Shopping, like fashion, tends to follow a 20-year cycle. And the unveiling—and rollout—of America’s latest shopping format bears out the two-decade pattern.
In the 1960s, shopping was almost entirely a downtown, Main Street event, with local retail and national department stores clustered in America’s downtown and small-town shopping districts. By contrast, in the 1980s, the majority of the retail centers built were enclosed malls, moving shoppers away from America’s downtowns and into the suburbs.
Twenty years later, we’re right back where we started—only better. Main Streets and town centers, patterned after the shopping venues of the ’60s, have emerged as the latest iteration of an open-air format that has all but obliterated the enclosed-mall blueprint. (In fact, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, there are no enclosed malls planned in the United States for the next three years).
Interviews with five noted Main Street developers revealed five distinct trends that impact this hot format’s present state—and future proliferation.
Trend No. 1: Expect new retail to be born from the format. As Main Streets and town centers continue to resonate with customers, Brian Sciera, VP of lifestyle centers for Chestnut Hill, Mass.-based W/S Development, believes that tenants will continue to gravitate toward the concept—with “some retailers being born specifically for this venue. The Main Street and town-center concept sharp-shoots the best customer in a market. As the format grows in popularity, existing tenants are reinventing themselves [from a space-planning and a merchandising standpoint] to create a concept that is ideally situated to express their brand in an open-air setting. I also see exciting start-up companies and new retailers with four or five stores that view Main Streets and town centers as the perfect avenue for expansion,” Sciera said.
Nashua Landing, just beyond the Massachusetts border in Nashua, N.H., is a W/S Main Street project that the developer feels will do exactly what is intended—cater to the best customer in the market. “We are putting together a project that is going to target the best customers in the trade area and give them multiple reasons to come to Nashua Landing several times a week.” W/S’s retail strategy is to anchor the project with Whole Foods Market, which “will bring th