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Tom McGuinness on the evolution of neighborhood shopping centers

Tom McGuinness
Tom McGuinness

Back in the day (which wasn’t that long ago), Mom loaded the kids into the mini-van for the long and dreaded grocery store shopping trip. She wandered the aisles with her carefully edited list in hand, while the kids ran ahead, searching out that sugary snack they saw heavily advertised on the Saturday morning cartoon shows. When, at long last, the shopping was complete, your purchases were bagged and the family headed home.

Fast forward to today: Mom or Dad checks the digital coupons received from their favorite grocer and they order their groceries online or via their smart speakers. At a time convenient for them, they swing by the store, pull into a designated parking spot and have their personal shopper bring them their items. Other trips may include a trip inside the store to select fresh fruit, meats, and a bottle of wine while perusing new recipes on the store’s app. If the kids are along, everyone can also stop at the in-store restaurant for a cooked-to-order meal and a gelato and pay for it all with a swipe of a credit card or tap of a phone screen.

There have been more changes in the grocery operations space in the last few years than in previous decades. Grocers can reach out to us, the customer, anywhere, at any time, with merchandise, wellness and lifestyle information. They can source their products from across town as well as around the world, deliver our desired food items fresh to our homes if we prefer, and offer everything from in-store wine tasting to cooking demonstrations which we can enjoy during our shopping trips. Investing in new technology and concepts is critical for maintaining a grocer’s top position in their local market.

As InvenTrust has refined its grocery-anchored portfolio throughout the last few years, we have focused on building our portfolio with grocery-anchored centers that included the No. 1 or No. 2 grocer in the market. Those companies that can invest their capital in technology are going to be able to stay ahead of the game and prosper amidst present changes as well as those in the future.

While the interior of the store has evolved, the exterior is also seeing changes. In addition to the dedicated parking areas for picking up pre-ordered groceries, there may be a drive-up window for pharmacy orders, adjacent branded grocer fuel stations for one-stop convenience, and brighter, energy-efficient lighting for late evening shopping trips. Today’s successful open-air shopping center is managed for expediency and one-stop shopping for the time-challenged consumer.

Elevating the shopping experience, even for daily needs shoppers, has influenced InvenTrust’s property redevelopment and operations. At our centers, you can recharge your electric vehicle while getting a haircut. We’ve incorporated seating areas for customers to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee, and have built play areas to host playdates or let the kids romp in the middle of running errands with Mom. National, regional and local dining establishments are bringing Instagram-worthy design concepts to our centers, along with the latest trends in food and drink, such as wines on tap.

No, it’s not the same shopping trip your parents made at the local grocery-anchored center, and it shouldn’t be. Tracking the continuous evolution of shopping, even for groceries and everyday essential goods and services, is critical to having our centers meet the needs of our communities. And we’ll keep developing our center leasing, management, design and investment to stay at the forefront of these changes, in partnership with our grocers and tenants.

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