Newspaper article MinnPost.com

As Enclosed Malls Decline, 'Lifestyle Centers' Proliferate

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

As Enclosed Malls Decline, 'Lifestyle Centers' Proliferate

Article excerpt

Get ready for changes in the local shopping scene.

Trends here have matched retail shifts across the country for the past decade: the proliferation of "lifestyle centers"--those pedestrian-friendly shopping areas meant to resemble hometown Main Streets--the decline of traditional enclosed malls and the exodus of stores from downtowns.

The behemoth Mall of America, the state's top tourist and retail attraction with 40 million visitors a year, plays by a different set of rules--as its staying power and ambitious expansion plans demonstrate.

The rest of the retail landscape, here and nationally, is being reshaped as consumer confidence grows and shoppers' preferences shift.

The index of consumer confidence rose to 81.5 in August, up from 81 in July. June's reading, 82.1, was the highest since January 2008.

Shoppers who are more willing now to part with their money can expect broad changes in the retail landscape, according to industry experts.

Among them: efforts to "reposition" regional malls to make them more welcoming and add attractions such as high-end restaurants and health clubs; tinkering with the lifestyle center format, including the addition of big "anchor" tenants and grocery stores; an end to fears that online shopping would be the death knell for many traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

Changes in metro area

There's evidence that those changes are afoot here. A Whole Foods grocery store opened in July near Maple Grove's lifestyle centers.

"I don't think the physical store format will ever completely disappear," says Denise Ogden, an associate professor of marketing at Penn State-Leigh Valley who recently rewrote a textbook on retailing.

Fastest-growing U.S. retailers

Based on domestic sales increases, 2011-2012

1. Bi-Lo grocery chain

2. Michael Kors

3. Sprouts Farmers Market

4. Lululemon Athletica

5. Apple Stores/iTunes

6. Under Armour

7. Amazon.com

8. H&M

9. Helzberg's Diamond Shops

10. The Fresh Market

Source: National Retail Federation

"E-commerce is growing at a faster rate than physical retail real estate," she says, "but people still like the experience of going into a store."

It's the sort of shopping experience they're seeking that is changing. We found a difference of opinion about the future of lifestyle centers, which have been developers' go-to format for more than a decade.

"We're not seeing a lot of them anymore," says Brian Arial, a principal at DLR Group, a planning, architecture and engineering company that's working on the Mall of America expansion and changes to Minnetonka's Ridgedale Center.

Brandon Norrell, senior vice president of business development at Buxton, a customer analytics company based in Fort Worth, Texas, that advises retailers on locations and customer bases, says he's not seeing a "major downturn" in lifestyle centers. …

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