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Unusual retail concept puts new spin on tech retailing

BY Marianne Wilson

A very tech-savvy retailer retail is expanding its fledgling physical footprint with an eye toward national expansion.

b8ta, which lets people test out products from a variety of tech companies, including many small start-up, has opened a store at University Village, Seattle, along with one at Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica, Calif. Both locations were designed by Gensler, and feature a sleek, modern design.

b8ta’s flagship store opened in downtown Palo Alto, California in December 2015.

“b8ta exists to make retail accessible to entrepreneurs building the best products and services, not just the big companies that can afford it,” said Vibhu Norby, CEO and co-founder of b8ta. “b8ta’s unique software-based approach to merchandising means every store has different products, “No two b8ta stores are alike, and the assortment changes every month.”

The format allows consumers to experience the latest tech products up close and personal — out of the box and hands-on. Trained employees, known as “b8ta testers,” are on hand to educate shoppers on the store’s range of cutting-edge products. And in a big change from traditional retail, instead of earning revenue from sales of products, b8ta is paid a monthly subscription fee from the makers of the products in its stores.

In addition to helping shoppers discover new tech products, b8ta helps product makers get their products into customers’ hands faster by expediting the process of getting into retail. This streamlined process, combined with a new experience that’s fueled by software, is paving the way for b8ta’s national expansion.

b8ta’s expansion comes on the heels of securing $19.5M in equity and debt financing led by Khosla Ventures and TriplePoint Capital, with participation from several others, national mall operator Macerich.

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Freeman sells mall it’s held since 1968

BY Al Urbanski

After nearly 50 years of ownership, the Carl M. Freeman Companies has sold the Cabin John Shopping Center and Mall in Potomac, Maryland, to Edens for $165 million.

Freeman parted with a property that it built in 1968 in order to amass capital for other projects, according to CEO Michelle Freeman, who assumed the helm of the company after her husband, Josh, perished in a helicopter crash.

The 214,204-sq.-ft. center is about two miles from the larger Westfield Montgomery Mall, but the sizeable property promises potential for Edens to expand.

"Part of what was so difficult about [selling] this asset for me as CEO was that my father-in-law built it and my husband took care of it. I needed to sell it to someone who was going to bring it to the next iteration of itself, and I think Edens will do that," Freeman told the Washington Business Journal.


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Top 10 Retail Stories of 2016

BY CSA STAFF

From start to finish, many of this year’s biggest retail stories involved mergers and acquisitions as the industry continues to remake itself in a digital age. Here’s a look back at 10 stories that caused big buzz — and were the most viewed by readers on Chainstoreage.com.

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