Retail Strategy

An Era of Layered Construction

An Era of Layered Construction 1440 428 ASG

It’s tough to be a retailer trying to open new stores right now. Everyone is experiencing high costs, lack of materials, logistical issues, and labor issues. One of the hot topics at the ICSC convention this year was the idea of layered construction. Layered construction allows the retailer to open sooner, albeit not in the ideal state. Layered construction is the outcome of more than two years of pandemic-related supply chain and labor shortage issues that show no real signs of letting up any time soon, which have only been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

What Is Layered Construction?

Layered construction is an approach to launching a new location in the midst of all the construction industry challenges currently besetting the industry. It can take much too long for a brand to realize the ideal design for a new location due to shortages or wait times for materials, labor, and partner resources, so they sacrifice or alter the design to help facilitate progress towards opening. This can look like many things, but basically, it means implementing a new prototype in layers. For example, a store has a new, beautiful storefront design, but the design requires certain materials which are not accessible for 22 weeks, despite sourcing locally or looking for custom-made solutions. Waiting 22 weeks for the materials isn’t feasible when the store needs to be open for customers now, so the design is built in layers. Often, this means creating an alternative to the prototype that can be built immediately, then returning later to update with the correct materials when they’re finally available.

Drawbacks of Layered Construction

For retailers, the design of a location is a significant piece of the branding. By opening without having the design elements in place, they risk losing that all-important customer experience element that drives loyalty and return visits. However, this is the world everyone is living in right now. While it adds complexity to the construction and design build, it’s important to move forward, even though there may be a slower response to what should be a great store experience.

Even with these drawbacks, because labor and supply chain issues are having such a significant impact on construction schedules, retailers who want to open more quickly are using a layered construction approach to be able to open their doors to consumers even before the elements of their retail design are complete. It’s not a perfect solution, but when handled properly, it can be a way for retailers to more quickly.

Processed Have Changed

Processes have changed dramatically, and because most of these things are completely outside the control of the agency and the client, it becomes a matter of adjusting to the changes, communicating them effectively, and adjusting internal processes to accommodate the changes. For example, permit times have doubled in the last year.

“Speed is no one’s ally”

explains Liz Seitz, ASG’s Store Planning and Construction Leader. “What used to be a 6-8-week timeline, is now 20 weeks in some scenarios.” What agencies must do to help assuage the frustration for clients is to perform due diligence and organize everything prior to construction to make the process quicker and more efficient to execute.

Agencies must be vigilant, keeping their eye on the swiftly changing environment. “As soon as one lever opens up, another one, down the road we never expected, shuts,” says Seitz. Sometimes, Liz explains, it’s important pump the brakes earlier- talk to vendors and ensure construction schedule will align for everything to come along as scheduled.

“Companies will do anything to get into their space,” says Seitz. “They will literally rig their HVAC to make it into their space quicker.”

Globalization is Challenged

For years, the industry has relied on globalization as a solution that delivered cost-effective materials. Now, sourcing materials are part of the challenge. Could anyone have possibly predicted that just as we were coming out of the worst part of the global pandemic that a war would break out? Ukraine may be a small country, but it is pivotal politically and geographically for both food (Ukraine is a major wheat supplier) and oil (most of Europe imported oil from Russia and have stopped because of the invasion.

“None of us expected that after covid, another massive global crisis would emerge,” says Seitz.

Global struggles have a direct effect on US construction in some fashion, and all these factors make it more difficult to consider offshore manufacturing, at least in the short term. Complicating matters is that fewer and fewer people in America can actually put things together.

It’s the agency’s responsibility to have everything organized, to simplify the process and make the job simpler for vendors, contractors, and partners, but that’s far more difficult to do when everything is so much more unpredictable.

Supply Chain Woes

As with so many other industries, the construction industry has been plagued with supply chain issues. These issues are now compounded by a backlog of projects, a new infrastructure bill, and pent up demand for projects that were put on hold during the pandemic. These supply chain issues are impacting every phase of construction, and lead times are growing, exacerbated by the labor shortage in the trucking industry that moves the materials.

Labor Shortage

According to the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) organization, the construction industry needs 650,000 additional workers on top of the normal pace of hiring in 2022 to meet the demand for labor. In 2023, ABC says the industry will need to bring in nearly 590,000 new workers on top of normal hiring to meet industry demand. The labor shortage is compounded by a tattered supply chain. It’s not just that there are labor shortages in general. It’s that the labor shortages are hitting blue-collar jobs, so even when the store is finally able to get the materials, they may not be able to find enough people to do the work, whether it’s installing fixtures or painting, or specialized services like plumbing and electric.

Alternative Buildout Matters

One of the wonderful specters we see in retail over and over again is a willingness to be flexible, to switch gears, and to change directions in order to keep moving forward. It’s one of the most invigorating reasons to be in this industry. There are many creative and innovative options rising to the forefront to make it easier to complete construction as expected.

“Just as we’ve seen new store formats or logistics solutions in response to the pandemic, businesses are becoming more adaptable and flexible overall in response to a new normal. Those that are prepared to make the most of this will benefit in the long run if any other supply chain issues arise.” said Tom McGee, president and CEO of ICSC, in an interview with Costar.

