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The rise of competitive socializing

For some time now, mall and center owners have courted concepts like Dave & Busters and Round One to fill their big, empty boxes. These so-called eatertainment businesses require an average of 37,000 sq. ft. and, as property owners look to fill in smaller footprints, “competitive socializing” concepts have emerged as the most popular nontraditional retail tenants.

A new report from the research department of JLL states that brands like Punch Bowl Social and Bad Axe that combine entertainment and dining in smaller spaces (average 16,000 sq. ft.) now make up a third of what JLL calls the leisure retail market. That compares to a little over 22% for eatertainment locations.

“We haven’t built a regional mall in a lot of years and the inventory we do have is aging because of too much GLA,” said JLL senior VP of leasing David Hull “Competitive socializing and dining are going to be the major space users. There are only so many Burlingtons and Dick’s concepts that are going to be available.”

Though emptied department stores have made malls an option for Dave & Busters and their progeny, freestanding buildings are the preferred sites for concepts combining arcades and bowling alleys with bars and restaurants.

JLL says that malls will increasingly feature newer concepts such as virtual reality experiences, escape rooms, and beercades that operate in spaces ranging from 2,000 sq. ft. to 10,000 sq. ft. With professional video game leagues now taking wing, JLL predicts that esports lounges, too, will become mall staples.

“Alternative uses have been around almost from the beginning of malls and shopping centers, and the rise of entertainment concepts is a natural metamorphosis,” Hull said. “As people become more time-squeezed, having retail shops, food and beverage, and entertainment in one location makes lots of sense.”

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