The Rise of the College Campus Shopping Center: The Future of Retail?

The Rise of the College Campus Shopping Center: The Future of Retail?Retail stores are finding new ways of thriving by targeting a younger crowd in unique shopping center locations. Companies like Trader Joe’s, Target, Publix, and Urban Outfitters are among those combining education with retail ‘therapy.’ Universities and college campuses are now building shopping centers on location to solve a long-plagued university system problem: not having enough places on campus for students to spend their money.

Maximizing Profitability with Mini Retail Experiences

Bigger isn’t always better. Target is proving this first-hand. In 2018, they opened 10 new small-format stores on or nearby college campuses with three more on the way in time for fall. Their plan to open small-format stores where full-size Targets won’t fit means more convenience and easier shopping experiences for students. Tim Eklund, vice president of Target’s small-format stores, told Buzzfeed, “At 12,000 to 40,000 square feet, the stores are smaller than the company’s usual ones, but their sales productivity is higher — customers are shopping more frequently with smaller basket sizes than at Target’s regular stores.”

In total, Target boasts 100 small-format stores across the country – on college campuses and in urban neighborhoods. Their plan is to add 30 more each year for the next few years.

The Rise of the College Campus Shopping Center: The Future of Retail?Catering to Student Needs for Long-Term Loyalty

Students enter a new stage in life when they venture off to college or university. Most likely for the first time in their adult lives, they’re shopping independently and making purchasing decisions about a wide variety of items, including food. It’s no surprise that each store is designed for quick and convenient trips, offering affordable products geared towards college students. Target, in particular, is strategically positioning small-format stores in college campus shopping centers for the purpose of creating lifelong customers. Mark Schindele, senior vice president, Target Properties says,

“We want to help make students’ experiences fun and easy, serve up products and services they’ll love and show them the best that Target has to offer, so they become lifelong guests.”

One campus shopping center, built in an unused parking lot at the University of Pennsylvania, offers hip apparel stores such as Lululemon and Urban Outfitters as well as restaurants catering to student needs. Known as Sansom Place, the retailers pay rent to the university with profits going back into the university’s real estate portfolio. Favorable leasing terms to new retailers allowed business to take off and new shopping experiences opened up to students. The University of Southern California is another pioneer leading the way. Their mall/dorm combo, aimed at maximizing profitability, is bringing the shopping experience to the campus location to promote a healthy educational community.

The Rise of the College Campus Shopping Center: The Future of Retail?

Getting to Know the Unique Needs of Students

College campus retailers and small-format stores have to know their guests inside out for success. Students have unique needs and thrive on convenience, especially with their busy class and study schedules. One store at the University of California Irvine location is offering convenience in the most creative way. Approximately 1,000 students, on a daily basis, cross a pedestrian bridge that starts on campus and ends only a few steps from the stores back entrance. They added four self-checkout kiosks by the doors for easy and fast checkout, allowing the students to go quickly on their way to class without waiting in line.

The Rise of the College Campus Shopping Center: The Future of Retail?While on-campus shopping centers offer many benefits for students, it also gives colleges a competitive advantage. Students have the choice to achieve higher education in a location where shopping choices are limited, or they have the opportunity to attend a university that has a vibrant retail strip that offers convenience.

On-campus shopping allows retail stores to condition students for lifelong shopping loyalty while universities and colleges are leveraging leasing and marketing opportunities to keep the university profitable.

Discover the importance of the correct shopping center location by reading our blog Retail Location Strategy: How the Latest Retail Data and Technology Pinpoints New Opportunities.