Some of the alternatives being considered include:

3D Printing

3D printing is becoming an innovative way forward in retail design construction. There have been entire buildings manufactured from 3D printing, and it’s offering retailers who need to open sooner a way of moving forward without losing all the elements of their design. According to Construction Dive, 3D printing is more cost-effective and projects can be completed much more quickly.

Using Different Materials

Even though lumber prices are starting to fall, the overall cost of construction remains higher than expected. Many retailers are seeking out alternative materials to be able to complete their projects, whether for construction or for interior design elements.

Local Sourcing

There has been an increase in demand for materials manufactured in the U.S. in order to shorten the supply chain. While this may not be a permanent solution to the issue, in the short-term, it allows construction to move forward with both construction.

Prefab

Robins & Morton makes the argument for prefabrication to ease the supply chain issues, reduce costs, and overcome labor shortages: “Once dismissed by skeptics as a risky idea destined to diminish construction quality, prefabrication is now universally embraced as an industry best practice. Companies in all building sectors are investing in it, clients are intrigued by its savings potential, and the field staff is integrating it in ways that will forever change the traditional supply chain in construction.”

Using Existing Construction

Not only can it be cost-effective to use an existing building and transform it for your brand, but it can ensure you get the location you want. Demand for prime locations is growing rapidly but given the cost and delay in constructing an entire storefront, the investment in retrofitting an existing location can be worthwhile. It can even be inspiring.

At the end of the day, suggests Seitz, you have to set the tone early and understand the client’s priorities. Then use your experience to develop forward-thinking design that is flexible enough to withstand the current industry climate.

Social Segmentation: Connecting & Marketing in Modern Retail

Social Segmentation: Connecting & Marketing in Modern Retail 1440 428 ASG

The data every retailer relied on to connect with consumers before the pandemic must be reevaluated. Today’s consumer – the post-pandemic consumer who was isolated at home for several months, learned to rely on others to choose their groceries and deliver them, and refurbished their homes while shopping online – are not the same consumer they were before the pandemic. And more than ever, demographics are no longer an accurate predictor of consumer behavior on their own. Consumer behavior crosses gender and generational lines in ways retailers have never seen before. As we think about analytics and strategy, fully understanding a consumer requires demographic, psychographic, and social analytics. In fact, social segmentation has become an influential piece of the puzzle.

According to Synchrony, “In a world where consumer behaviors have been turned upside down, businesses have to rethink what loyalty looks like — and create new paths for building and maintaining customer loyalty for the long term. Smart brands are on it: finding ways to adapt technology, social media and other tools for the current environment while still leaning into the human elements of incentives, rewards and personal connections that sustain loyalty over time.”

Social as Part of the Shopper Journey

Rachel Lloyd of Green Room discussed the social retail trend in Retail TouchPoints:

“…despite the fact that most customer journeys start on social media through product discovery, there will always be a huge desire for people to experience brands in real life. Humans have an inherent desire to come together and connect in social settings. Yes, the rules of retail are changing, but the human needs and desires that retail fulfils are not.

But in order to survive, the store’s connection to the brand’s wider digital ecosystem is now absolutely vital to ensure that a dialogue is maintained long before a customer goes in-store and continued long after they leave.”

So as retailers find new ways to “adapt technology … while still leaning into the human elements…” social media rises to the forefront of the new way to not only connect with customers but learn about them. Consumers are turning to social media more than ever to explore and connect with brands. The search for and discover of products online fulfills a sense of adventure for consumers – it’s like being on a quest. And consumers are eager to share their discoveries and take pride in being the first to know about an unknown brand.

So while most consumers still want that in-store experience, for brands to get consumers to walk through the doors, they need to be accessible on social and paying attention to what their customers want. In other words, even as retail continues to change, the need for human connection and in-store shopping isn’t going away. Social retail is the connection brands need – and the way forward for more intelligent marketing.

The Need to Move from Demographics to Social Segmentation

Retailers currently have an enormous opportunity to connect more authentically and more effectively with their customers. In combination with actual physical shopping behavior and historical data, brands have an opportunity to leverage social sentiment to guide how they move forward. In fact, a social view is critical now to form a complete picture and guide retail strategy. By incorporating social listening and social segmentation, it’s possible to gain a more holistic picture of today’s consumer and how they’re interacting with your brand.

Moving Beyond Demographics

Retailers have historically lumped customers into targeting groups based on demographics. Messaging and advertising, maybe even product mix, became based on age and generational characteristics. People of a certain age were in specific stages of life. 20-somethings were starting families and buying homes. 30-somethings were making home improvements and raising families. 40-somethings were thinking about things like investing and insurance. 50-somethings were becoming empty nesters, focusing on travel and retirement planning. It was concrete, and everyone was following along with their age group in terms of life stages. Now, we have 80-year-olds graduating from college and 40-year-olds having their first child. Millennials aren’t even thinking about buying a home until they’re in their late 30s – if at all – and consumers across all demographics are spending their dollars with brands and companies whose beliefs and behaviors align with their own.

