Mod Market – Retail Trends Drive New Solutions for Retail Vacancies

Shopping Center Business

April 8, 2020

By: Marissa Kasdan

According to Business Insider, a record 9,300 retail stores closed in 2019. As the retail landscape changes, the big-box chain stores that once anchored all retail centers are shutting their doors and leaving a vast network of oversized, vacant spaces. While some retail landlords have responded to these closures by tearing down large portions of their retail developments, redeveloping the land in new ways, this process creates unnecessary waste and requires extensive use of raw materials for the new ground-up construction. The push toward carbon neutral design and associated appeal to environmentally conscious shoppers suggests renovating these retail structures whenever possible. Designers at KTGY Architecture + Planning track retail trends to inform the guiding principles that will create maximum benefit from these now vacant spaces.

As retail models shift away from large chains, requiring expansive, generic footprints, in favor of small-format and ever-changing one-off businesses, the types of spaces in high demand similarly shift. Frequent change of retailers can lead to increased foot traffic, but it also creates new challenges for retail landlords to carefully balance and schedule tenant improvement time between leases, to minimize vacant storefronts. In consideration of these conditions, the vacant big-box spaces once designed to house a national chain through a long-term lease must be reconfigured to encourage flexibility, experiential retail, and creation of a sense of place.

KTGY’s R+D Studio took inspiration from these trends to develop Mod Market, a design concept for renovating vacant big-box retail spaces to support short-term and small-format retailers using modular retail components. The Mod Market concept minimizes on-site build-out time and provides flexibility to retailers. Small businesses can assess new markets with reduced financial risk and independent online retailers can explore growth opportunities with small, physical stores. Purpose-built retail modules are individually designed to meet the unique needs of each retailer and are constructed off-site to reduce the typical tenant improvement timeline.

Beginning with a vacant, in-line big-box space, the Mod Market concept incorporates a raised gravity roller conveyor system to receive modular retail components through large, roll-up garage doors lining the rear loading zone. Flatbed trucks deliver the retail modules to the site, aligning with the height of the gravity roller conveyor system. Modular walkway components can shift to adapt to a variety of store configurations. A typical 35-foot column grid accommodates four 8-foot-4-inch-by-40-foot modules, allowing a range of store sizes, filling one to four modules each. Fixed elements, such as restrooms, storage areas, accessible ramps, and walkways remain in place throughout the conversion to new shops. Stepped seating and an accessible ramp move customers into the space and up to the raised modular shops, providing gathering zones and special event spaces.

Business owners can pursue opportunities for increased exposure by relocating their retail modules from the Mod Market infrastructure to another similarly designed infrastructure, creating growth opportunities for businesses without requiring replication of the tenant improvement process. Fixed components remain in place, minimizing disruption to shoppers while providing an ever-changing variety of retail choices.

Marissa Kasdan is director, design for KTGY Architecture + Planning’s R+D Studio.