REAL ESTATE

WeWork debuts retail format

BY Marianne Wilson

Office-sharing giant WeWork is expanding into retail—and it has a built-in audience.

The fast-growing co-working company, which is also moving into co-living, has launched a retail concept, called WeMrkt, with the first one at a WeWork location in downtown Manhattan. The small shop sells a curated selection of merchandise, from healthy snacks to office supplies to apparel, exclusively to the company’s members. The products are made by member companies.

WeWork plans to open additional WeMrkt stores in more locations in New York, and then expand it nationwide.

WeWork chief brand officer Julie Rice said that WeMrkt is “by our members, for our members.”

“WeMrkt is a great example of WeWork’s commitment to our members’ success,” she said.

WeWork has a network of 260 facilities across the globe. In October 2017, it purchased the Lord & Taylor flagship store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, with plans to convert it into its corporate headquarters.

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Fast-casual juice-bar chain continues aggressive expansion

BY Marianne Wilson

Smoothie King shows no signs of losing its momentum.

The company, which operates nearly 1,000 locations worldwide, has inked a deal with a franchise partner that will bring the brand into new markets. John Clancy and his team at Smoothie King Midwest signed an agreement to develop 60 locations in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and central Florida, starting in Indianapolis and Palm Beach County, Florida.

Clancy, a longtime Planet Fitness franchisee with a strong background in real estate and finance, has an aggressive growth plan for the brand. He and a partner opened three Smoothie King locations in Connecticut, New York and Florida in the past year under a separate development agreement.

In addition to its signature blended juice beverages, Smoothie King also sells sports beverages, energy bars, vitamins, supplements and more. The fastest-growing chain in its category, the company expects to open 150 new locations in 2018, the most it has ever opened in the U.S. in a single year.

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Population growth in cities equals suburbs for first time in decades

BY Al Urbanski

The migration of population from suburbs to urban areas may be progressing more quickly than imagined.

According a report released by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and RCLCO real estate advisers, population growth in urban areas is tracking alongside suburban growth for the first time in decades.

Between 2010 and 2015, population in urban neighborhoods increased 3.4%, compared to 3.7% in the suburbs. This contrasts sharply to the period from 2000 to 2015 when urban population grew just 1% versus 13% in suburbs.

More than 29 million Americans now live in city neighborhoods, placing 17% of the United States population in just 1% of the land area in the 50 largest MSAs. Young people are leading the charge. Almost one-third of urban households are headed by person under 35 compared to only 17% of households in the suburbs.

Cities are increasingly where the jobs are. Urban areas accounted for 30% of existing jobs and 36% of new job grow the between 2005 and 2015, according to research by ULI, a nonprofit research institute funded by 40,000-plus members of the real estate community.

Chicago is a case in point. Walgreens recently announced it would relocate 1,300 jobs to The Old Post Office building in downtown Chicago from its headquarters in Deerfield, Ill. Google has its Chicago HQ in the West Loop, and McDonald’s just opened its new headquarters there after 47 years in Oak Brook.

A corresponding increase in downtown retail centers is not likely to be as dramatic, according to Paul Bryant, director of the urban team at Mid-America Real Estate.

“There’s certainly a shift [to urban areas] from a commercial standpoint. Five years ago in the West Loop, you didn’t see an Anthropologie or a Free People,” Bryant said.

“But are you going to see a Tom Ford or a Dolce & Gabbana?” Ford posed. “Probably not. What you’ll see are affordable luxury brands.”

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