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From the Editor: Think Local, Act Local


Connecting communities with retail vacancies benefits all stakeholders.

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WITH SHARE OF MIND among consumers at a premium and driving foot traffic an imperative, retailers are hungry for strategies that disrupt the status quo and address common pain points in the brick-and-mortatr shopping experience.

One area that’s ripe for innovation, given record store closings in the not-so-distant past, lies in the issue of dealing with vacant retail space. Though store openings are beginning to outpace store closings year over year, an estimated 159 million square feet of retail space remains vacant, according to commercial real estate firm CoStar (Washington, D.C.).

We’ve seen a variety of novel approaches to repurposing this vacant space, from empty malls converted to warehouses, or even high schools as in the case of one Burlington, Vt., shopping center. Though well-intentioned, these efforts are not scalable, nor do they do much in the way of advancing the world of physical retail.

Enter Neyborly, a small San Francisco-based startup that offers vacant, street-level commercial space for rent either by the hour, day or longer for community events, meetings and pop-ups. The goal is to connect local community stakeholders with the available space in their neighborhoods, not only to find tenants for the unused space, but more importantly to breathe new life into areas that have fallen victim to the domino effect that shuttered spaces have on the remaining businesses.

“Activating vacant ground floor space catalyzes social, cultural and economic value. Imagine the boost to GDP and economic activity that we could experience if we simply activated 25 percent of ground-floor vacancies in this country,” CEO and Co-Founder Ben Seidl told Medium.

More than simply an Airbnb for empty commercial space and true to its Silicon Valley roots, Neyborly leverages design thinking and data analytics to deliver valuable daily traffic summaries to tenants via a dashboard interface – invaluable information for direct-to-consumer brands hoping to dip a toe into the world of physical retail with a pop-up or temporary activation, or for legacy retailers looking to test new markets or demographics.

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With convenience and safety now table stakes, retail strategies that offer flexibility, encourage collaboration among stakeholders, and ultimately deliver a personalized and relevant experience to consumers where they live hold real promise for the future of our industry.

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Jennifer Acevedo
Editor-in-Chief/Associate Publisher, VMSD Magazine

Jennifer Acevedo is the editor-in-chief and associate publisher of VMSD magazine.

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