-on approach enhances customer engagement and encourages exploration.
  • Personalized Service – While many of these experiences can be unattended, it’s essential that staff are trained to provide personalized and attentive service to customers during those experiences. This tailored approach adds an extra layer of memorability by making customers feel valued and attended to.
  • Sensory Elements – Incorporate multi-sensory elements into the store environment, including ambient music, appealing scents, or visually captivating displays that immerse customers in a brand’s ethos.
  • Pop-Up Events – Create temporary pop-up installations or events in-store that offer unique and limited-time experiences. Think workshops, demonstrations, and unique collaborations that excite consumers and drive foot traffic.

Some retailers are at the forefront of the micro experience. Let’s take a closer look at who is getting it right.

Personalization and Customization
Customers want to feel like their shopping experience is not the same as every other customer, that it’s uniquely designed for them. With technology and consumer data at the fingertips of most retailers, it’s easier to create micro experiences that play on that desire to be catered to.

Who is getting it right? Look to Sephora, a brand that consistently garners high levels of loyalty by offering exclusive in-store events and makeovers.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
The use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can allow customers to experience products in a more immersive way.

Who is getting it right? Check out Burberry, who used a pop-up AR experience in Harrods to coincide with the launch of its new Olympia bag.

Learning and Doing
One of the most popular micro experiences involves hands-on learning in unexpected places, like cooking classes in a grocery store or a painting session in a liquor store.

Who is getting it right? Whole Foods invites guest chefs to specific retail locations to conduct cooking classes with shoppers.

“Micro-experiences really are going to become table stakes for retailers, particularly when today’s consumers have so many choices.” – Sarah Hoffman, chief marketing officer at Drybar.

Micro experiences are physical experiences that are meaningful and engaging. When done right, they encourage a deeper connection with the brand and provide something unique and memorable to the customer.

Emerging Market Trends in Retail

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“Location, location, location” may be a cliché, but “what is the ideal location for my brand?” is the burning question behind every retail strategy. The “right” location is not always where you think it is. Opening a retail location in the right spot can increase foot traffic, boost sales, and give the brand the exposure it needs. Conversely, a poor location can slow sales and even result in bankruptcy.

Where is retail happening right now and why? What markets are thriving? In this emerging market report, we’ll look at how some retailers are making a big splash outside the typical retail hot spots and why it might be beneficial to consider opening a retail location in these areas.

“Consumers want and crave variety, diversity, and choice. You can maintain a national footprint and effectively leverage regional and localized design. Bringing these strategies to scale can be a differentiator for retailers who want to thrive, not just survive,” says Carrie Barclay, president and CEO of ASG.

Data, Data, and More Data

Data analytics is crucial to understanding retail location strategy. The most critical factor in choosing a retail location is understanding your target consumer. Insight into consumer behavior is essential. And that’s the rub, because consumers have dramatically changed their behavior post-pandemic. Anything retailers knew about their shopper from before the pandemic no longer is relevant.

Finding the right location in this shifting landscape requires access and understanding, says Doug Tilson, head of tenant representation for ASG. “It’s critical to understand how markets develop and how they’re changing. That can only happen when you have access to up-to-date, comprehensive data,” he says. “Using accurate data to drive decision-making and working with a trusted tenant rep partner can help you determine what’s possible in a retail real estate landscape that is constantly evolving.”

The Big Location Shift

Consumers are shopping closer to home, and they are seeking unique and memorable experiences when shopping in person. These factors are shifting location strategies for retailers, leading to store openings outside of the typical launch areas.

“While virtual and digital experiences still matter, the in-store experience is returning to prominence, and 94% of retailers are focused on enhancing it for their business overall.”SquareUp

New location opportunities can lead to different format opportunities. Because consumers are sticking closer to home to shop, retailers—both big brands and a resurgence of mom-and-pop retailers—are opening smaller stores that allow them to fit more locations into neighborhoods and suburbs. Some retailers are even opening strategic locations on college campuses.

“Consumers want and crave variety, diversity, and choice. You can maintain a national footprint and effectively leverage regional and localized design. Bringing these strategies to scale can be a differentiator for retailers who want to thrive, not just survive,” says Carrie Barclay, president and CEO of ASG.

Meeting customers where they are and where they want to be is part of a smart retail strategy. And that means an opportunity for retailers—both big brands and mom-and-pop retailers—who can’t afford big-city lease prices and large-format shopping environments.

“Retailers can tailor these small-format stores to target a specific demographic, create a personalized shopping experience, or experiment with a new brand direction. Small-format stores can also serve as fulfillment centers for click-and-pay shopping and as a location for returns, all while fostering brand awareness and customer engagement. And thanks to their smaller size, these stores can help companies expand their reach in urban centers and other highly-priced real estate markets while lowering overhead costs.”