Benefits of Social Segmentation

In building the case for social segmentation as a strategy for better consumer engagement, consider these statistics:

  • 77% of consumers say they are more likely to buy from a brand they follow on social media over one they do not (Social Media Today)
  • In 2020, over 3.6 billion people were using social media worldwide, a number projected to increase to almost 4.41 billion in 2025. (Statista)
  • 71% of consumers say it’s important for brands to raise awareness and take a stand on social issues. (Sprout Social)
  • Half of worldwide marketers have turned to social listening to understand consumers’ changing preferences during the pandemic. (eMarketer)

In the past few years, retailers have learned to be quick to pivot because of how rapidly consumer sentiment can change. Using social signals gives retailers a deeper understanding of what consumers want – and how they want to buy. Instead of relying on what has happened in the past, a social view provides context around what is influencing buyer behaviors in real-time. Benefits include:

  • Increase Customer Lifetime Value
  • Improved customer engagement
  • More cost-effective customer acquisition
  • Improved omnichannel/integrated experience
  • Significant improvement in anticipating customer needs, wants, and behaviors

How Can Retailers Use Social Segmentation?

Customers are more than their demographics. Social listening allows brands to identify not only consumer sentiment – toward brands and toward social issues they care about – but also can help brands measure what consumers say online against their actual behavior as consumers. And it allows brands to customize and personalize their messaging. For example, if consumers are talking about sustainability, a brand can tailor messaging with social segmentation around sustainability efforts. If they’re concerned with diversity and inclusion, the brand could then create content around the efforts they’re making in DEI. Knowing what is important to customers is crucial to building and maintaining loyalty for every brand.

Brands Doing It Right: Leveraging a Social View to Create Better Experiences

Understanding customers in real-time through social listening and targeting customers based on social segmentation rather than demographics can help brands connect more authentically with their consumers.

Target

Target is so good at attracting customers to their stores that they have their own entry in Urban Dictionary. They incorporate a variety of marketing strategies, an in-store shopping experience that makes people want to be in their stores, and partnerships with brands people love but in limited quantities that create FOMO – the “fear of missing out.” Their social media effectively connects them to their customers and explain that they try to post what their customers want, not what they think they should post. They incorporate user-generated content in their social media and website, from sharing shopping experiences posted by customers to reviews to answers about products on their website provided by users.

Sephora

Sephora uses a variety of social listening tools and social segmentation to reach their customers. They’ve recently been highlighted by Wall Street Journal for how they are using social media to share their purpose. In the interview, Suzanne Kounkel, CMO of Deloitte US says, “Organizations are seeking to demonstrate to all stakeholders—from customers and employees to partners and investors—why their companies exist and how they make an impact beyond profit.”

Gymshark

Gymshark, which we recently named a DTC brand to watch, is in part having success because of their approach to social retail. Not only are they leveraging influencer marketing to turn their brand into a household name, but they are using social listening to more accurately target their customers. Giraffe explains, “Gymshark is a key player in knowing your audience and using social media channels in a hyper-targeted way. For instance, Gymshark owns 3 different Instagram accounts (@gymshark, @gymsharkwomen and @gymsharktrain) all with different goals and purposes.” Maybe conducted an in-depth analysis of how Gymshark used social media to listen and connect with consumers here.


Social Retail Connects You with Your Customers

Social listening provides more accurate and up-to-date information than typical historical data and forecasting. And by using social signals, retailers can more quickly adapt to changing sentiments. Most importantly, however, social signals provide a cross-section of data that moves beyond generational demographics and allows a brand to align with consumers and use social segmentation to deliver more impactful experiences. With the great wealth transfer well underway, there are invaluable opportunities for companies to listen and learn from their customers in new ways.

The Rise of Lease Management Outsourcing

The Rise of Lease Management Outsourcing 1440 428 ASG

A Decline in Institutional Knowledge is Leading to an Increase in Lease Management Outsourcing

Before the pandemic, there were 10,000 boomers retiring every day, taking an enormous amount of institutional knowledge with them. While this has been most noticeable in the healthcare and insurance industries, over the next decade, we’re going to feel it in every industry.

In an article written in 2013 by Dr. Andrew M. Pena, SHRM, he sounded an alarm about the loss of institutional knowledge and its impact on businesses.

“Today, as Baby Boomers prepare for retirement, some Gen. X’ers and many Millennials are not remaining employed in one organization long enough to learn from their older colleagues. As a result, the institutional knowledge, history, and business continuity possessed by the veterans and Boomers might vanish with little or no knowledge being retained by the Gen. X’ers and Millennials. The failure to retain and transfer institutional knowledge could result in a steady increase in employee turnover and further loss of institutional knowledge, translating into higher costs and lower institutional efficiency.”

Fast forward eight years, factor in a pandemic, a significant labor shortage, and more than a year of “The Great Resignation,” and the threat of institutional knowledge losses have increased substantially.

The Generational Divide

Because Boomers have worked longer and are retiring later, Gen X and Millennial employees, in many cases, have not had the opportunity to rise through the ranks as quickly. As Boomers now begin to disappear at an alarming rate, they are leaving behind very inexperienced replacements who have had much less time and opportunity to enter leadership positions. Consequently, these replacements have limited high-level work experience, creating a giant skills gap. The choice to delay having children quickly enough to create future replacements, combined with the shift in attitude about staying with the same company longer than a few years, and the gap and skills shortage will continue to widen.

What Does This Have to Do with Retail?

Retailers often benefit from younger generations working in their stores. Digitally native brands inherently understand what traditional brick -and-mortar brands often fail to realize: The brand is the brand, regardless of how or where the shopper engages with the brand. While operations and other aspects are feeling the pinch on the front end of the talent pool – on the corporate side of retail –a painful loss of institutional knowledge on a regular basis in lease administration – and it is a costly and painful deficit.

