The future of retail: 5 takeaways from ICSC Centerbuild

Learn the top 5 trends to watch for when designing retail environments according to experts at Henderson Engineers.

By Jason Wollum February 25, 2019

Designing retail environments is more than something Henderson Engineers has been doing since the early days of our company, it’s an integral part of our DNA. Recently, our retail, mixed-use, and hospitality leaders attended ICSC CenterBuild in Phoenix and brought back a list of the latest trends in the industry.

Below are our top 5 trends to watch.

1. The mixed-use philosophy is changing.

Mixed-use developments aren’t just about maximizing spaces by incorporating residential, commercial, and entertainment into one environment anymore. Now, architects, designers, and developers are viewing them as opportunities to create a community focal point — a diverse experience where a spirit of fellowship can flourish. This means increasing the focus on the right mix of experiences. For example, instead of filling storefronts exclusively with established brands, the industry is trending toward incorporating pop-up or incubator spaces that allow new concepts to keep things fresh.

2. There’s a positive synergy between online and physical stores.

For years, we’ve heard that online and physical retail environments are at odds with each other. It turns out they’re not; they’re serving each other. Physical stores are critical to the success of both established and emerging retailers; this includes those with a native, digital presence. A recent ICSC study coined this relationship “The Halo Effect.” According to the study, opening a physical store increased traffic to that retailer’s website by an average of 37%. And emerging brands saw even more benefit from The Halo Effect with web traffic increasing 45% after a new store opened. So, the idea that brick and mortar stores will eventually be overshadowed by online retail doesn’t seem to be the case right now. In fact, it looks like the bricks are the foundation for the clicks.

3. Evolving technology is changing design.

Technology changes at an exponential rate and retailers are using that to their advantage. Who says store layouts must be static with only new merchandise to animate the shelves? Architects and designers are challenging that concept by incorporating technology into store design to make them more malleable than ever before. Mixed-use spaces that follow this trend and change along with retailers and the advances in the industry will see long-term success. Technology is also advancing the tools the industry uses to bring retail and mixed-use environments to life. Some architects are now using virtual reality to “walk through” concepts with owners as a more realistic way of communicating design ideas.

4. Innovate or stagnate.

Theorists predicted a retail apocalypse, but what was really on the horizon was massive innovation. Customers’ evolving tastes and habits have thrust the retail industry into a panic. However, the savviest brands have created new methods to satisfy those evolving tastes. Mixed-use developers are also looking for ways to be innovative by creating places where people can do more than just shop.

5. Customers want options, not interference.

Today’s customers want options when it comes to how and where they purchase their goods and services and will gravitate towards the retailers that can provide as many options as possible with minimal interference to home and work schedules. Retailers who incorporate speed, convenience, and customization into one seamless shopping experience will win the future.

We’re looking forward to seeing these trends continue to shape the industry. They’ll definitely shape the projects we’re working to bring to life at Henderson as we continue our tradition of bringing our best designs to the AEC industry. To learn more about our retail, mixed-use, or hospitality projects, click here.

This article originally appeared on Henderson Engineers’ website. Henderson Engineers is a CFE Media content partner.

Original content can be found at

Author Bio: Jason Wollum is a retail practice director.