Using data to determine where and how retailers can best position themselves to attract consumers is essential to future success in today’s retail industry.

“Right-sizing helps in the long run: less labor, less inventory (“showroom” stores), less build-out costs, less energy spend, better online fulfillment and return options, as well as the big one since 2020—better accessibility.”RetailWire

“For the first time in a long time, retail growth is outside of the top 20 cities. You’re looking at tier two or tier three cities, which suggests that the redistribution post-Covid is shifting. We know that it will shift again as people move past the Covid experience.”

-Carrie Barclay, CEO ASG

Emerging Markets

According to PWC, almost all of this year’s survey of top-ranked real estate markets are in faster-growing southern and western regions and away from the coasts.

• Nashville was once again the top-rated metro area
• The Dallas/Fort Worth area jumped five spots from a year ago to become the number two-ranked market
• The Atlanta metro area scored higher in this year’s survey, jumping to the number three-ranked spot from number eight last year

In addition to Nashville, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Atlanta, ASG is seeing opportunity in Seattle,
Austin, Charlotte, and Louisville.

3 Reasons to Consider Retail Development in Nashville

1. Nashville has been focused on economic development coming out of the pandemic and offers a variety of opportunities in mixed-use spaces that are reasonably priced compared to larger cities.
2. Nashville is an international tourist destination, bringing in people from around the world every year.
3. The city is investing in infrastructure, including public transportation, to support the growth.

For more, see these seven reasons why retailers should consider Nashville.

Nashville shops offer something for everyone: records by local musicians, rare musical instruments, vintage items, artisanal sweets and drinks, and items crafted by local makers and fashion designers. Music City is home to several shopping districts including 12South, East Nashville, Hillsboro Village, Green Hills, and Downtown.

The Nashville region is defined by a diverse economy, a low cost of living and doing business, a creative culture, and a well-educated population. Nashville’s growth is spurring a wide variety of new businesses, making it attractive for retailers. Nashville is a strategic location for retailers, but as more brands discover the opportunity, prices will rise. Retailers whose consumers will respond to a Nashville location should be planning now.

3 Reasons to Consider Retail Development in Dallas-Fort Worth

1. Dallas/Fort Worth is experiencing significant population, attracting people to the area with promising job opportunities and affordable housing in comparison to other areas of the country.
2. DFW and Texas in general have business-friendly tax policies, including dedicated support for small business owners, incentives to locate or launch businesses in the area, and has a 0% local tax rate as well as low property tax rates.
3. The region has made substantial investments in infrastructure development, including transportation, commercial real estate, and retail spaces.

According to the Q1 2023 Dallas-Fort Worth Retail Report, the Dallas-Fort Worth retail market continues to exhibit robust growth “characterized by robust leasing activity, sustained tenant demand, and redevelopment initiatives.” These conditions make the DFW area favorable for retail growth. Areas to watch in Dallas-Fort Worth include Lakeside and development near the Deep Ellum Rail Station at Swiss Avenue and Good-Latimer Expressway.

3 Reasons to Consider Retail Development in Atlanta

1. Like DFW, Atlanta is experiencing a rapid population growth, offering retailers a large consumer base supported by a strong economy with multiple industries including finance, tech, and logistics.
2. Atlanta is the home base of several Fortune 500s and is also a cultural and entertainment hub, providing a rich and diverse local and visiting customer base for retailers to attract.
3. Atlanta has invested in significant real estate development, including the construction of new shopping centers, mixed-use developments, and revitalized neighborhoods, including Centennial Yards and Medley.

“With the growth of jobs in the city, Atlanta and its 21-county surrounding region has seen a population boom, with more growth on the way. As of April 2023, the surrounding metro has an estimated population of 6.1 million people, and the Atlanta Regional Commission expects this number to grow to 8.6 million by 2050. The current annual household income growth is also outpacing the U.S. average, as well. This extra income growth is to the benefit of retailers.”REBusiness Online

3 Reasons to Consider Retail Development in Seattle

1. Seattle is consistently rated among the top 10 cities to live in the United States. It boasts an above average median income for its residents with companies like, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Microsoft Corporation, Starbucks Coffee Company, Costco, Weyerhaeuser, Nordstrom, REI, Alaska Airlines, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In the 2022 America’s Best Cities report, Seattle ranked #12, and household income was found to be the sixth highest nationally.
2. Seattle’s transportation infrastructure is impressive. The city has two airports, bus, light rail, and ferries providing extensive public transportation offerings.
3. Seattle start-ups accumulated over $3.2 billion in venture capital in 2020 and have a roster of 25 start-up accelerators and incubators.

