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John Ryan

Make the Mall Stack Up

Consider targeting a narrowly defined niche with a mix of relevant tenants

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Want to do well in retail? One solution might be to think small and take a unit in one of the U.K.’s three shopping malls that are formed out of shipping containers stacked on top of each other. The latest to see the light of day is in Newcastle, in England’s northeast, and well over $1 million has been sunk into a structure that was formerly home to a movie theater.

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, this enterprise is called “Stack” (the same line of thinking informs the “Boxpark” name that graces the two other container malls, both of them in London). Visitors to this one, which opened during the past weekend, can visit 14 shops, try out a little ”street food” in the 13 eateries or just head straight to the bar – there are six of them. There is also a seasonal pop-up, which in this instance means a bar where those who like drinks with gin in them can choose from 40 different varieties.

All of which means that this is an attractive proposition for those in search of something a little bit different, and on opening weekend the place was mobbed. Interestingly, when the first of these new-look malls opened, more than eight years ago in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood, it was dubbed a “pop-up mall.” Yet, here it is with nearly a decade’s trading under its belt and with names like Diesel and Nike having been residents at various points, this one looks considerably more long-term than many more traditional malls that have appeared in the interim.

The point perhaps about Stack and Boxpark is that they are very targeted in their appeal, hitting millennials fairly and squarely between the eyes, and they have responded. A lesson maybe that clusters of shops and restaurants that aim at a particular group have a greater chance of success than the malls of the catch-all family variety. It won’t work everywhere, but it is certainly food (and drink) for thought.

John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.

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