Who’s Taking Over Retail Spaces?: 2018 Retail Trends Part II

In our latest blog, Retail Isn’t Dead, It’s Changing, we explored a few major retail trends we expect to see in 2018: online stores in brick and mortar spaces (and vice versa), merchandise-less stores, and voice-powered commerce. While it’s interesting and exciting to see how tech continues to change the retail industry, it begs the question: which sectors of retail are thriving in physical spaces?

In Part I, we said that the new mission of retail stores is to offer an experience that isn’t available online. Build relationships, solve problems and show what it’s like to be part of a brand. In 2018, there are four major areas of retail that are embracing this change in physical spaces:

#1 Fast Casual Restaurants

Americans are dining out in record numbers. According to The Atlantic, spending at restaurants and bars in the last decade has grown twice as fast as all other retail spending. Quick service restaurants (QSR) and fast casual restaurants are leading the charge in this growth. As these brands grow (in terms of number of stores), we’re seeing the addition of seating, Wi-Fi, fireplaces, order kiosks and televisions. And while not all brands are growing, they are getting smarter about their features. One of Randal’s QSR clients’ orders are now 75% carryout. As a result, we helped them design a bench for customers to sit comfortably while waiting for their food.

Even “non-restaurants” are getting in on the action – grocery stores like Mariano’s and Whole Foods now sell “grab and go” meals. They even have seating areas so customers can dine right in the store. This was unthinkable just a few years ago! Convenience stores are also offering wider varieties of food selections, including healthier options. Whether you’re a QSR, grocery store or convenience store, it’s all about offering convenient, quality food at affordable prices. And, of course, an experience or connection to the brand that entices customers to return!

#2 Hotels

While millennials may not spend their money on material “things” like previous generations do, they’re all about experiences and travel. There is a new trend, bleisure, in which millennials are turning business trips into vacations too. In response to the influx of travelers, hotels are updating their offerings to catch visitors’ attention and build loyalty. For example, hotels are creating more “social” areas that include seating, tables, and amenities appropriate for both work and fun.

Tru by Hilton is an example of a hotel that is encouraging guests to get together in communal spaces, rather than spending time in their rooms. Moxy Hotels, Mariott’s boutique hotel brand, has engaging lobbies with board games, coffee and a full-service bar. 

#3 Health & Wellness

We are all trying to live longer (and succeeding!), which means that this retail segment shows no signs of slowing down. Health clubs are opening in record numbers and expanding their features to include daycare services and even salons. On the flipside, there are 24-hour fitness center clubs with just the basics if that’s more your style. More people are spending more time in their health club, so those companies are making sure the amenities are there to keep them around longer. For example, one of Randal’s health club clients recently added a social area for members to enjoy before or after their workouts. It invites the opportunity to have a drink or snack, check e-mail or watch the latest news on TV.

Another example of thriving health retailers are pharmacies. CVS continues to expand their offerings with in-store clinics. They are also in the process of purchasing Aetna, a health insurance company, with the goal of making it easier and cheaper for people to access medication and health care. These kinds of partnerships open the door for even more services in the everyday pharmacy, thus opening the door for revised store designs and layouts.

#4 Entertainment

When it comes to experiences, movie theaters are continuously evolving, notably, in the form of dine-in theatres. According to Eater, about 50% of Cinemark Theatres, the 3rd largest movie exhibitor in the US, feature an enhanced food option. Of course, with movie-goers needing to eat while they watch a movie, that brings in additional needs for seating and tables.

Beyond movie theatres, there are more “experience” chains popping up all over the country. From bowling to Top Golf to ping pong and even axe throwing, there is no shortage of experiences for millennials to be spending their money on!

Overall, as the traditional mall evolves, the big department stores we’ve been used to for 40 years are being replaced by theaters, bowling alleys and healthcare clinics. Not only that, but those malls are turning into multi-use properties with the addition of housing above the shops and restaurants, creating a unique mix of entertainment and function.


As we continue to show, retail isn’t dying, it’s just changing. While department stores, clothing retailers and grocery stores are making major shifts in response to advancing technology, other areas of retail, like restaurants, hotels, entertainment and health, are finding ways to stand out in their physical retail spaces. For millwork, that means a growing opportunity for seating, lighting, countertops and more. At Randal Retail, we look forward to helping these retailers build their brands – one location at a time.

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