Guest Column

Retail is doing what it does: entering a new cycle

July 21, 2017
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A spate of retail closures all over West Michigan has left gaping holes of empty space where active storefronts once thrived.

Sears. Kmart. MC Sports. Family Christian Stores. All shuttered.

Is it concerning? Certainly.

Is Woodland Mall alarmed? No.

Retail is like a tree — constantly self-pruning some branches and always putting out new growth, yet anchored by deep roots that keep the entire structure healthy and growing. Some brands are falling out of favor with consumers or are experiencing a siphoning of business to e-commerce channels, while others are enjoying tremendous growth and discovery by a new generation of customers.

What you may see is a surge of closures, but look no further than Woodland Mall to see the expansion side of this retail cycle in action.

Apple expanded in April, on the heels of American Eagle’s growth into more space last fall. Coming this summer, J.Jill and LUSH are expanding their storefronts at Woodland in response to strong consumer demand. Francesca’s and Premier Dead Sea are investing in remodels. My company, PREIT, which owns Woodland Mall, is in talks with several other rising brands that are looking for more space within the mall, as well.

Upscale department store Von Maur, which has been looking to enter the Grand Rapids market for years, will take more than 90,000 square feet of the space formerly occupied by Sears. We also are ready to welcome other new retail and restaurant brands that will breathe new life into an expanded wing of the mall.

Beyond the stores themselves, Woodland Mall also is beginning a multimillion-dollar, two-year refresh with more to discover, including amenities, more first-to-market retail and new restaurants.

One notable characteristic of this retail cycle is the surge of online sales and two-day or even same-day delivery of millions of products. While e-commerce continues to grow at a much faster pace than traditional retail, it’s important to remember online purchases still only account for about 10 percent of total retail sales. That other 90 percent is happening at places such as Woodland Mall, whose brick-and-mortar stores are working with their e-commerce side to evolve in this new retail cycle. Ship-to-store options or order in store and ship to home are examples of that teamwork.

It’s important to know those transactions involving brick-and-mortar stores still benefit the local store by increasing that store’s sales figures, which creates greater job security for local employees while helping ensure the long-term success of that brand. Tax collections also boost the West Michigan economy and cycle more dollars to other local businesses.

E-commerce also is driving greater innovation across the retail sector. Inventories are better managed. Selections are better matched to fickle consumer preferences. Faster shipping options abound. Prices are more competitive. Consumers are more knowledgeable about products and willing to shop around.

This confluence of trends makes for an exciting new retail cycle in which Woodland Mall is a key player.

And while we can’t say with certainty what new trends will appear in 2018 and beyond, we are certain you’ll be able to find them at a newly invigorated Woodland Mall.

Tony DeLuccia is general manager of Woodland Mall.

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