For someone like me, who has spent most of his commercial real estate career leasing, selling, and developing retail projects, my slant on retail today may be considered heresy. However, in discussions with my male friends who, like me, start hyperventilating when they get near a mall or are asked to accompany the opposite sex on a shopping tour, we now have an option to stay at home and achieve the same results.
It’s all thanks to the World Wide Web. And it keeps on growing; online sales now account for about 15 percent of retail sales.
Twenty years ago, I would never have believed that I would sit in front of my computer and buy almost everything I need via the Internet: shoes, ties, shirts, socks, suits (buy and have them altered at the store), men’s accessories, client gifts, books, luggage, electronics, phones, cleaning products, prescriptions, etc. You name it, I buy it! In almost every instance, the web retailers include all of the necessary return packaging and documents for returning the items free of charge, in the event you’re not satisfied. Talk about convenience!
The bad news is that this phenomenon hurts my business. Retailers are reducing the size of their space requirements, and many smaller tenants have been supplanted by web retailers. However, most, if not all, successful retailers have found it necessary to compete by joining the web retailers with sites of their own.
“Bricks and mortar” retail developers and retailers must plan their developments in the future with their web competitors in mind. That means smaller anchor buildings and much less spec or inline space. For the inline space, developers will be talking more to retailers who are “web-proof.” They include restaurants, medical centers, health clubs, chiropractors/massage, and other uses that require a physical presence. Take a look at your newer shopping centers to see these trends in action.
We men, however, must continue to have our hardware stores to spend our time in, so they won’t go away. Realistically, neither will most of our retail, as the retailers are all using the web to complement their stores. And most women will continue to visit retail locations for shopping and the social experience.
The good news is that now both men and woman can enjoy their shopping experiences—in person, and online.
Sam Kartalis is president and chief operating officer of Henry S. Miller Realty Services LLC. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.