Retail Insights: ICSC CenterBuild: Three Big Ideas for the Future of Retail

Each year, Hixson participates in the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) CenterBuild conference, hailed as the “premier specialty conference for design and construction professionals dedicated to the planning, development, design and construction of shopping centers, retail stores and retail-focused developments.” At this year’s event, held in Scottsdale, Arizona from November 28 – December 1, three big ideas dominated the sessions and discussions:

  • Mixed use is here to stay.  While mixed use is not a new concept, it has become the norm rather than the exception. Developers are increasingly focused on mixed-use projects that co-locate a variety of residential, office, services, community, and retail spaces. According to presenters, this lends a sense of community to the space, but also provides an instant customer base for the retail from those living and working nearby. One case cited was that of a retrofit of a former Lord & Taylor anchor store in a Detroit, Michigan mall now being used by Ford Motor Company as office space for nearly 2,000 workers. During breaks and after work, those workers are heading into the mall to get food and/or shop. Interestingly, when surveyed, many of the employees in this space now prefer the mall setting versus the corporate campus.


  • The mall tenant mix is diversifying. Mall tenants used to be predominantly clothing and apparel retailers. Today, malls are diversifying into more community centers, providing a greater emphasis on:
    • Food. Food and beverage is an important anchor in retail developments, generating an increased number and frequency of customer visits. Not only are food courts getting extensive makeovers in both aesthetics and the quality of food offerings, but malls are adding upscale restaurants at a rapid pace.
    • Experiences. Gaming and entertainment venues are increasing in their prominence at American malls. Additionally, malls are continuing to create community gathering spaces for performances, charity events, concerts, farmer’s markets, etc.
    • Lifestyle. Fitness centers, taboo in malls a short time ago, are now highly desirable additions to a malls tenant list. High-end fitness center members now represent a key demographic – and they have disposable income.


  • As transportation changes, so will retail.  Transportation will undergo a huge shift in the coming few decades. According to research, in the United States, there are 250 million vehicles, with four to eight parking spaces for each, and the average car is parked 90% – 95% of the time. In the future, a fleet of shared autonomous vehicles be idle much less of the time – thereby requiring dramatically fewer vehicles and reducing the number of parking spaces required. Conservatively assuming one billion parking spaces exist in the U.S., consider the ability to redevelop just half of those spaces into another use: This represents approximately two million acres. While this scenario may still be 10 or 20 years away, this has current day implications for the design and construction of real estate. For example, constructing a new parking garage with flat floors (external ramping) with floor-to-floor heights to allow for repurposing into another use in the future – when the space is no longer needed for parking.

Finally, it is worth noting an overall conclusion drawn from the time spent at CenterBuild: Retail is not dead, or even dying, as so many pundits like to proclaim. Instead, the retail industry is undergoing a renaissance: Re-branding itself with creative ways to integrate e-commerce and brick and mortar to create a great client experience.



Scott J. Schroeder

As the Manager of Hixson’s Business Development department, Scott Schroeder oversees the strategic identification, assessment and pursuit of potential new clients, and helps foster and maintain loyalty with existing clients, across all of the firm’s Strategic Business Units. In addition, Scott serves as the primary Business Development associate working with Hixson’s Retail clients. Contact Scott at

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