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CRE Opinion: Keeping Up with Tomorrow’s Consumer

D Magazine
Written by: Terry Montesi

Traditional retailers and retail developers face pressure, as consumer behavior continues to evolve.

Over the past decade, there has been a seismic shift in the way Americans purchase almost everything. While e-commerce is cited by many as the primary factor in the paradigm shift in retail, it isn’t the only consideration. In short, consumer behavior is evolving. Yet, many brick-and-mortar retailers and retail places have been slow to catch up.

This year we are proud to be celebrating Trademark’s 25th anniversary. In light of this milestone, and of the rapid changes occurring in our industry, we thought it an important time to examine what the next 25 years might look like. From our own observations, and from conversations with 25 industry leaders, we’ve concluded that the rapid change of the past few years will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

E-commerce won’t kill brick-and-mortar retail, but it will continue to put pressure on the retailers and centers that refuse to evolve. Those that embrace the changing environment will find new opportunities; those who don’t evolve will become irrelevant.

Driving the future of consumer behavior are millennials and Gen Z, both of whom put more value on experiences than “stuff” and are more concerned than prior generations with ethics, durability, and sustainability. They do almost everything (Airbnb, dating, and shopping) online and lead the most connected lifestyle of any generation. Yet, the average eight hours per day spent at a screen has also caused many to crave more human interaction.

Successful retailers and retail developers will be those that respond to these generational shifts by delivering memorable experiences that connect people and build community. At the retail level, curated, artisan brands, local food and beverage operators, in-store experiences, and boutique fitness tenants all offer the authentic experiences that e-commerce cannot. Shopping centers must offer a greater mix of uses than ever before with compelling and unexpected public spaces, amenities, and programming that creates a platform for making memories and Instagram-able moments.

Victory Park is a great example of a property responding to this evolution. A curated collection of seven new local food and beverage concepts will open in the next year, as will Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas. A public art program launched this spring with a contextual sculpture by artist Nathan Mabry and will continue to roll out new sculptures, murals, and custom sculptural bike racks in the coming months. Even the streetscape, sidewalks, and storefronts have been reworked to promote walkability and add vibrancy.

In Fort Worth, Waterside includes feature-laden public spaces, nods to the site’s history, free Wi-Fi, public art that repurposes playground and amusement ride equipment original to the site, sustainability initiatives, and opportunities for customers to connect or unwind, whether or not they’re there to shop. Here, national experiential tenants like REI, Whole Foods, and Sur La Table are joined by a micro-restaurant program designed to support local entrepreneurs and create an environment akin to an outdoor food hall.

Ultimately, the bar has been raised, so retailers and retail places must cater to the emotions and the unconscious mind of tomorrow’s customer. Over the next 25 years, there will likely be fewer and smaller

stores and places, but they will be better. The most successful places will constantly evolve, with less of a focus on brands and more on community, quality, value, experience, and story.

Terry Montesi is founder and CEO of Trademark Property Co.

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