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Home > Feature Articles > Restaurant and Institutional Best Practice Strategies for Food Management

Shifting Usage of Retail Space During the Coming Downturn in 2008-9

Retailers can become the new hub of community as "thrift" supports local shopping and social networking.

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The economy is changing...to put it mildly. And sector by sector, shifting strategies will be required to cope with the changes. Some sectors will thrive and some will not.

The Need for Retail Space Expected to Drop

PHILADELPHIA-A Marcus & Millichap second quarter retail report predicts slight upticks in both retail rents and vacancy. The report also states that the slower economy will lower consumer spending and lower the demand for space, according to the second-quarter Retail Research Report in Philadelphia by Marcus & Millichap.

The report declared that employers are forecast to add 3,000 jobs, which is a 0.1% increase. The report also claims that nearly two million sf of new retail space will open this year.

"Lenders will continue to make distinctions on assets’ credit quality and location, driving up cap rates for lesser investment-grade tenants," Spencer Yablon, director of corporate affairs in the Philadelphia office of Marcus & Millichap, says in a prepared statement. Calls to the Marcus & Millichap office were not returned by deadline. SOURCE: GlobeSt.com

Alternative Uses for Retail Space

Have you ever noticed that consumers are...well, expected to consume? But they are seldom assisted in making the money they require to consume!

Here's an idea for retailers of all sorts -- restaurants, specialty stores, nurseries, insurance agencies...anyone who has extra space that isn't making an adequate return on the cost of the space!

My husband and I are both in "community building" careers. And one thing we have noticed everywhere we've lived and traveled, is that it is extremely difficult for active, entrepreneurial, DIY, activists, etc. to find places and space in which to meet and do their social networking. GEE! There might be an opportunity here! :-)

Retailers who have shrinking inventory can put some of that extra space to use to assist their consumers "make something" -- relationships, crafts, food, party plans...the list can be quite creative and inclusive. They can create:

  • Meeting spaces for networking
  • Workshops that assemble items (using the retailer's inventory, of course)
  • Weekend sidewalk sales for these participating sponsored, mini-merchants
  • Provide seminars with patterns and project plans based on their retail expertise
  • Sell books, patterns, supplies at the back of the room after educational events.
  • etc.

What this space becomes is a "social networking space" -- social networking is HUGE on-line -- but people like to actually meet their neighbors during economically challenging times. And retailers can foster this community of their customers and future customers.

We're entering a new social trend some are labeling as "cocooning", but others call it "thrift is the new black". The new generation of young families are a bit different than the previous cocooners. They have had the Internet, text messaging, ichat and cell phones -- so they are more social. They aren't cocooning so much as going "local" with their social networks.

Retailers can become more social, more local, as well. Retail stores are about as LOCAL as any business can get. The challenge is to create a mutually beneficial system in which the money flows both ways!

Benefits of Alternative Space Uses

What are the benefits of building loyal, raving fans that come back to visit you every week? Oh, I don't know...long term customers, free word of mouth advertising, referrals, more sales, future employees, ideas, a strong local community? Some job satisfaction during stressful retail times?

Many specialty retailers have found the pure pleasure that comes from offering their expertise, their listening skills, and their avocation to their customers and they build loyal customers who become supporters that large chain stores can't even imagine.

But why can't large stores imagine such community integration?

Times are changing...and with broad recognition of the value of social networking, maybe it's time for even large companies to recognize and empower additional dimensions of talking, visiting, exploring, and working with their customers. Empowering their communities. Life is about more than money -- even on a large scale.

When times get tough, Americans band together. It's time!

Sincerely,
Carolyn, hungry for meeting space with mutual benefit!



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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