By Marta Villa
New Jersey has a strong retail environment due its population density, which is higher than the national average. Retailers are also attracted to the Garden State’s proximity to New York, which is one of the world’s retail capitals. A large percentage of New Jersey’s population is in Northern New Jersey and retailers targeting consumers have plenty of space options along Interstate 95, The Garden State Parkway and U.S. Route 1/9.
According to the 2016 United States Census Bureau, Bergen County has the largest population with nearly 940,000 people, followed by Middlesex and Essex Counties respectively. Many retailers put Paramus first on their expansion list. According to the website for the Borough of Paramus, the town is considered the retail center of the country, as it is home to three major shopping malls and two highways (Routes 4 and 17) that are lined with retailers. As a result of Bergen County’s Blue Laws, which prohibit shopping on Sundays, their large sales volumes are generated within six days out of the week.
Fast casual restaurants are opening daily and specialize in cuisines varying from raw fish salads called poke to acai bowls. Quick service restaurants are still growing in select markets and are adding drive-thru locations to accommodate customers.
Large format full-service gyms continue to emerge. Tenants operating indoor jumping, climbing and golf facilities seek floor plans with high ceilings. Retailers are attracted to industrial or large format retail spaces that can be adaptively re-used for these types of businesses.
Demand for urgent care facilities and wellness centers continue. Hospitals have become retailers in this space, either operating or backing these types of operations in order to establish and maintain relationships with customers before they require a hospital stay.
Gas and convenience operations are growing at a fast rate, especially in Northern New Jersey. In some cases, owners of these businesses pay the rents that pharmacies used to pay in order to secure prime locations.
CLICKS AND BRICKS
Retailers understand the importance of having an online presence as well as a retail showroom in order to enhance their brand. Retailers leverage technology to connect with their customers and establish relationships to drive traffic to brick-and-mortar locations so consumers can sell, return, exchange and pick up merchandise. Retailers are investing in creating experiential showrooms for consumers looking for an enhanced shopping experience. According to the United States Census Bureau, e-commerce sales in the fourth quarter of 2016 accounted for 8.3 percent of total sales. Although internet sales continue to grow at a steady pace, this data shows that consumers across all demographics continue to rely on traditional shopping at retail outlets.
HOW MILLENNIALS SHOP
Although Millennials have grown up in the age of technology and have mobile access to online shopping, they still request brick-and- mortar venues. Interviews conducted by Accenture at one of America’s largest shopping malls confirmed that many members of the digital generation actually prefer visiting stores to shopping online. Many Millennials hone their shopping skills on the internet, checking product ratings and reviews for feedback on retailers to confirm that both the product and vendor provide the best value and service. However, this generation prefers being able to transition effortlessly from smartphone to personal computer to physical store, in their quest for the best products and services.
THE FUTURE OF RETAIL
The store function is shifting from simple transactions to full on experiences. Stores will increasingly have fluid transactions, which means no waiting in line at the cash register. Showrooms will take on a museum feel with curated products. There will be an emphasis on connecting with consumers over selling and retailers will employ experiential and interactive environments that entertain consumers.