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Builders face new world when it comes to retail

Macy's at The Mall at Millenia in Orlando, a retailer that is really embracing so-called omnichannel shopping.
Macy's at The Mall at Millenia in Orlando, a retailer that is really embracing so-called omnichannel shopping. (Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel)

Retailers are undergoing a revolution, trying to capitalize on the Internet to boost sales, and that means the way stores are built is going to change.

The ways will be varied, with some stores getting smaller while others broaden their footprint, and more distribution centers will be needed. Layout, distribution methods and functionality will all be altered.

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That was the message at Thursday's luncheon by the Commercial Real Estate Development Association as it mulled so-called omnichannel buying, where in-store and online buying meld.

Some stores will start building smaller, as they focus more on Internet sales. Others will be larger, as they keep more inventory on hand to accommodate customers who bought online and want to pick up in the store.

An increasing number of stores will be built with wi-fi capabilities, which will change the way they are designed and built.

Other changes will be made to the interiors of stores. Macy's, for instance, in some stores is keeping less product out on floors to free up extra space in the back to hold inventory for online buyers, said Jennifer Jackson, research coordinator with retail consultant Crossman & Co.

"It's a whole new dynamic for the retail community," Jackson said.

Best Buy is pushing omnichannel and making it easier for customers to pick up online orders in stores, wanting them to visit more, said Gabriel Cabrera, omnichannel chief at Avon.

Best Buy knows that if a customer "makes five trips a year to the store, if it is more inviting, they could make a sixth and that means more sales," Cabrera said.

Cabera also said the warehouse approach to building is a thing of the past. "Home Depot, Office Depot can just no longer be supported" by the new way of buying, he said.

Stores were discussed as becoming "experience centers" that offer entertainment to keep customers there longer, another component that would have to be incorporated into design and construction.

More green space was suggested as a way of keeping customers in the area longer.

Expect more distribution centers to be built to ship orders from online sales. Call centers and service centers will likely be expanded or established to handle Internet traffic.

You can "no longer pull stuff off the shelf," when it comes to planning and building a store, said moderator Rick Baldocchi, vice president with Avcon. "The builders will have to get together and provide innovative store experiences."

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