In recent years, we haven’t seen a tremendous amount of new retail development. If anything, we’ve seen businesses close locations and consolidate their facilities in an effort to drive down operating expenses; the recession scared many companies and investors from developing new locations. But as we see the overall economy showing signs of renewed life, retail developments have started to pop up again – but not in their usual places.
Before the recession it was not uncommon for developers to build neighborhoods and entire communities based around the retail developments in the area. While the housing market has experienced a slight rebound in the past few quarters, new homes are just not being built or occupied at the rate they were pre-2008. This has forced retail developers to change their game plan: instead of building neighborhoods around retail, they’ve started building retail around neighborhoods. Georgia has seen a large amount of “infill projects,” retail developments on land where communities already exist. This lessens the pressure on retail investors, as they are not creating the supply and waiting around for the demand to build. Developers are choosing areas that already have high demand levels. Most developers say that the only issue with this is that tracts of land large enough to fit these new retail communities are hard to come by. Many businesses have been forced to shrink their footprint in order to squeeze themselves into these smaller developments; Wal-Mart, for example, opened a 2,500 SF store downtown to meet the needs of Tech students.
Another trend we are seeing in this “new” economy is the development of discount retail developments, namely outlet malls. It seems as though while most Americans want the same labels and designers as we have in years past, we’re not willing to spend quite as much money to have them as we were before. Outlet stores provide shoppers with the high quality products they want at lower prices.
The final trend we are seeing is that shopping is becoming an experience. Many retailers are adopting a non-traditional retail component to attract customers and increase sales. Experts agree that as time goes on, retailers are going to have to do something to set themselves apart. An example of this would be the Christmas Tree Lighting at Lenox Mall in Buckhead. Another example is the changes that will be taking place at Gwinnet Place Mall since it’s purchase by Moonbeam Development. The group plans on turning 1/3 of the retail space into attractions and activities to draw shoppers in.