Lease Management Is a Negotiation Game that Requires Expertise and Finesse

As experienced lease administrators retire and take with them their considerable understanding of leases, settlement negotiations, and relationship building, their younger replacements simply are not armed with the information and knowledge needed to properly defend contracts and protect their companies. In one instance with a national retail brand, the lease administrator retired. When the new administrator started, he immediately invested in a new system that included a lot of promised bells and whistles. They spent a ton of money on it – and promptly missed a kickout, costing them over $300,000. When we audited the system after taking over, 82% of their expiration dates were wrong.

Why Outsource Lease Management

Outsourcing lease management offers several benefits, including more efficient administration and expertise that saves you money. Outsourcing retail lease management has a measurable ROI. By placing lease administration in the hands of dedicated experts, there is a team proactively seeking opportunities, ensuring you’re not overcharged, and helping maintain compliance.

Lease management is often overlooked as a contributor to a company’s bottom line. But the benefit derived from expert lease management in terms of cost avoidance, negotiations, and credits that can be offset against monthly expenses is often immeasurable.

Outsourcing lease management ensures that you have the best experts handling the second-largest expense item for many retailers. Relying on experts can help transform a game-changing expense item into a hidden profit center.

Increased Efficiency

For many companies, internal lease management is just one of many responsibilities that an employee shoulders, and they often don’t have the time to fully analyze and manage leases. Outsourcing to a company that specializes in lease management can free your employees to focus on the primary duties of their jobs – often allowing the company to realize measurable savings in labor and efficiency.

Expertise

Outsourcing provides your company with depth and breadth of experience that can improve your negotiations and ensure that you do not miss cost savings. Because outsourced lease administrators manage leases across multiple industries and niches, they are familiar with retailers of all sizes, ages, and types. And, they have a finger on the pulse of the industry, staying abreast of and ahead of changes that might impact your costs.

What to Look for in an Outsourced Lease Management Service

When seeking an outsourced provider for lease administration, seek a partner who has:

  • Provided this service for portfolios of all sizes, for retailers that are at the height of success, and for those experiencing their last days
  • Read thousands of lease clauses and has learned to detect the nuance of how they are written.
  • Experience disputing billing errors and demonstrated success in getting revisions for most disputes
  • An in-depth understanding of co-tenancy failures retroactive to previous years
  • The ability to play a key role in obtaining the best possible lease terms for you
  • A demonstrated track record processing billions of dollars in lease-related payments.
  • State-of-the-art technology

What You Should Expect with Outsourced Lease Management

Meticulous Auditing

One of the most essential functions of an outsourced retail lease administrator is auditing. The lease manager should ensure that all your lease documents, dates, and detailed information about your leases for each property as accessible. They should meticulously audit your invoices and conduct regular reviews to ensure you are not overpaying and that all your negotiated concessions are being met.

CAM Reviews

Building operation expenses (CAM charges) are a significant expense and one of the biggest areas in which there can be errors. When you work with a retail lease management partner, they can often save your organization more than what you pay for the service provided.

Preservation of Institutional Knowledge

If you rely on one or two internal lease managers, and one or both leave or retire, it is almost impossible to replace that industry knowledge. By outsourcing to a firm with a specialty in lease management, you get depth of experience without the risk of the loss of institutional knowledge.

7 DTC Brands to Watch

7 DTC Brands to Watch 1440 428 ASG

It’s an exciting time to be in retail. For DTCs, the opportunity to redefine their purpose and connect with customers on a whole new level has led to a surge in DTCs opening physical stores. Here, we take a look at some DTC brands to watch – those that have already made the leap into physical stores and those who may be in the near future.

“Direct-to-consumer, digital-first, pure-play, or whatever you want to call this new breed of breakout brands, for them, the physical footprint is about customer acquisition, building loyalty, and increasing eCommerce sales. Utilizing their online data assets, they’re focusing the in-store experience on a high level of service and brand engagement. With that, traditional retail metrics like sales per square foot are being replaced by new measurements that take into account multiple channels working together.”Chute Gerdeman

Take Note of these DTC Brands

Article – Launched in 2013, DTC furniture company Article grew profits by 45% in 2021 by opening regional fulfilment centers and focusing on last-mile delivery network. “We’ve decided to take final-mile delivery to the next level with ADT [Article Delivery Team]. In-house delivery gives us a tighter feedback loop which helps us iterate on the process and create experiences people look forward to,” said Aamir Baig, Article’s CEO, in a Chain Store Age interview.

Vuori – With a commitment to sustainability, ethical manufacturing, and community, Vuori is a standout brand for a number of reasons. After receiving an infusion of capital and completing a successful expansion in the U.S., Vuori recently announced plans to expand into Europe with their own physical locations as well as through partnerships with companies like Costwold Outdoor in England. “2022 is going to be Vuori’s biggest year yet, and we look forward to sharing much more in the weeks and months ahead,” Vuori founder and CEO Joe Kudla said in a statement.

