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Evolution of Open-Air Shopping Centers: From Selling Products to Experiences

Collage including two girls doing ballet, a dog getting a bath, and a tailor looking at clothes with a customer

By Chris Ressa, CLS, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer

It is no secret that shifting consumer demands and shopping patterns are jump-starting massive transformation in shopping centers. Such retail evolution has reshaped the role open-air shopping centers play in consumers’ lives. In the past, most people went to shopping centers to purchase necessity goods and tangible wants. People nowadays go to shopping centers for more than traditional products. They go to a fitness center; take their pets to a veterinary clinic; go to urgent cares; or get their nails done. All these activities can be done in a single visit to a shopping center. In an evolving fast-paced world, this is becoming the essence of convenience.

As such, the tenant mix at our shopping centers has been expanding and reshaping itself to draw traffic to the neighborhoods we serve. No better example illustrates how retail landlords can capitalize on the changing retail world than our own Sprayberry Square in Marietta, GA.

Sprayberry Square is a 128,000 sq.ft. retail property with 26 different spaces. What sets it apart from other shopping centers is that only 16.62% of its gross lease area is occupied by pure-play, traditional retailers. They are Dollar Tree, USA Party, The EMS Superstore, Your CBD Store and Nutrition Source.

The other spaces are occupied by special services and experiential retailing such as food & beverage, healthcare, insurance, pet spa, and beauty services. For instance, LA Fitness, Academy of Ballet Arts, H&R Block, and The Dirty Paw Dog Spa all call Sprayberry Square home. One of the ways to stay focused on bringing a diverse and dynamic tenant mix is to try to capitalize on emerging trends. One example at Sprayberry Square is Your CBD Store. We’re very excited to see how this latest personal care brand is going to operate and engage with consumers in an open-air retail environment.

The tenant mix at our shopping centers has been expanding and reshaping itself to draw traffic to the neighborhoods we serve.

According to JLL Research, the number of fitness centers grew 24 % between 2010 and 2019, to roughly 111,000. This number is expected to increase 9 % by 2024. We’ve also brought in a great number of leading fitness centers including LA Fitness, Anytime Fitness, and OrangeTheory Fitness to DLC’s shopping centers. Our partnership with these brands and other wellness providers continues to grow to this day.

The evolving tenant mix at Sprayberry Square is a testament to how open-air shopping centers have become an essential part of people’s lifestyles. Our shopping centers are more than a transactional place. People exercise to practice a healthy lifestyle, make sure their pets get vaccinated or start an exciting hobby such as taking dance classes. Our centers are where people come to make changes for a better life.

Contrary to the news headlines highlighting the retail apocalypse, open-air shopping centers that offer a mix of convenience, value, and experience are thriving. The resilience of the open-air shopping center and its ability to pivot in times of disruption are what make it a truly exciting asset class for the future.

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