The retail market is undergoing significant change, and the evidence is everywhere. Sears is closing its flagship downtown Chicago store. Macy’s is firing 2,500 employees. J.C. Penney is shutting 33 stores down. Meanwhile, Amazon is consistently churning out $800,000 in sales per employee. Best Buy struggles to do half as well. The sun may be setting on the traditional brick and mortar, big box retail mammoths. This shift has left numerous big boxes, such as shut down K-Marts or relocated Wal-Marts barren. What do you do with expanses of 150,000 square feet or more, interrupted only by support posts? Some unique uses have appeared including churches, schools, flea markets, bingo halls, call centers and medical spaces. Where are the retailers going?
Contemporary retailers are shifting towards new urban design, such as mixed use centers. In contrast to “the old days,” retailers now prefer to be within walking distance of office and residential space. Mixed use offers the most pure opportunity for this. For example, in Washington D.C., Wal-Mart has moved into a corner space alongside 200 residential units. Watch for these trends beginning in urban areas trickle into the suburbs, and eventually rural areas.