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4 DC Retail Trends You Need to Know Right Now


Dochter & Alexander Retail AdvisorsDave Dochter and Matt Alexander’s data-driven retail advisory firm—has just released a new research report, which highlights key stats and retail and restaurant trends throughout the DC market. We sat down with Dave and Matt to get insight on some of the most interesting trends from the report.

Two major fashion deals for the East End

Dave and Matt recently signed Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off Fifth to 555 12th St NW (pictured), which not only added more than 72k SF of fashion retail to the East End, but also increased the F Street Corridor's fashion offerings by 31% and pushed the corridor to over 300k SF of fashion. The two deals are also expected to trim vacancy on 11th Street by 68%.

“The assignment was very complex, but it was incredibly rewarding to bring more soft goods here,” Dave tells Bisnow.

Interestingly enough, he adds, the East End has already cut vacancy by 41% in a tremendous Q1 after gaining four first-to-market concepts (Saks Off Fifth, Truefit & Hill, Proper21 and Jo Malone). It's clear the retail momentum, like almost everything else in DC, is continuing to migrate east.

Up-leasing space to retail

More retailers are choosing DC for growing urban concept stores, especially within the fast fashion and junior box size, so Matt and Dave say that many landlords have been turning to them to determine the feasibility of converting a second floor office or lower level space to retail.  

“The need for quality retail within the core markets still exists to meet the demand of DC’s growing retail, restaurant and entertainment scene," Dave says. "So traditional downtown buildings that renovated up to attract the top corporate office tenants now have the opportunity to shape space for prime retail." 

Over 350 restaurants opened in DC between 2014 and 2015

Even with the big waves of fashion, restaurants are still commanding retail activity in the city. Restaurant openings in Mount Vernon Triangle and Shaw are heating up, with more slated for this year. In addition, Columbia Heights and Petworth were both in the top 10 among neighborhood restaurant openings this past year.  

“It’s an interesting time to be in the restaurant industry,” Matt says. “Food has become such an important component of the retail experience and we’re seeing a new focus from owners on how the restaurant experience can enhance a project and help create a neighborhood. With that awareness comes opportunity…and competition.

DC kept up its high pace of restaurant openings in 2015, with emerging neighborhoods in particular gaining a ton of food amenities. According to the report, quick-service restaurants and café concepts are the most active category of retail in the market, accounting for 82% of the restaurant leases in the CBD this past year. 


But to really put it in perspective, check out their side-by-side heat maps of restaurant openings drawing the growth paths of dining in DC (pictured).

Retail store models and restaurant experiences are evolving

Perhaps the most interesting trend the two have noticed is how stores are interacting with customers in new ways.

“It’s making real estate decisions even more important, beyond just the address, and into the physical space as brands enhance the customer experience with secondary activities,” Dave and Matt tell us.  

Shinola, Madewell, Lab 1270, and Urban Outfitters via Vetri Pizza are prime examples of this trend. On the restaurant side, Matt says that newer fast-casual restaurants are becoming very ingredient-conscious, while fine dining is pushing to more tasting menus and fixed price courses to mold a full meal experience that the consumer can’t get at home.

"The Source overhaul, Provision No. 14's communal platters, Compass Rose’s experience menus, and Kinship/Metier concepts best represent the evolution of dining," he notes.

To learn more about our Bisnow partner, click here. To request Dochter & Alexander's retail research report here