LAS VEGAS - Ears peeled and eyes open, I logged 40,000 steps on my Fitbit this week at the International Council of Shopping Centers RECon 2016 event in Las Vegas, looking for retail concepts that are not yet in Cincinnati but should be.
Or, at least they could be, based on feedback from brokers, developers and the retailers themselves. Some of the names below are actively looking at Cincinnati. Others were identified by experts as good fits for the Cincinnati market. We won't be getting a Bloomingdale's any time soon, but Amazon seems to like us for new-business pilots.
So, here's a list of retail concepts that could find their way to a shopping center near you:
Primark is a super-discount apparel store from Ireland that is “working its way west from the Eastern seaboard,” said Garrick Brown, a San Francisco-based vice president for retail research at Cushman & Wakefield. Primark is leasing big chunks of space in closed Sears stores and selling $3 T-Shirts and $7 jeans. “It’s all about their distribution chain,” Brown said. “But literally their pricing, they make Marshall’s look like Bergdorf Goodman.”
Backstage is the discount banner that Macy’s Inc. is testing at 13 locations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. “If this strategy works, we could roll it out to approximately 250 to 300 of our Macy's stores,” Hoguet recently told Wall Street analysts. Backstage is not a clearance strategy for unloading unsold department store inventory. Instead, Hoguet said it offers “current season goods at a discounted price.” At Macy’s annual meeting May 20, Hoguet said it “won’t be that long” before Backstage comes to Cincinnati. When it does, CEO Terry Lundgren said it will likely open as a store within a store at Macy’s. “It’s just easier inside of a store because we own the real estate,” he said.
Main & Vine is the urban-format pilot that Kroger opened across the street from its own Fred Meyer store in Gig Harbor, Wash. “It re-imagines the modern grocery shopping experience,” Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen told analysts in March, “placing in the middle of the store fresh produce and bulk items along with an event center where shoppers can enjoy cooking demonstrations, food and beverage tastings and find a new recipe idea for dinner tonight.” WCPO asked Kroger’s top real estate official when Main & Vine will find its way to Cincinnati. “Customer response to the new format has been very positive, but it is too soon to say when or if we’ll expand the concept,” said Nick Hodge, vice president for corporate real estate at Kroger.
Ruler Foods is another Kroger pilot test, but this discount grocery chain is further along in its rollout. Hodge said ten new stores are planned this year, bringing the banner’s total to 50. Hodge wouldn’t say when or if the concept will come to Cincinnati. “Right now, it’s an R&D project for us,” he said “We’re learning a lot. There’s no real target. We like what we see and feel like we now have a critical mass of stores that’ll help us understand what works and what doesn’t.”
Amazon Books is the newest retail experiment from the e-commerce giant. At this point, it has one store in Seattle and CEO Jeff Bezos won’t confirm plans beyond that. The CEO of mall developer, General Growth Properties, told investors in February that Amazon may open more than 300 book stores. Cincinnati-based Phillips Edison & Co. would be happy to land Amazon Books in some of its 320 grocery-anchored retail centers nationwide. “You’re generating traffic,” said Mark Addy, co-president of two real estate investment trusts managed by Phillips Edison. He thinks Amazon will use the stores for package deliveries, product returns and sales and service of Kindles and other Amazon products. “We know the millennial generation represents one of the best opportunities in terms of dollars to spend. So, we’re always looking at ways to capture those dollars.”
Bonobos is one of several online retailers experimenting with brick-and-mortar locations that target hipster neighborhoods and offer experiences instead of inventory, said Terry Ohnmeis, a Cushman & Wakefield retail associate in Cincinnati. “You go in for a fitting, sit in a leather chair, have a glass of bourbon,” he said. “Whatever you buy gets delivered to your house the next day.” Now in 30 cities, Bonobos is adding 30 stores a year, so they could arrive in Cincinnati before too long.
Marine Layer is another e-commerce brand looking for hip, urban locations where it can showcase its “absurdly soft clothes” and rent out an Airbnb room above the store. One of its Marine Layer Lofts in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood is described as “a Mad Men styled apartment.” Ohnmeis said Over-the-Rhine and Downtown would work for e-tailers, but “there still need to be more warm bodies” before Cincinnati attracts such investments. “We’re going to be a laggard city,” he said. “They’ll to Chicago first. They’ll hit Nashville before us.”
HopCat is a brewpub concept founded in 2007 by Mark Sellers, a former Chicago-based hedge fund manager whose bar-tap mantra is “all craft, no crap.” Plans call for 30 locations in the Midwest. It already has 11 sites, including Indianapolis, Louisville and Lexington. It’s been looking at Cincinnati for more than a year and has a strong relationship with MadTree Brewing in Oakley, said Chris Knape, vice president of marketing for Barfly Ventures, LLC, HopCat’s parent company. “It’s really about finding the right location,” Knape said. “We don’t build cookie cutter locations. All of them are individually designed (with the goal of) serving as a hub for the local craft beer scene.”
Giordano’s – We all know it’s coming. We just don’t know where or when. The Chicago-based dean of deep-dish pizza revealed last summer that it wants to open at least two stores Cincinnati, but its site search hasn’t advanced to the point where anyone involved is willing to comment. At last report, the company’s first choice was a site in the Northeast corridor, but options in Kenwood, Liberty Township and Downtown were also being considered.