Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

Sign Up
Already have a account? Log In

5 Emerging Retail Formats: 2023’s Brick-and-Mortar Evolution

Ezra Carmel
January 12, 2023
5 Emerging Retail Formats: 2023’s Brick-and-Mortar Evolution

Physical retail has continued to prove its resilience and relevance by adapting to niche markets and fast-paced changes in consumer behavior. We dove into the foot traffic data for 5 brands that employ new brick-and-mortar retail formats in order to take a closer look at how these configurations impact visits. 

  1. Small Stores, Big Visits

When it comes to physical stores, bigger isn’t always better. Real estate for a large store is hard to come by – especially in dense urban areas or college towns – and comes with high overhead. But opening a small format store is relatively simple and bears significantly lower property and operational costs. And in contrast to the sometimes overwhelming number of products available in large stores, small stores can offer curated selections for key consumer segments.

Target is a prime example of a chain that has gone small to drive visits. Many of Target’s small-format stores are in close proximity to college campuses and stock dorm and college-living essentials. The stores serve as one-stop shops for students who find everything from food to furniture easily at their fingertips. 

  1. Purposeful Fleets

While some companies are making individual locations smaller, other retailers are shrinking their overall store fleet. Selectively closing venues can help brands avoid cannibalization of visits and make the most out of every location – especially for companies with a large, high-density footprint.

Pharmacy giant CVS is pivoting to offer surrounding communities a range of online and offline healthcare services to supplement retail sales. And fewer, but strategically placed locations support its new healthcare-focused initiatives while increasing efficiency and foot traffic allocation. Comparison of the True Trade Areas of CVS locations in Norman, OK before and after a store closure shows how the chain’s True Trade Area size and population grew despite closing one of its locations in the region.

  1. Shop-in-Shops: Visits for All

Efficiency being the name of the game, the shop-in-shop retail format entails specialty brands opening a branded “shop” in a larger department or big-box store. The bigger retailer broadens its product selection, differentiates itself from competitors, and increases engagement. The specialty brand gets an efficient way to reach more potential customers and often leverages the bigger retailer’s online ordering and distribution system.

The Kohl’s and Sephora shop-in-shop partnership launched in 2021 continues to demonstrate the retail format’s ability to drive foot traffic. Visits to Kohl’s stores that host a Sephora shop-in-shop outperform those without, while Sephora freestanding stores have increased visits from Kohl’s shoppers. It appears that Kohl’s visitors who encounter the beauty retailer at the department store are more likely to also visit Sephora’s own retail outlets. 

  1. Creating Offline Experiences

Shop-in-shops demonstrate the value of a brick-and-mortar presence for specialty brands, and digitally native brands (DNBs) – or specialty brands that first launch online – are now recognizing the benefits of offline retail as well. Physical stores can streamline order fulfillment and build brand awareness for a traditionally online retailer while facilitating discovery and providing consumers with a direct and sensory brand experience.

Like other DNB brands, Allbirds is also well-known for the experiential nature of its brick-and-mortar stores. The company’s offline stores engage visitors in a natural and un-designed space that provides a sensory encounter with Allbirds’ proprietary fabrics. This physical encounter between customer and brand drives engagement and builds brand recognition in a way that isn’t possible online, and the company’s experiential retail format has sparked staggering visit growth fueled by record store openings. Consumers can’t get enough of experiential stores – a call to retailers to provide something more than just a place to make a purchase.

  1. Pop-Ups Picks Up

When it comes to discovering something new in retail, pop-up stores deliver. The format provides an opportunity for brands to create buzz and test new markets and store layouts without a long-term lease commitment. And the exciting, limited-time engagements that are pop-up stores can provide a significant foot traffic boost to the malls that host them. 

Foot traffic trends to the Oakbrook Center shopping mall in Oak Brook, IL, illustrate the pull of pop-ups. Visits picked up when the center hosted a temporary art exhibit in early May 2022. But foot traffic to the mall climbed even higher just a few weeks later when a Stranger Things pop-up store opened to promote the new season of the hit Netflix show. The pop-up format engaged fans and drove foot traffic and required no long-term commitment from either the store or mall. 

Final Word on Retail Formats

Physical retail is evolving to match a dynamic market landscape. Emerging formats such as experiential stores and shop-in-shops, along with smaller locations and slimmed-down fleets, are just some of the ways brands are responding to changing consumer behavior and shaping the future of brick-and-mortar. 

Retailers’ ability to adapt while continuing to drive foot traffic attests to the resilience and relevance of physical retail and data-driven strategy. 

For updates and more data-driven retail insights, visit

Get 3 brand & industry
breakdowns every week

Subscribe to the newsletter

Great! Prepare your inbox for data-driven insights...
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get a Demo

Please enter your first name
Please enter your last name
Please provide a valid email
Please enter your email
Please enter company name

Thanks for reaching out!

