Evolution of the Mall: Opportunities in Market Squares

When planning your community it might be a good idea to consider featuring a “market square” community shopping center, especially if your community isn’t within a convenient walking distance to a larger shopping center. IKO Community Management wants to introduce you to the idea of the market square, a feature that is already popping up in new communities throughout the area.

There’s a revolution coming our way. The shopping mall is becoming less and less popular with consumers, and community malls are losing renters left and right. Big box stores are struggling, and anchor stores like Sears and JC Penny are still trying to define themselves post recession. Millennials don’t shop like boomers, and retailers are seeking ways to draw their business.

A trend that’s been developing in recent years is an evolution of community shopping centers. A community center (or large neighborhood center) has a trade area size of 3-6 miles and has traditionally been oriented as a strip mall. Traditionally, these strip malls only attracted nearby customers and their attraction was mainly convenience. Unfortunately, there is a developing negative perception of the strip malls, many of which now sit abandoned and are eyesores in older communities.

The community shopping center has started to take the shape of a market square in the center of a residential community rather than a straight line of shops on the side of the highway within driving distance of multiple communities. These shopping centers still attract traffic from outside the community, due to the attraction of individual stores or dinning establishments. The market square layout encourages shoppers to stop at multiple stores, or plan a meal with a shopping trip, rather than a quick stop at one store in a strip mall or spending hours in the traditional shopping mall. This layout is a good option for a middle ground, when your are doesn’t have the demand for a large shopping may but wants something with a better connotation than the strip mall.

These community centers are highly customizable, and can feature a variety of retailers and/or dining options. Some renters that you (or the market’s property management company) should be trying to attract can include:

  • Made to order restaurants, like Chipotle, 5 Guys and/or Firehouse Subs. These restaurants are still “fast food” options, but they encourage people to eat at the restaurant, rather than carrying out.
  • Organic or other specialty grocery stores, such as Trader Joes or Whole Foods. These stores aren’t as large as Wegmans or Giants,but they will bring in consumers due to their specialties.
  • Clothing and apparel stores. These will very depending on the demographics of your area. Whether it’s a mixture of children’s stores and women’s apparel, or adult targeted stores for both men and women, or outdoor outfitters such as Eddie Bauer, there are so many possibilities! You will need to research your community’s price points and demands for all the stores, but especially for clothing and accessory retailers.
  • Pet stores. Everyone loves pets! Small, locally owned stores for pet supplies may be your best option. Petco and Petsmart stores will most likely be too large for your market square.

A good thing to keep in mind when planning your market square is to avoid stores that make your community shopping area seem too “commercial.” Millennials and members of Generation Y like to feel like their purchases are going to support a company with a face and story, rather than a huge corporation. You want to give your market a true market feel. Differentiation is a good thing, and having the right shops will attract traffic to your community. This traffic may translate into prospective buyers of units in your community! A market square in your community also presents an opportunity for festivals, farmers markets and musical performances at different times throughout the year.

From all of us at IKO Community Management, happy planning! Times and trends are changing, and now is the time to make changes!

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