In past decades, shopping centers and major malls often featured one or more anchor stores – a widely popular store in a huge retail space responsible for driving much of the location’s foot traffic. Anchor stores were once a staple of the mall and included stores such as Sears, J.C. Penney and Macy’s. Over the years, however, the role of these anchor stores has changed.
With stores like Toys R Us and Bon-Ton now bankrupt, and other major anchors such as Macy’s and J.C. Penney closing locations, new types of anchor stores are filling these vacancies and driving foot traffic during a critical time for shopping centers and major malls. With large amounts of empty space to fill, these new anchor stores differ greatly from the old and are more attuned to shifting consumer demands.
Emerging Types of Shopping Center and Major Mall Anchor Stores
Historically, anchor stores were intended to be the primary draw to the center. As time passed and the retail sector changed, many other reasons have arisen for shoppers to visit a mall or shopping center. This has left a difficult situation for landlords when big anchors “go dark.” The hope to re-lease this same large space has become more challenging, and some anchor stores and big box tenants are reducing footprints or limiting expansion plans, which in some instances may not be the best re-use of the space. But today, however, landlords are much more willing to reconfigure anchor space or lease the existing space to a less traditional type of anchor store.
New types of anchor stores are helping shopping centers and major malls fight declining sales. While traditional anchor stores are still opening up locations, often with smaller footprints or arranged for better shipping and receiving of items, newer anchor store types are typically experiential, practical and closely aligned with what today’s consumers want. Experiential retail, retailtainment and other prominent retail trends are impacting the way landlords lease to anchor stores. There are many kinds of retailers leasing empty anchor space. Here are four examples of the new types of anchor stores emerging across the country.
Cinemas are a new, effective type of anchor within shopping centers and major malls. While they attract visitors for a different reason than older anchor stores, they contribute to longer durations of time spent at the shopping center while helping fulfill the growing demand for experiential retail.
Cinemas present many opportunities to attract new visitors, especially when luxury seating and fine dining options are made available to improve upon the typical cinema experience. Attracting a larger audience, especially an audience in search of a luxury experience, can make a big difference in terms of overall retail sales for a shopping center or major mall.
Restaurants have also begun serving as shopping center and major mall anchors. In the past, restaurants weren’t a desirable tenant for major mall and shopping center landlords. Now, their outlook has changed completely. Fine dining experiences give consumers an entirely new reason to make the journey to their local mall or shopping center.
In today’s shopping centers, popular restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory draw in just as many customers as traditional anchor stores once did but offer a more unique experience and a more e-commerce-resistant way of attracting foot traffic. According to the CBRE Group, restaurants now occupy anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of a shopping center’s gross leasable area (GLA) – up significantly from 10 or 15 percent just a decade ago.
Office Space Anchors
A brand-new trend in retail has been the increasing occurrence of companies repurposing vacant anchor store spaces as office spaces. Employees, especially millennials, enjoy the convenience and experience of having their favorite stores and food destinations right outside their office.
While office spaces may not attract foot traffic like other new types of anchors, employees are highly likely to become frequent purchasers. Businesses are eager to lease office space at shopping centers and major malls because their employees value these locations. This trend is only just picking up and is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
Offering a unique, unmatched customer experience has been the key to success for shopping centers and major malls as they combat falling foot traffic and growing e-commerce sales. This has led directly to the increase of entertainment focused anchors, which come in a variety of different forms.
For example, Main Event Entertainment or Dave & Busters, both of which offer arcade games and karaoke, are popular entertainment anchors in today’s shopping centers and major malls. Other entertainment venues like indoor go-kart tracks, trampoline parks, and live theatre/comedy clubs have proven to be an effect entertainment anchor. Like many of the other new anchor stores, entertainment anchors are a new way of attracting foot traffic.
New Anchor Stores Reveal a Shift in Why Consumers Visit Shopping Centers and Major Malls
Cinemas, restaurants, office spaces and entertainment centers all have one thing in common: they attract people to major malls and shopping centers for reasons other than simply buying a typical retail item. Each one of these new anchor stores provides an entirely new type of experience for shoppers when compared to older anchor stores.
This is an important trend in the revival of physical retail spaces across the U.S. and Canada. When providing an unforgettable shopping experience, consumers enjoy something that can’t be replicated in online channels. A fun, exciting and enjoyable experience is what consumers now expect when they visit a physical retail space.
As consumer demands change and the retail industry itself undergoes change, shopping centers and major malls will continue to change the types of anchor stores that bring in the majority of foot traffic.
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