One of our experts will be in touch soon

Try Free
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Digging Into Darden: Q2 2024 Update
2024 Retail and Dining Trends Update
TRU and avid: Midscale Hotels on the Rise 
Diving Into Kroger: A Strong Start to 2024 Mall Index: May 2024 Recap – Mall Visits on the Rebound Office Index: May 2024 Recap
2024 Memorial Day Recap
Las Vegas: A Tourism and Migration Deep Dive
Eatertainment Chains: Full on Food, Fun, and Foot Traffic
The Promise of Luxury Apparel
Catching Up With Ulta Beauty & Gap Brands
Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and Five Below: Q1 2024 Treasure Troves
CAVA Still Going Strong
Driving Success: Auto Parts Chains in 2024
Checking in With DICK’S Sporting Goods
Mother’s Day Shopping and Dining Trends Mall Index: April 2024 Recap – Retail Resilience Heading into Spring
Dollar Stores Still Gaining Momentum
Off-Price Apparel Chains After Q1 2024: Demographics in the Balance
Walmart, Target, and Wholesale Clubs Continue to Thrive
Home Improvement and Decor Check In Office Index: April 2024 Recap – Recovery Continues
Movie Theaters in Q1 2024: A Preview of Coming Attractions?
Let’s Get Physical: Fitness In 2024
Where Are Workers Returning to Office in 2024?
2024 Wins: Sweetgreen & First Watch on the Rise
A Full-Service Turnaround: Bloomin’, Dine, and Texas Roadhouse
Wendy’s and Denny’s: Breakfast and Late Night Dining Drives Success
Coffee Chains: Q1 2024 Update and What’s Changed Since COVID
Checking in with RBI and YUM!
Chipotle & McDonald's Serving Up Success
Wingstop & Shake Shack Continue Growing Their Reach 
Strong Start for Sprouts in 2024
Crocs’ Footwear Fairytale
Who Attends NCAA Final Four Events?
Eclipse Fever: How Did the (Retail and Hospitality) Stars Align?
Exploring Albertsons Companies’ Grocery Growth Mall Index: March 2024 Recap – Malls Rise Again Office Index: March 2024 Recap
Florida Spring Break Break-Up? Travelers Still Love Florida!
Provo-Orem and Ogden-Clearfield Emerging As Utah Hotspots 
Three Formulas for Experiential Retail in 2024
Aldi & Lidl Making The Cut
Texas Suburbs on the Rise
Exploring Luxury Hotel Brands’ Guest Segmentation
The St. Patrick’s Day Effect
How Can JOANN Make a Comeback?
Panera Bread Well Positioned for Possible IPO
Who Will Benefit From Family Dollar’s Downsizing?
Dave & Buster’s and Main Event Entertainment: Food and Fun for Everyone
Darden Brands: Location Analytics and Consumer Behavior
Nike and lululemon: a Strong 2023, Sprinting into 2024
Where Is Retail and Dining Foot Traffic Thriving in Early 2024? White Paper Recap – February 2024
Three Retail & Dining Chains That May Surprise in 2024
Specialty Discount Chains Rock Retail Therapy Mall Index: February 2024 Office Index: February 2024 Recap
Ulta Beauty Continues To Shine
First Watch Sails Into 2024
Hibbett Sports and DICK’S Sporting Goods: A Psychographic Analysis
Checking in With Discount & Dollar Stores
Peeking Behind The Curtain: Movie Theaters in 2023 and Beyond
Diving Into Brick-and-Mortar Eyewear
Getting Into Gear: Exploring The Auto Part Industry
Recapping Valentine’s Day 2024 Foot Traffic Trends
Fitness: A Strong Start to 2024
Dutch Bros. Continues To Percolate Visits
Super Bowl 2024:’s Postgame Foot Traffic Analysis
CAVA & sweetgreen Are On the Rise
Hats Off For Off-Price
Who Is Shopping at Malls?
Drilling Down Into Home Improvement
Walmart, Target, Costco & Superstore Space 2023 Recap
Catching Up With Shake Shack and Wingstop
Something To Chew On: Demographic Shifts at Steakhouse Chains Office Index: Looking Back at 2023
Recapping RBI & Yum! Brands’ 2023 Foot Traffic Performance White Paper Recap – January 2024
Who Shops at Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters?
Three Taco Chains to Watch in 2024
Starbucks and Dunkin’: 2023 in Four Data Points
Who Visits CVS and Walgreens?
Fashionably Frugal: Apparel in 2023
Catching Up With Fast Food
The Grocery Sector in 2023: An End-of-Year Recap
3 Mall & Shopping Center Trends for 2024
Bakery Chains Rising To The Top and Esri Partner to Deliver Geospatial Analytics
Tampa Tourism Trends
Going For The Green: The Changing Dynamics Of Country Clubs
Christmas Day Dining Recap
Major Urban Shopping Districts – Holiday Season Recap Office Index: December 2023 Recap
Recapping the 2023 Holiday Shopping Season White Paper Recap – December 2023
7 Retail & Dining Segments to Watch in 2024
Diving Into Holiday Season Favorites
Super Saturday and Christmas Eve Eve: A Winning Combination
3 Budget Grocery Chains Finishing 2023 On a High Note