Our retail venues aren’t just for shopping. Food and beverage options, such as full service restaurants, fast casual and quick service options, specialty grocers, craft breweries, as well as snacks and drinks make up more than 13% of our portfolio and that number is growing. Lifestyle uses such as entertainment, theaters and health and wellness services including fitness centers are becoming staples at our shopping centers.
We are redefining our properties as the town centers within their communities by continuously adding uses outside of the traditional shopping center experience. In fact, nearly 70% of our centers are a hybrid format, which include both enclosed and open air components. Big box and off-price retailers want to be located at our centers. In addition, opportunities for mixed-use space, such as residential, office and medical services are plentiful across our portfolio.
Rethinking the traditional food court furthers our desire to provide interesting food and beverage alternatives for our guests. In early 2017, we formed an association with Cleveland Avenue, a food and beverage venture capital accelerator. This collaboration provides us with the opportunity to beta test new restaurant concepts in our centers and assist us in holistically rethinking the food court and its appropriate configuration.
In addition, we are bringing food and beverage options to underutilized common area space. Alternatives feature local purveyors such as craft brewers, artisanal sandwich makers and specialty bakers. In fact, our first local craft brew pub opened at Sunland Park Mall in El Paso, TX in May with our second local craft brew pub being built at Muncie Mall, located in Muncie, IN, and more planned at other centers.
Food halls and breweries are a natural fit at our town centers. But interesting food options can also be situated outside the four walls of our assets. Many of our properties have food trucks in the parking lots and even facilitate food truck festivals where shoppers can enjoy the latest concoctions of trendy local chefs.
We are excited to partner with a confectionary expert to roll out candy shops in our assets which lack such a tenant. Shelby’s Sugar Shop™ will be located in both underutilized inline space as well as common areas, and will provide malted milk balls, candy corn and of course sour lumbricidae (worms for those unfamiliar with the proper taxonomic classification).
We’re even making these shops mobile and bringing our favorite treats to the most high-traffic areas of the center. Pretty sweet! We plan to have four beta test locations in the second half of 2017.
If you’d like more information please reach out to Shelby at Shelby@washingtonprime.com.
We recognize that there exists a symbiotic relationship between physical space and Ecommerce. While the retail industry is changing, brick-and-mortar still earns 92% of all retail sales.
Plus, consider that our town centers offer lifestyle uses, community events and activities, and more. We continue to help our tenants succeed through a non-traditional landlord-tenant relationship. That may mean we find new ways to help them sell goods not only in their stores, but also online.
Even some of the largest Etailers have opened physical stores at our centers.
To better serve our customers, we have installed self-service Amazon Lockers at our assets where guests can have their packages delivered to the shopping center for convenient pick up.
We recently formed a sponsorship agreement with Coca-Cola to wrap the Lockers with promotional signage. In addition to selling sponsorship on the Lockers themselves, we also installed digital screens adjacent to them where we can display electronic coupons and promotions to drive customer traffic back into the physical shopping center.
Seperately, we are continuing to research how our town centers can serve as a last mile fulfillment for Ecommerce brands in the future.
We allow our tenants access to our entire portfolio of assets even if they only have one inline store or a small kiosk. Washington Prime Group properties serve as incubators to new and growing businesses and one way we can help them thrive is by testing new markets and new concepts.
The Virtual Store concept allows tenants to gain visibility and beta test across the entire portfoliovia truck shows, pop-up shops, vending machines and digital advertising at the physical retail centers as well as WPG-owned digital properties.
While we would love for all brands to take space in all of our assets, it isn’t going to happen. But we can provide temporary venues for these tenants which satisfy a seasonal or situational requirement. Perhaps their customers have different seasonal needs across the country. Think rain jackets in Seattle and board shorts in Tampa.
The reciprocal benefit is obvious: These temporary installations can serve as de facto events by delivering until now unavailable products to our guests. This increases the dynamism and kinetic energy which is generally lacking in physical retailing.
They also serve as beta tests where the experiment just might result in permanent leasing as concepts are validated or an internet entrepreneur cleans off her trendy eyeglasses and realizes the compelling symbiotic relationship between physical space and the internet.
Another way we’re growing businesses and converging physical and online shopping is our new concept, Tangible (patents pending). Tangible is our exclusive Ecommerce showcase which curates internet purveyors on a rotational basis allowing for a dynamic treasure hunt experience.
By bringing aspiring Ecommerce brands to the forefront of popular retail venues, we allow the public to experience a differentiated product mix in a new and vibrant manner.
The Tangible concept is as original and unique as the brands we partner with. We provide a space for brands to engage with our consumers and allow for real brand expression and authentic physical interaction. Tangible brings the dynamism back into retail by offering a space that not only acts as a delivery mechanism to sell products, but also test ideas, explore new markets and drive brand awareness.
Consumers benefit from the ability to touch and feel usually online-only products and introductions to the newest up-and-coming Ecommerce brands. The emerging Etailers earn loyal brand advocates who purchase higher ticket items more frequently, without physical store buildouts and long-term lease obligations. Tangible brands require minimal staff and inventory but offer unlimited exposure they wouldn’t otherwise see.
We plan to roll out Tangible in the second half of 2017 and if you want your brand in Tangible Market, get in touch: Tangible@washingtonprime.com.
Note: U.S. trademark applications have been filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") for the names "Washington Prime Group,""Shelby's Sugar Shop" and "Tangible." In addition, U.S. patent applications have been filed with the USPTO for the "Tangible" concept. Some images shown are renderings and do not necessarily reflect the final concept.