 

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Tecovas – Founder, Paul Hedrick turned his passion for good-looking cowboy boots that were actually comfortable to wear into a business that was named by Business Insider as one of the 25 DTCs to watch in 2022. Paul Hedrick, founder and CEO of Tecovas, said in an interview with FN, “Our focus is – and will always be – on building the most beloved heritage western brand in the world, and this round of funding will only help us further drive towards that vision.”

Gymshark – Launched by a 19-year old in a garage in Birmingham, UK in 2012, Gymshark’s online presence today is nothing short of remarkable. The company now has five regional offices and was featured in an article last year about their transition to a billion dollar fitness company.

Rhone  – CEO and co-founder Nate Checketts of Rhone was an early visionary in recognizing the importance of developing physical retail locations for his performance-driven clothing and the company has enjoyed growth and success as they expand, being named one of the top 12 men’s athleisure brands in 2022.

Knot Standard – Recognized for their unique blend of fashion and technology, Knot Standard is not only expanding their own physical presence with showroom locations across the country but also selling its technology to retailers to create their own custom clothing offering.

Thuma – Launched in 2018, Thuma is on a mission to revitalize the modern-day bed through timeless design and smart manufacturing. Their success is reflected in the fact that they’ve been named the top bed frame to sleep on by Architectural Digest and Insider.  Thuma has also been named one of the top home and appliance DTCs to watch by IAB. This is definitely a brand to keep an eye on.

As the cost of customer acquisition continues to climb with increasing digital ad costs, more and more DTCs will likely consider new ways of fulfilling the needs of existing customers while also attracting new ones. Strategically located physical locations is a huge opportunity for many DTCs.

DTC Eyewear Store

Q&A With Carrie Barclay: Developing a DTC Retail Strategy

Q&A With Carrie Barclay: Developing a DTC Retail Strategy 1440 428 ASG

The advantage to DTC brands opening physical locations is clear, but if you’re a digital-only DTC considering opening your first location, how do you know where to go? What kind of strategy should you use?

Having worked with notable DTC brands like Warby Parker, Tonal, Purple, and Lovesac, we asked ASG President Carrie Barclay to share some insight on what works and where to start.

Q: It seems a bit daunting to transform from digital-only to incorporating physical locations. How do you advise DTCs just getting started?

Carrie: Initially, it’s important to keep an eye on your investment. This means choosing locations beyond New York City, where the costs are more manageable and data is more relevant. A clustered or regional approach to launching physical stores can be smart. Rather than spread across the country, many DTCs may opt to open a location or several near where they are headquartered. They can physically check in on the stores; see what’s happening; gauge client response and make adjustments to their physical store strategy before expanding further.

Q: What do DTCs have to consider in order to expand?

Carrie: It will really depend on the brand’s ability to scale. They have to think about logistics and distribution. A great example of how to do this well is Primark, a European company that opened a distribution center in Pennsylvania in order to support the stores they are opening in the northeast.

DTC Apparel Store

Q: You’re a fan of pop-up stores. Why?

The pop-up is the equivalent of a fancy customer intercept survey. You can gather a lot of customer data with very little investment to determine whether or not it’s a good location, what kind of traffic you can expect, and what your product mix should look like. Pop-ups have increasingly become an effective way to test a market and make sure it’s a good fit for your brand before getting too heavily invested in the location.

Q: How do you determine which path to take when opening physical stores?

Carrie: You need to use the data to make strategic decisions about your brand. Data will help you answer the questions you need to think about as you go physical. Do you build out your own retail shops across the country or test pop-ups in certain high-traffic areas? Do you sever ties with the retailers who carry your brands or focus on a hybrid solution that allows your brand to partner with retailers even as you build your own branded stores? The answers to these questions will differ for each brand, but the data is always there. The important element is being able to analyze and overlay market insights and match them with business goals.

Q: Why do you think DTCs need physical stores?

Carrie: We know customer acquisition costs are not sustainable with digital-only, so that’s a big reason behind the push we see among DTCs to open physical locations. But at the end of the day, it’s not about having a physical store or a website or an app or two-day delivery or a great return policy. It’s about being where your customers need you, when they need you, how they need you. It’s about being the brand they trust – because you meet your sustainability promises, you are accessible when they’re ready to shop, and you’re convenient. Physical stores increase trust in your brand, can put you in your customers’ neighborhoods and can give your brand enormous growth opportunity when done right.

Want to learn more about implementing a data-driven DTC location strategy? Explore our proprietary platform, ASGedge, where we combine tailored real estate data with industry expertise to inform confident retail decisions.

Popular Retail Storefronts for Location Strategy

What’s Driving Today’s DTC Location Strategy?

What’s Driving Today’s DTC Location Strategy? 1440 428 ASG

Capitalizing on physical locations is a huge opportunity for DTC brands, but you can’t just throw a dart at a map and expect results. As DTCs open physical locations around the country, they can ensure a bigger likelihood of both pulling in existing online customers and attracting new customers with a comprehensive location strategy – and that strategy must adapt to the changing retail consumer, who shops closer to home and expects more from brands to earn loyalty.


The Cost of Credibility

DTCs were leaning into the retail landscape before the pandemic. Not only is the cost of customer acquisition too high to be sustainable for a digital-only brand, but the ability to build trust and customer loyalty to retain customers is challenging.