While Seattle has seen a slight downturn from the tech industry decline, the city still offers an enormous opportunity for retail, especially for retailers seeking to add small stores in some of the exceptional neighborhood’s Seattle features. In 2022, Nike opened an 8,800-square-foot space in Seattle’s eastside Bellevue neighborhood. Bloomingdale’s is making its entry into Seattle retail with their new small format stores in 2023.

3 Reasons to Consider Retail Development in Austin

1. Austin is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country, attracting high-end talent to the area that makes it ideal for growing retail brands.
2. The Opportunity Austin initiative has helped to create 637,400 jobs that contribute to a diverse economy where talent is abundant.
3. Austin was named the No. 2 best-performing city by the Milken Institute in economic growth and access to opportunities, crediting its strength to its high-tech sector driving rapid job and wage growth.

Retail opportunities abound in Austin. In 2023, the seven-building East Riverside Gateway complex mixed-use development was announced and will provide two million sf of office, retail, and residential space that will emphasize the pedestrian experience. The Domain complex, opened in 2023, includes 20 full-service and fast-casual dining options, 100+ retail stores and around 5,000 residential units in the area.

3 Reasons to Consider Retail Development in Charlotte

1. One of the biggest advantages for retailers in Charlotte is the low taxes. It was named a “Top 10 State for Best Business Tax Climate” by U.S. News and World Report in 2020.
2. Charlotte was named one of the best places to live in the U.S. in 2023-2024 by U.S News & World Report.
3. North Carolina is ranked No. 1 in America’s top states for business with the nation’s strongest economy.

Charlotte has many development and retail opportunities. In 2023, developers announced plans to turn the Mallard Pointe Shopping Center on North Tryon Street into a student gathering place with businesses tailored to the University of North Carolina Charlotte. Food and fitness retail are the fastest growth areas, and while vacancies are nearing record lows, new mixed-use development opportunities continue to evolve.

3 Reasons to Consider Retail Development in Louisville

1. Louisville has worked to increase infrastructure, including adding direct flights to LA and Boston as well as 35 other cities.
2. Louisville attracts talent in a variety of industries, including healthcare, high-tech, and manufacturing, building a population of higher-than-average income workers who are ready to shop.
3. Louisville was named a Top 5 U.S. Metro for economic development by Site Selection Magazine.

The opportunities in Louisville are limitless, with both downtown and the suburbs seeing a huge spurt of new development. Oxmoor Center has become a tourist attraction with retailers vying for the location. Nike recently opened a store there. Shelby Park is also seeing a rise in development, and Wawa recently announced plans to open in the east end.

Location as Retail Strategy

Meeting customers where they are and where they want to be is smart retail strategy. And that means opportunity for retailers—both big brands and mom and pop retailers—who can’t afford big-city lease prices and large-format shopping environments. These emerging markets represent some of the hottest areas in the country for retailers, whether a brand is launching a flagship store or wants to engage customers close to home with a small footprint neighborhood shop.

Retail Location Data

Make the Right Move with Retail Location Data

Make the Right Move with Retail Location Data 1440 428 ASG

In the retail industry, where competition is cutthroat and every move matters, the right location can be the ultimate arbiter of success. Yet, astonishingly, many ambitious retailers fail to recognize the untapped potential and invaluable insights that retail location data offers. 

We get it. It’s easy to get wooed by a vacant retail space in a trendy neighborhood or an open location that has high foot traffic at first glance. But ignoring valuable insights before making a decision can lead to missed opportunities and potential pitfalls.

Empowered with retail store location analysis, retailers can strategically select a site that provides the best opportunities to achieve objectives and maximize profit potential. 

But what kind of information is useful in determining the right location for your retail business so that you can make the best decision for long-term success?

A Data-Driven Approach to Evaluating Retail Locations

In a dynamic marketplace, retailers must stay ahead of the curve before they ever even open. Harnessing the power of data and leveraging it to make informed decisions about where to invest in real estate is critical in today’s competitive retail landscape. 

But what exactly is location data, and how can it help your business? On a macro level, location data refers to information that indicates the geographic position of places, people or objects. While location data can provide details like latitude and longitude coordinates or direction of movement, this information can also provide valuable details like patterns, trends and even historical information that can help businesses make important decisions. 

For example, this type of data is widely used in targeted advertising. By analyzing location data, businesses can understand the behavior and preferences of their target audience in different locations, enabling them to tailor their marketing campaigns accordingly. 

Location data can also be utilized in supply chain management, helping businesses optimize logistics, track shipments and improve overall operational efficiency. By analyzing historical location data, businesses can identify patterns and trends, optimize routes and reduce delivery times, ultimately saving costs and enhancing customer satisfaction.

When evaluating retail spaces, location data is a specialized type of intelligence that can unveil hidden secrets and untapped potential of each possible storefront. The data isn’t only about roads, buildings and traffic patterns. Location data can unveil who lives in an area, their average incomes, the types of homes they live in and more demographic details. 

