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Experiential Retail, Food Halls Among Top Retail Shopping Center Trends

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Phillips Edison & Co., a real estate firm with a national platform of grocery-anchored shopping centers, has released its industry insights on trending themes as part of the International Council of Shopping Center’s ReCon event in Las Vegas.

The insights were produced by the company’s emerging trends team led by Mike Conway, VP of national accounts and retailer partnerships for Phillips Edison.

As the retail industry continues to evolve to meet changing consumer preferences, Conway and his team say they believe there is tremendous opportunity for innovative retailers to present their brands in more immersive and experiential ways.

“While we’ve seen hyperbolic headlines the last few years surrounding the state of retail and the role e-commerce is playing in it, those of us operating in this space know that e-commerce has actually led to exciting and innovative developments in brick-and-mortar retail formats,” said Conway. “The retail industry has shown true resilience in the face of disruption as brands have gone back to the drawing board to reimagine the entire physical retail model, and some amazing creative concepts have taken shape as a result.”

The emerging trends team has identified a number of retail concepts that are breaking out this year. The most promising and significant developments of note include:

Experiential retail

Consumers increasingly are looking for unique and exciting experiences to draw them offline and into stores, and a number of retailers are responding to these changing mindsets by implementing interactive elements in their locations. Saks Fifth Avenue’s Wellery incorporates salt rooms, a nail studio and a gym; Williams-Sonoma offers cooking classes; grocers have introduced wine tastings and nutrition coaching; and Nordstrom has launched a concept featuring beauty services, style advice and a bar.

Pop-up shops

Retailers are taking advantage of the pop-up shop movement to generate brand exposure, test new products and concepts and create positive engagements with consumers. Recognizable brands utilizing pop-ups include Adidas, Amazon, M&Ms and Nordstrom. Retail landlords also are embracing the trend with dedicated programs and physical areas in their centers devoted exclusively to temporary concepts.

Food halls

Communal dining is not a fleeting trend; it’s here to stay. There were approximately 110 food halls operating in 2015, and experts conservatively predict the total number will climb to 300 by 2020. As digital integration continues to permeate American society, these establishments will continue to find ways to give consumers unique real-life interactions while offering entrepreneurs relatively low barriers to entry. Expect to see growth in the “micro food hall” concept, with footprints in the range of 2,500 s.f. that allow customers to order from various concepts with one shared kitchen.

Fast-casual dining

By 2025, food and beverage retailers are expected to dominate 20 percent of total space in American and Canadian retail properties. Recognizing this trend, many property owners are starting to hire dedicated executives to seek out the top emerging food concepts as this category takes larger shares of their portfolios. Today’s consumer craves expedience and quality, and fast-casual concepts like CoreLife Eatery, Cava and Modern Market have become the most sought-after operators in the changing restaurant landscape.


Combining e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail, showrooms have become a powerful way for brands to create meaningful interactions with consumers. While retailers seek to meet consumers’ demands for convenience, they also recognize the power that real-life contact with staff and products can have in generating a positive, long-lasting relationship. As such, brands including Warby Parker and Bonobos have taken the lead in this area, opening physical stores where the customers can “try before they buy,” but must order merchandise for delivery to their doors rather than carry it out.

“Much has been made of the need for brick-and-mortar retail to adapt to e-commerce, but we’ve also seen a shift in the other direction with a number of e-retailers opening brick-and-mortar showrooms to complement online offerings,” added Conway. “Overall, we’re confident that the future for retail is bright, and we can’t wait to see how these trends continue to unfold.”

Keep reading:

The Five Fastest Growing Shifts In Food And Beverage, According To JLL

Neil Stern: Create Your Own Story To Remain Relevant

NPD: Gen Zs Are Discerning Shoppers With An Eye For ‘Real’ Foods

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Featured Photo PLMA Annual Private Label Trade Show
Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
Chicago, Illinois
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