Getting support early on critical to building urban stores

New York -- When building an urban store, be prepared for anything, and make friends with your local Economic Development Corp. early, advised retailers and a developer at the “Setting Up Shop Downtown” session at Chain Store Age’s 50th annual SPECS conference in Grapevine, Texas (March 9 -12, 2014). The session was particularly timely given that more and more retailers are targeting urban areas for growth — and the trend is likely to accelerate going forward. It’s critical to get the local community on board and solicit their comments early, said Terry Pratt, senior tenant coordinator of Philadelphia-based PREIT, particularly regarding lighting and signage. Building a store or restaurant in an urban location can require a complete change in design to fit local standards, especially if the building is historic, noted John Devine, president of Milford, Conn.-based Subway Real Estate Group, whose stores range from 1,200 sq.-ft. to 1,400 sq. ft. Office Depot’s footprint, at around 5,000 sq. ft., often requires multiple levels and even different merchandising, said Kristin Muntean, VP for strategic Initiatives and innovation the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company. Other logistical changes for urban stores include merchandise delivery and trash pickup schedules to avoid conflicts with office workers and residents, all said. Second and third floors can become practical, noted panel moderator Debra Hazel, a New York City-based retail and real estate consultant, as long as vertical transportation is plentiful and immediately visible. But even with the challenges, are building stores worth it? The answer was simultaneous and unanimous from all three speakers: “Absolutely!”

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