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It Takes A Village: The Changing Face Of The Retail Anchor

The retail anchor formula is changing.

Now there are more ways to compose a successful center than there were just a few years ago. People may mourn the loss of the magic bullet, but retail experts say this could be an opportunity for retail centers to exercise a little creative freedom. One surprisingly successful solution: No anchor at all.

The Retail Connection CEO and co-Chairman Steve Lieberman, restaurateur Philip Romano and Kane Russell Coleman Logan P.C. Director Raymond Kane

“The anchor store over the years has changed from department store to junior anchors,” Bed Bath & Beyond Director of Real Estate Peter Russell said at Bisnow's Retail South event. “[Today,] it can also be the environment.”

According to retail experts, the feel of a center, its mix of tenants and the lifestyle it promotes can function as the anchor. Consumers are more interested in the identity of the whole rather than the glitz of an individual business. 

One of the best examples of this is restaurateur Philip Romano’s Dallas hotspot, Trinity Groves.

“My anchor is the whole place, not just the one concept,” Romano said. 

Trinity Groves is primarily composed of small, hip businesses that have short-term leases. The whole nature of the place defies old school anchor theory, and its defiance is paying off, big time. Romano came up with a concept that spoke to people who were looking for something fresh and daring.

Trinity Groves

Cake Bar does $1.6M in annual sales in just 900 SF in Trinity Groves, according to Romano. That is about as far away from traditional anchoring as one can get, yet it is working marvelously.  

“People want the experience,” Romano said.

Retailers talk a lot about how the internet is destroying them, but experts say that is a bit too narrow of an interpretation.

“The internet changed everything, but it does not replace anything,” Russell said. 

“The reality is that the majority of retail is done in retail shopping centers, brick-and-mortar space around the country,” Container Store Vice President, Real Estate Val Richardson said.

Couple that with people’s desire for experiences that excite them, and the new anchor recipe begins to become a little more clear.

“It is a morph from storefront-only retail to an entertainment, tech and fun, plus normal storefront sales [strategy],” Kane Russel Coleman Logan P.C. Director Raymond Kane said. “But all of the retailers have to adapt to be able to thrive.”