Solving Cities

A lesson for big-box stores moving to the city

Posting in Cities

Retailers like Walmart and Target will have to become more original to compete in the city.

A contingent of retailers that you expect to see in a suburban strip mall are now going urban. The latest being Target, I reported last week.

New York Times has a trend piece on traditional big-box retailers, like Walmart and Target, making the move to downtown. They're revamping their stores to fit the needs of customers arriving on two feet rather than four wheels (i.e. fewer bulk and heavy items). But the biggest takeaway from the piece is this lesson for retailers making the move to the city, from Joseph Magnacca, president of daily living products and solutions at Walgreen.

Over all, Mr. Magnacca said, the only standard element of running city retail is that nothing is standard.“No footprint is exactly the same and no product mix is exactly the same,” he said. “There is no one best solution.”

Originality isn't something these retailers are used to. They've built their success on look-alike stores on cheap land in the suburbs. But now that market is oversaturated and they're looking to the city for growth. But in the city they won't be able to fill their stores with limitless supplies of goods. They'll have to be strategic and differentiate goods based on the neighborhood. Their stores will have more original looks from store to store. And more stores will be built in existing buildings (a more expensive process). We'll see if these big-box retailers can break out of the mold (of their own creation). They'll have to in order to compete in the city.

Retailers’ Idea: Think Smaller in Urban Push [New York Times]

Image: A rendering of a proposed Walmart store in Washington, D.C.

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure