As chaotic as retailing is, there are always certain principles that exist. One is that for every force pushing in one direction, you can count on a push-back from the opposite direction. We’ve seen the rush to big box that started in the ‘90s is now residing. Its competitive strength is usurped by the endless aisle assortments and services offered by e-commerce, e.g., from specialist like Well.ca to generalists like Amazon.

On my annual Christmas trip to New York, it was interesting to see the miniaturization of retail around Manhattan. Of course, this is in large part forced by the real estate economics of doing business there. But it also has an interesting side benefit of creating a small store that is (more) interesting because of the intensified in-store visual presentation. Every inch is merchandised and peripheral product offering are eliminated.

For the shopper, this is a real benefit. One can understand the store’s concept immediately, assess the assortment offerings, and buy/not buy and move on.

A great location to explore miniaturized retailing is the lower level terminals of Grand Central Terminal, which are loaded with the great food hall vendors and kiosk stalls.

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Intense space; great packaging

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You know right away what their business is

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One idea; one-concept shops

Kiosks:

The kiosk program is operated with discipline with new ideas.

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At the southern end of Manhattan, the jaw-dropping Oculus uses miniaturization to add variety to an otherwise traditional tenant mix.

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Over 100 beer labels are in this store that is no wider than 10 feet.

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A large concept is cut in half.

The Oculus space if “filled” with seasonal kiosks.

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Whether for malls or retailers, the idea of thinking small can add up to a big idea. For the cart and kiosk pioneer—The Rouse Company—it was a source of new, longer term tenants and several million dollars rent revenue.

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