Lifestyle Centers vs Historic Street Fronts

Cities are filled with paradoxes, especially when it comes to consumer behaviour.

What’s intruiging me from recent research I’ve done is that simultaneous with the massive roll out of superstores or hypermarkets in Canada (Wal-Mart Supercentres and Real Canadian Super Stores) — that offer everything from groceries to shoes to ipods under one banner — has been an equal interest from consumers and retail developers alike in a return to multi-vendor, street front retail.

Street front retail’s popularity is coming in two forms, which we might call the original, organic variety and the manufactured version. The first type is the revitalization of historic retail streetscapes. These pedestrian oriented promenades offer a variety of shops from food to fashion to furniture boutiques and artist studios, depending upon the neighbourhood. In Vancouver, a variety of coffee bars is always required on any busy retail street. Prime retail shopping streets around North America are fetching stratospheric rental rates.

The manufactured variety are being touted by developers as Lifestyle Centres. These new suburban developments try to re-create the pedestrian oriented streetscape in a mall surrounded by parking lots and often containing a couple of big box pads as well. These also offer a variety of shops from separate vendors, and typically including coffee houses too.

The renewed consumer interest in streetfronts, whether manufactured or organic in many ways seems like the anti-superstore approach. However, I suspect that many shoppers of street fronts also visit the superstores.

So, there is the paradox. Consumers are embracing the new discount superstore carrying everything simultaneous with the often more pricey but service oriented and unique experience of the streetfront.

Perhaps the two mutually re-inforce each other?

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