“Roughly one-third (34%) of US consumers surveyed stated they don’t trust retailers with just an online presence.” – Morning Consult

“Consumers inherently trust brands that have a physical presence over those based solely online. In a recent report by global data intelligence company Morning Consult, roughly one-third (34%) of US consumers surveyed stated they don’t trust retailers with just an online presence. Meanwhile, 68% trusted retailers with just a physical store, and 73% trusted retailers with both a physical and online store.” – Chute Gerdeman


A Location Strategy Shift

According to data from Yelp, new business openings increased 14% in year two of the pandemic. However, where those businesses are opening is changing. “Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York City saw the largest decreases in new business openings during Delta and Omicron variant waves. Meanwhile, Atlanta, Dallas, and Detroit bucked the trend with an increase in the number of new business openings during the arrival of the Delta and Omicron variants.”

Successful DTCs are shifting away from large hubs like New York City. DTCs are choosing locations where the cost of doing business is more manageable – locations like Florida, Texas, and Tennessee. They’re also following their customers. According to Modern Retail, the pandemic-motivated exodus from big cities has spurred DTCs to follow them to mid-sized cities like Austin and Dallas. Even DTCs locating in large cities like New York City are straying away from 5th Avenue and instead opening shops in places like Dumbo (Brooklyn) and the Upper East Side.

Popular Mall Storefront for Location Strategy

Today’s digitally native brands don’t mind a little competition, so don’t be surprised when you see several DTC brands clustered in the same location. High traffic and concentration outweigh any negative. The key is really positioning yourself where the consumer can do more than one thing – where they can cross-shop. That’s why top retail destinations like Easton are appealing.


The Devil Is In the Details

It’s critical to start with customer data when developing a location strategy. Luckily, DTC brands often have a more intimate understanding of their digital customer, and that insight can provide a lot to leverage. However, what’s important to remember is that the online customer isn’t always an exact match to the physical customer. Having a physical space creates new awareness, so being able to understand, recognize, and accept there might be a shift is an important consideration.

Popular Retail Storefronts for Location Strategy

Using data to identify key retail location opportunities, DTC stores need to go where their customers are. Brands tend to think of New York first, but it really limits your capability to test, measure, and learn. With a high tourist and commuter mix, the metropolis is atypical to other major markets, limiting planning for stores two, three, and four.

Combine all that with its lack of affordability–even with the lowered rents and flexible leases we’re seeing–you’re paying a lot for a location, which means potentially less investment available for design. That’s why we’re seeing more DTCs focus on launching their first brick and mortar in places like Nashville and Austin- they’re more affordable, have a better customer mix to help predict and inform future stores, and give you more to invest in design so that you can get it right.

Want to learn more about implementing a data-driven location strategy? Explore our proprietary platform, ASGedge, where we combine tailored real estate data with industry expertise to inform confident retail decisions.

DTC Brands Lean Into The Retail Landscape

DTC Brands Lean Into The Retail Landscape 1440 428 ASG

Given the cost of customer acquisition and the increase in competition, DTC brands have shifted their strategy, focusing on experiences where the brand story and consumer connection matter more than just building mailing lists and driving people to buy online. The pandemic helped accelerate that shift – as consumers spent more time at home, DTC brands have had the chance to tap into social conversations and fulfill many emotional and essential needs.


From Ecommerce to Experience

DTCs are using their digital native savviness to put themselves where their customers are – not on a website, but in social media (think: DTC brands like Dr. Squatch on TikTok) and in video games (think: Marc Jacobs in Animal Crossing). More than anything, however, DTCs are beginning to focus on opening physical locations – either standalone or in collaboration with existing stores (think: Bark’s partnership with Walmart).


In-Store Shopping Demand Drives DTC

People are ready to shop again in-store, and DTCs are responding. According to Shopify’s recent Future of Commerce report, 32% of brands said they’d be establishing or expanding their use of pop-up and in-person experiences, 31% plan on establishing or expanding their physical retail footprint, and 40% of brands said offering experiential retail will be a top priority in the next year.

“Increased retail vacancies have created an opportunity for a new wave of digitally native brands to experiment with physical retail. The surge of brands into offline channels means retailers must focus on creating engaging and memorable experiences to win foot traffic.” – Shopify


Standing Out to Stand Alone

On a recent trip to Austin, TX, we visited the premier, open-air retail development, Domain Northside, which has one of the largest DTC physical presences in the US. We visited every single store in the shopping district – legacy retailers’ side-by-side emerging DTC brands. Cover the signage though and we couldn’t have told you who was who or what made them unique. A surprisingly cookie-cutter DTC experience for brands that have notably played hard to cut through the noise online.

“Brand building is helping attract and retain customers. Businesses are overcoming the competition by investing in brand building, which increases customer lifetime value, boosts conversion rates in the short term, and attracts out-of-market buyers in the long term.” – Shopify


The Experience Factor

A physical presence means more than four walls. From the right location to on-brand execution and a memorable experience, the equation takes as much consideration and strategic planning as the day the DTC was born. Missing the mark moving from digital into physical could lead to two unfortunate outcomes:

  1. DTC brands misreading the brick and mortar performance based on a failed execution (proper development of the branding, etc.), and
  2. Developers undervalue the DTC’s capabilities in a physical environment and begin to discount them or pass them over for new opportunities (i.e., they will be left on the bench).

Digitally-native brands making their first foray into physical retail have an opportunity to leverage the customers they’ve nurtured and developed online, and expand their brand awareness to new customers. It’s an exciting time to think about getting physical if you’re a DTC brand.

