Thought Leadership|Trends|

The retail-ification of shared workspaces was destined to be in a world of mixed-use development, omnichannel shopping and hybrid work models.

It was said in 2018 that the future of healthcare is retail. If it works for medical office space, why not regular office space? 

Sure enough, the trend of coworking spaces setting up in retail places, which grew before the pandemic especially in low-demand places like malls, has gotten even stronger over the past couple of years. Old school (mixed-use development) and new school (omnichannel shopping and hybrid work) naturally agree on this fantastic fusion.

“Our best-performing locations are within mixed-use developments, like retail centers,” Jamie Hodari, cofounder and CEO of Industrious, told Forbes. “Much of this is driven by the fact that people want to go to workplaces that are conveniently located and easy to access. This means spaces that are nearer to home and that don’t require anyone to get into an elevator to go 10+ floors up, but that rather they can go in and out of in a matter of seconds.”

Sounds familiar to the retail customer experience (CX) that we’ve often focused on in this space. Just like retail customers, workers want a frictionless and connected online and in-person experience. Consistent, positive interactions on the worker side advance both top of mind and the bottom line for the provider.

Community-based ecosystems rather than office solutions, “partnerships with retail-tech startups and corporates, utilization of the retail environment for product testing, investment in design and flexibility and a criteria for member selection” are key ingredients for success for coworking spaces in retail places, according to Megan Hanney. The senior consultant in the strategic advisory team of CBRE listed the following benefits: close proximity to leisure uses, strong transport links, position at the forefront of retail innovation, extra visibility for increased footfall and popular uptake of private office memberships.

“The main challenges for [coworking] operators include lack of control over building operations, potential lack of daylight and opening hours, along with frequent positioning in remaining space on higher floors,” Hanney added. “The main challenge for shopping center owners is the decision to share revenue by letting space to an operator or launch their own coworking brand as a new entrant to the workspace market.”

Still, the benefits seem to far outweigh those challenges. Cheaper operating costs, networking opportunities, better amenities than most traditional office locations (and Starbucks lounges) and, of course, flexibility will keep companies interested in shared workspaces. And keep smart retail landlords happy.

“The office and retail sectors have both been in a state of flux, so why not combine what they do best?” said Tim Patton, infinitee’s CEO. “Retail developments have always been looking for ways to have a bigger and even ‘built-in’ consumer population, and office providers are striving for more convenient, scalable solutions. As a firm with a ‘limitless possibilities’ customer service mentality we embrace this new fusion of space.”


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