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Small-Box Retailing

Mass merchants opening smaller stores



For two decades, Walmart and Target battled over who could build the largest superstore. Now, those mass-merchandising giants have pivoted 180 degrees to concentrate on smaller stores.

Last fall, Target Corp. (Minneapolis) announced plans to build 60,000-100,000-square-foot stores, called CityTarget. The concept has its own logo (shown on left) and will debut in 10 U.S. cities, starting in Seattle this year. Another is planned for downtown Chicago, in the historic Louis Sullivan-designed Carson Pirie Scott building on South State Street.

Walmart Stores Inc. (Bentonville, Ark.) is thinking even smaller, announcing it will add hundreds of 15,000-square-foot Walmart Express stores. That’s much more than the 30 to 40 it had earlier announced.

“Retailers are simply running out of available space,” says Lee Peterson, executive vp, creative services, for WD Partners (Columbus, Ohio), which has worked with Walmart, Best Buy (Richfield, Minn.) and other big-box retailers. “Opportunities to build a couple hundred new 200,000-square-foot stores are diminishing. But there’s a ton of smaller space out there, much of it abandoned by retailers who’ve closed stores or gone out of business.”

Some of that is in urban locations, a new market for these mass-merchandisers.

“Based on extensive research, we know that our brand and merchandising content appeals to the urban demographic,” says Sarah VanNevel of Target’s communications department.


“I think this is recognition of an entirely untapped market for mass merchandisers,” says Michael Parshall, an associate at Mulvanny G2 Architecture (Portland, Ore.), which has worked with Target.

“But it also raises some challenges. These are mostly existing buildings, meaning the retailers will have to squeeze their formats into the available space. For example, most urban spaces are on several floors, not the most comfortable footprint for Target or Walmart.”

“It’s a challenge,” says Peterson. “But it’s forcing retailers to think about all kinds of new formats for their brands.”






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HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
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