Looking for more insights about DTC brands? Check out our insights article, The Golden Opportunity for Retail. 

What the Great Wealth Transfer Means for Retail

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The great wealth transfer is underway. It’s a monumental shift of financial power from the Boomer generation, who, by 2030, will all be over the age of 65, to their children and grandchildren (Millennials and Gen Z). Investopedia estimates the great wealth transfer will result in $59 trillion moving to younger generations. Others estimate that number to be more than $70 trillion. With that, it’s considered the “largest redistribution of wealth in human history.” But it’s not just about the money; it’s the combination of money and the power shift (political, social, and economic) that will follow.


Influential Events

Millennials (born 1981-1995) and Gen Z (born 1996-2009) children lived their youth and early adult lives through tumultuous times. From growing up in wartime to living through economic distress to literally coming of age in the midst of a pandemic, the experiences of these generations are significantly different from the Boomers before them. Gen X, born 1966-1980, while older, still experienced some of the same circumstances as Millennials – crushing student debt, housing inaccessibility, etc. Because these generations have not followed the typical Boomer path of going to college, getting a job, buying a house, and having a family at the same ages and stages, their role as consumers have been different from the start. With their expected inherited wealth, we need to begin mapping their trajectory as consumers to be able to meet their needs.


Frugal and Conscientious

When considering how these consumers came to age, brands will need a different approach from what they used with Boomers or Gen X. Younger generations hold a different position on money, which has changed the dynamics within Millennials and Gen Z. In both cases, they’re more frugal, more cautious with their spending, and more intentional about where and with whom they spend their money.


Millennials as Consumers

Millennials are about to have the most money they’ve ever had, but they grew up in the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression. Most Millennials don’t currently own a home, and 18% believe they will always rent. According to Investopedia, despite being the largest generation by population, only 17% of total homeowners are Millennials, and only 42% of Millennials were homeowners at age 30, compared to 48% of Gen X and 51% of Baby Boomers at the same age. This is a notable shift as brands look to consider redefined needs to support the home environments of these consumers.


Reaching the Millennial Consumer

Because of their life experiences, Millennials make spending choices that feel can feel unpredictable at times to retailers. The generation is also quite diverse – a quarter of Millennials speak a language other than English as their primary language, and more than a third are non-white. The same marketing that was so effective on Boomers will not resonate with Millennials. So how do you reach them?

Deliver a Consistent Experience. If there was ever a time to ensure a consistent brand experience between mobile and in-store, this is the generation that demands it. More than 90% of Millennials own and use smartphones; this is the OG digital native generation. They expect instant information, easy access, and consistency across channels. They value trust indicators and appreciate access to real humans. Personality, transparency, and responsiveness are key.

Engage Authentically. Whether you’re writing content for a blog, posting on social media, or advertising, be authentic. As a whole, this generation wants to know you get them, understand their needs, and contribute to improving their lives and life experiences.

Be Where They Are. The greatest opportunity for brand awareness lies within where Millennials spend their time. From binging Netflix to watching YouTube and scrolling social media the online world is a direct avenue to connect with this audience. 

Tap the Influencers. Virtually all Millennials – 97% – read reviews before making a purchasing decision. They’re more likely to trust a brand that has been recommended by another consumer – even a stranger – over trusting the brand itself. Make sure you make your reviews and recommendations are easy to find online. Even when they shop in your stores, which they love to do, they’ll look first online to see what others say about you.

Focus on Lifestyle Choices. Millennials are not moving through stages of life the same way previous generations. Attract Millennials not by focusing on where they are in life, but instead by how they identify socially or through the causes with which they identify.

Be Transparent. Millennials are paying attention, and looking for brands that show – through action – that they care about the same things they do – and they’ll pay more for it. They want to know if you support important causes, make ethical business decisions, and how you incorporate sustainable practices. 


Reaching the Gen Z Consumer

Gen Z was born into a never-ending war that turned into a never-ending pandemic. The youngest Gen Z consumers, who are now in middle school, to the oldest, who are early-career professionals, have shouldered the worst of the education experience and most of the job loss during the pandemic. Reaching them is a complex and difficult mission, as they’d rather save money than spend it. So how do you connect your brand to Gen Z?

Have Purpose Beyond Profit. CSR might be a nice-to-have with older generations; with Gen Z, it’s your lead. Your purpose needs to be something more than profit. Maybe it’s revolutionizing the way you manufacture something so that it protects the planet, or maybe you donate a portion of what you make to a worthy cause, but it’s the “why,” not the “what,” that will turn Gen Z into loyal consumers.

Foster the Entrepreneurial Spirit. Gen Z has no interest in the typical corporate structure, and they don’t believe in the kind of job security they’ve never seen. That may explain why 72% of teens want to start their own businesses. Showcase your own entrepreneurial spirit and innovation to attract them – and demonstrate your care for your employees.

Engage Authentically. Like Millennials, Gen Z has no time for canned responses or generic marketing. They want authentic engagement and interaction that feels personal. These are purposeful consumers, not accumulators.

Don’t Waste Time. Gen Z is the TikTok generation. They want small, consumable pieces of content, and that translates to marketing, too. What can you do to get their attention in 8 seconds or less? Because that’s all the time you have. According to Kantar, 83% of consumers browsing TikTok say seeing trending content has inspired them to make a purchase.

