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Dec 21st 2015

Retail Development and Design Evolves for Tenants

For years, engineers have experienced the combination of restaurants and retail space in the same center. Though, increasing complexities such as fire protection, lighting, mechanical and electrical engineering occur as a wider variety of tenants are combining into the same buildings. Modern retail development and design for storefronts requires engineered systems that accommodate highly variable conditions of occupancy and are highly efficient and cost-effective.

A big driver of this retail center evolution is the continuing rise of e-commerce – tenants can’t hide from the power of the internet; brick and mortar occupants have to change with the times. Online sales are becoming more popular; for example, during the 2013 holiday shopping season, U.S. retailers received approximately half the holiday foot traffic they experienced just three years ago, according to ShopperTrak which uses a network of 60,000 shopper-counting devices to track visits at malls and large retailers across the country.

Big-box stores experiencing pressure from the internet are changing the face of the neighborhood retail center. Shopping centers have proven themselves to be resilient through the years and have adjusted as necessary by emphasizing other businesses to make shopping more of a fun experience-based retail environment and as a place where they can get more done at once.

  • Food- Businesses such as restaurants, food courts and supermarkets or specialty stores like Whole Foods add a level of convenience for the consumer. And since consumers are attracted to convenience (and food), retailers such as drugstores and the big discount stores including Walmart and Target – have added food options to stay competitive. Restaurants and specialty grocery stores account for many of the new tenants in shopping centers.
  • Services- Becoming an everyday stop also means adding more services like pharmacies, health clubs, blow-dry bars and banks so time-crunched consumers can accomplish several errands in one stop. The accessibility of getting in a workout, getting your hair done or relaxing for a massage at the same time can draw consumers in the door. Medical clinics, dentists and pharmacies have also become growing segments to fill the vacant spaces.
  • Entertainment- Where the only entertainment at malls used to be in the arcade and the movie theaters, the savvy mall operators are engaging in heavy retail development investments to bring in more businesses, programs and events to entertain shoppers throughout the week. Fashion shows, bowling, laser tag, comedy clubs all play to a retail center’s offerings.

This continuous change emphasizes the role engineers have in evolving the current spaces for the new and ever-changing tenants. They are using this strategy of retail development and space engineering evolution to compete for their business and stimulate transformational change. Mixed Use and Retail Centers challenge the Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, and Fire Protection Engineers to design services and systems that are flexible and expandable in order to accommodate the evolution of tenants over time. All while respecting the first cost impact, need for low maintenance installations and speed to market. A key element to our success at KMB is the thoroughness of our programming and research with which our team approaches each and every project. KMB has extensive experience working with retail centers across the nation.