by Sadia Badhon
The retail industry has always evolved alongside shifting consumer preferences, but the convenience of online shopping combined with effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented challenges, leading to high store vacancy rates and declining foot traffic.
To stay profitable and relevant amidst these changing trends, forward-thinking retail developers are looking beyond the traditional strip mall and department store models of the past when considering development projects for the future.
Many believe a solution lies in a trendy new niche of commercial communities, designed to offer meaningful shopping experiences that e-commerce simply cannot. These expansive outdoor markets boast an array of artisan goods in campus-like settings that draw people out of their homes and into unique community spaces.
These commercial communities, such as the Barlow, a 5-ha (12-acre) trendy outdoor marketplace in Sebastopol, California, appear poised to usher in a new era that could redefine and revitalize the modern shopping experience at a time when the industry is at an inflection point—and developers are increasingly relying on metal building systems as the method of construction to make these hip, high-end spaces a reality.
In an exclusive interview with the Construction Specifier, Tony Bouquot, general manager of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA), explains why this is happening and why the concept typically involves the use of metal building systems to essentially create a campus-like retail experience.
Most brick-and-mortar businesses have a hard time competing with the convenience of online shopping. How can forward-thinking facility designs help retailers stay profitable and relevant?
Bouquot: The retail industry naturally evolves in response to shifting consumer preferences. Today, the prevalence of online shopping has resulted in unprecedented challenges for traditional retailers, leading to high store vacancy rates and declining foot traffic. To stay profitable and relevant despite changing trends, some retail developers are opting to set up shop in commercial communities that are designed to offer an array of retail experiences, combined with music, meals, entertainment, and wide-open spaces.