Be a Brand They Can Believe In. For Gen Z, consumption for consumption’s sake is offensive. Conservation, sustainability, and respecting privacy are extremely important. “When I think “cool” I imagine companies that do great things for customers/employees or beautiful/unusual products.” – Female, 17, UT, Urban

Emphasize Experience. Gen Z seek out meaningful and memorable experiences, not just products. They have a “you only live once” attitude in which they will prioritize fun over sacrifice.

Be Impeccable with Your Brand. Gen Z has a high standard for what they want their personal future to hold. Brands with purpose win in the long run, and we’ve seen the power of consumer resiliency.

Most brands are accustomed to equating spending to the Boomers, who currently control over 60% of the money in this country. As the great wealth transfer begins in earnest, the entire shift and mentality of the receivers will be unlike anything we are familiar with. This shift represents invaluable opportunities for companies to listen and pay attention.

Eager for more insights about retail? Check out how some retailers are Minding the Retail Gap between pandemic and high performance.

Redefining Flagship Retail

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Flagship retail stores have historically been the beacon of a brand—an iconic entity with grandiose energy. But as we continue to rethink retail in today’s ever-changing and quickly evolving environment, it presents the opportunity to reevaluate the flagship experience and our approach to store design.

If you think about the essence of a flagship store, it has meant something larger-than-life, experiential, immersive, or even exclusive. Often, we relate this to store sizes like Krispy Kreme in Times Square, Hermès in Paris, Nike in New York, or the glass cube at Apple Fifth Avenue. When you strip away the square footage, it really implies a “special experience,” either with an exclusive, localized product (The Big Apple Doughnut), personalized service, or unique offerings associated with geography. So, if we can let go of this perception of flagship relating primarily to size and connect it more to the unique experience – then we get to the heart of what flagship retail means.


From High Streets to Side Streets

Retail succeeds when it responds to consumer needs, and today’s consumers want to stay closer to home when they shop. They want to be catered to and want anything but homogeny. Gone are the days of being inside any mall in America and finding the same set of stores. Consumers want something that reflects the energy of their neighborhood.

“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.”
– Carrie Barclay, President, ASG

The importance of diverging from homogenized retail is one of the key factors in retail design success today. Consumers have gained a new appreciation of home since the start of the pandemic. Similarly, when retailers begin to understand their own unique importance in the local community, they then become part of the social fabric of the community.


Embracing the Flagship Experience at Scale

Now is the time to refocus the meaning of flagship retail to symbolize a unique and localized experience for the consumer. In other words, we believe that the flagship experience shouldn’t be limited to just the launch of a design as it appears in Times Square, but it can also be a thoughtful, customized, and unique design in every neighborhood.

Your brick-and-mortar locations are not just transactional. They are valuable opportunities to connect with your customers and showcase your brand, values, and commitment. Every store design is an opportunity to provide local customers with an integrated, immersive, and unique experience with your brand.

Eager for more insights about the retail experience? Check out how some retailers are Minding the Retail Gap between pandemic and high performance.

Transforming Retail Fulfillment

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The menace of ecommerce giants, such as Amazon, has been looming over brick-and-mortar stores for several years now. However, the threat is not as real as brick-and-mortar retailers are led to believe. Amazon capitalized on a functioning business model, and consumers are in love with convenient shopping and fast shipping. However, brick-and-mortar retail is capable of many strategies that the ecommerce industry is desperate to tap into.


Brick-and-mortar retail is dead? Hardly.

Consumers still love to browse in store, explore assorted products, and feel items in their hands before purchasing. The biggest challenge that brick-and-mortar retailers face is being able to maximize the value of the retail location. What can your store offer beyond that which can be purchased online? Consumers demand instant gratification, but what that looks like varies from shopper to shopper, and even moment to moment. Physical stores are an essential piece of an omnichannel strategy, and the ability to offer diverse product choices and delivery preferences will change how retailers do business.


Change the supply chain.

The traditional model ignores the crucial connection between the manufacturer and the retailer. Until recently, retail fulfillment has been a component of purchasing that remains rather independent. However, this reliance on drop-shipping is how consumers are lost. Colors and sizes vary depending on location, and without consolidating distribution channels, mistakes are common. Consumers want to be able to order online and pick up in store, because in-store delivery for certain items may be days faster. Others see items in stores, but an in-store app or kiosk may offer a more desirable color that can be shipped to homes. Fulfillment within brick-and-mortar retail demands collaboration to meet the changing demands of consumers.


Leverage real-time inventory

The most important aspect of retail fulfillment and required collaboration is a real-time inventory. Business associates and consumers should easily be able to track shipped items, as well as notify a customer if an item they are interested in is truly available. Even ecommerce giants have struggled with issues such as requested items on backorder and websites not updated at the time of purchase. This results in frustrated customers and incomplete orders. Over time the overall brand can be damaged.  Be mindful of your inventory movement and shipping and invest in a digital infrastructure that will allow your omnichannel strategy to flourish.

The key is to create a seamless and consistent customer experience that not only improves efficiency but also meets demands. The customer experience, not the product, is the most important factor. How you fulfill your promise to the consumer relies on more than just shipping, which is why brick-and-mortar retail is far from dead.

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