Half retail pop-up, half laboratory: Mall owner debuts BrandBox

November 14, 2018

One of the nation’s biggest mall operators has come up with a way to fill empty storefronts—and it’s offering emerging brands plenty of perks to move in and do business for six to 12 months.

Santa Monica, California-based Macerich is launching a concept known as BrandBox at Tysons Corner Center just outside Washington, D.C., CNBC reported on November 12.

Under the BrandBox concept—half retail pop-up, half laboratory—the mall will house six brands, including luxury apparel retailer Naadam (founded in 2010) and upscale makeup company Winky Lux (founded in 2015).

Each brand will pay rent for its own mini store inside an 11,000-square-foot space, with new retailers funneling in and out each year, CNBC said.

For its part, Macerich will provide fixtures like shelving, data on foot traffic, radio-frequency identification tagging for inventory, marketing and even help finding staffing.

The rollout of BrandBox comes as more than 140 million square feet of retail space has been shuttered nationwide in malls and shopping centers already this year, according to real estate research group CoStar. Closures by Sears and Toys R Us are leaving a blank canvas at many malls for new uses like these so-called pint-sized and modern-day department stores.

Macerich plans to take BrandBox to its malls in Santa Monica, California; Philadelphia; and Scottsdale, Arizona, CNBC reported. In fact, the idea eventually is envisioned for all of its U.S. malls in some way. The company is considering adding multiple BrandBox locations inside some shopping centers, where there’s more demand for smaller retailers over department stores.

“I think what we’re learning as an industry is that we need to have modular space that can be reconfigured, “Macerich Chief Digital Officer Kevin McKenzie told CNBC. The physical walls within each BrandBox will be movable, he said. Sometimes two companies might fill the space; sometimes, seven.New York-based fashion house DKNY, an already established brand, also will be inside BrandBox at Tysons Corner Center at launch to test a new concept. McKenzie said the space can be a way for even traditional retailers to try out a new market before investing in establishing a permanent presence there.

Brands are appreciative of the real estate and the perks. “We view BrandBox as a safe environment to test our brand in a mall environment,” Matt Scanlan, CEO of Naadam, told CNBC. The technology Macerich is offering is a “major perk,” he said. “They have set us up with retail technologies and subscription software that are normally inefficient to install for a pop-up but can be transformative in terms of learnings.”

Macerich is the first major mall operator to announce plans to roll out a concept like this at a large scale, and one that’s been incubated from within the company. Rival Simon has been testing a rotating pop-up exhibit called “The Edit” at Roosevelt Field mall in Garden City, New York, but has yet to open other locations.

Research contact: @laurenthomasx3

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