Thanks to advances in location data, retailers can now explore potential locations by leveraging sophisticated analytics and predictive modeling that analyzes a wide range of factors like competitor proximity, demographic information, and consumer behavior.

Retail Location Data

Key Data Points when Evaluating Locations

A retail store location analysis involves examining several data key points that include:

  • Demographics: Beyond population size and income levels, savvy retailers now delve into the nuanced intricacies of the community. They unravel the aspirations, values, and lifestyles of potential customers, tapping into the emotional connections that drive purchasing decisions.
  • Competition: Competition is no longer just a hurdle to overcome. It’s an opportunity for collaboration and differentiation. Retailers armed with this new mindset embrace the strengths and weaknesses of their counterparts, crafting innovative strategies that set them apart. By harnessing the power of partnerships and symbiotic relationships, they create unique experiences that resonate with customers on a deeper level.
  • Foot traffic: Foot traffic analysis evolves into an art form, a delicate dance between prediction and anticipation. Retailers move beyond static numbers and tap into real-time data, understanding the ebb and flow of customer movements. By embracing the patterns of time and space, they strategically position themselves to intercept the ever-changing currents of consumer traffic.
  • Accessibility: Accessibility encompasses more than physical proximity. Retailers now navigate a complex landscape of convenience and connectivity. They reimagine the concept of accessibility, exploring parking availability, public transportation integration, and the interplay of digital and physical realms. By seamlessly blending the virtual and brick-and-mortar experiences, they become beacons for modern consumers.
  • Cost: Many retailers struggle with achieving a delicate balance between investment and potential returns. It’s no longer a straightforward calculation. Visionary retailers consider the intangible assets and the value they bring to their chosen location. They weigh the cost of leasing or purchasing against the transformative power of their unique offerings, creating a new formula for success.

In this era of retail reinvention, the evaluation of retail locations transcends the mundane checklists of the past. It requires a fresh perspective that relies on a retail store location analysis, embracing collaboration, and tapping into the pulse of the community. 

Retail Location Data

Consumer Migration Trends to Keep an Eye On

Another essential piece of data retailers should consider are the latest consumer migration trends. Consumer migration trends in the context of retail locations refer to the patterns and movements of consumers in terms of their residential locations and preferences for shopping destinations. 

These trends can provide valuable insights into where consumers are moving, how their preferences are changing, and how retailers can adapt their strategies to align with these shifts.

Consumer migration trends can be influenced by a variety of factors, including changes in population demographics, economic conditions, urban development, and lifestyle preferences. 

For example, a neighborhood or city may experience an influx of young professionals, leading to a rise in demand for trendy boutiques and upscale dining options. On the other hand, suburban areas may witness an increase in family-oriented retail establishments as more people move to these areas for a quieter lifestyle.

In our hometown of Columbus, Ohio, community leaders and businesses are leaning into the concept of developing mixed-use spaces in the East Franklinton neighborhood, which is adjacent to downtown, and experiencing a rebirth into a trendy, more progressive area. This area is seeing more young professionals move in just as the business district is developing Gravity – a mixed-use space that caters to entrepreneurs, artists, and other social innovators. 

By analyzing consumer migration trends, which can evolve over time, retailers can identify emerging markets and potential growth opportunities. They can adjust their expansion plans, allocate resources effectively, and tailor their product offerings to meet the needs and preferences of the target consumer base in specific locations.

The Right Location for Long-Term Success

Whether you’re a retailer looking for the right location to jump-start or expand your business, you can significantly benefit from using data to inform the decision-making process. 

Yet knowing how to obtain this data and then use it to make an informed decision can be challenging. Retail location analytics technology platforms can offer a tailored approach to generating real estate data with the goal of empowering clients so they can make confident decisions. 

When choosing analytics technology platforms, look for qualities like:

  • A user-friendly interface that is designed to simplify the analysis and visualization of data
  • Modeling capabilities that leverage historical data and market trends to forecast the potential success of a retail location
  • Integration capabilities that allow seamless data integration from multiple sources, such as demographics, foot traffic, and competitor analysis
  • Advanced geospatial analysis tools that enable businesses to understand the spatial relationships between different retail locations, competitor proximity, and customer density
  • Real-time data updates and monitoring features that provide up-to-date insights into consumer behavior
  • Data security and privacy measures that ensure the protection of sensitive information
  • Customization options that allow businesses to tailor the platform to their specific needs or metrics

By leveraging advanced analytics and artificial intelligence, businesses can make strategic decisions that align with their target market, mitigate risks and capitalize on growth opportunities. 

To learn more about how a retail data platform can help businesses, check out ASGEdge.

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