The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted consumers to want to stay away from large public spaces and favor more private settings or drive-thru lanes. Retailers are responding and pivoting their business models.
More retailers are focusing on creating convenient parcel-pickup processes. “In the interim, outdoor food trucks and pop-up stores are replacing food halls,” writes Dan Spiegel, vice president and managing director for Coldwell Banker Commercial, for Commercial Property Executive. “Development on retail outparcels for smaller-footprint buildings and more accessible drive-thru lanes will accelerate.” For example, in August, Taco Bell announced a mobile-pickup-only retail concept.
Meanwhile, empty department stores in shopping malls are becoming attractive distribution hubs. The pandemic could further accelerate the trend away from large indoor malls. Instead, these spaces could be reenvisioned. The demand for retail warehouse and distribution spaces is growing as more purchases are made online and retailers compete for same-day or next-day delivery. Also, some anchor stores may be transformed into multifamily housing to try to gain more on-site pedestrian traffic to these once lively hubs.
Restaurants are trying “ghost kitchen” concepts, where the work can be done in less expensive industrial and flex spaces. They’re increasingly offering delivery. Former restaurant spaces may lease just the large prep space without the retail customer in mind as more consumers prefer to dine in their own homes and not in the actual restaurant.
“In response to the pandemic, retailers and retail property owners are pivoting quickly to develop new space use models that will reinvigorate businesses and cash flows,” Spiegel writes. “Alternative models will force property owners to rethink the mix of tenants in their properties and strive for new types of mixed uses that maintain the buzz of an experiential space—albeit while remaining socially distant and largely outdoors.”