Retailers to pop up in new dedicated Tysons Corner Center space

Rebecca Cooper – Senior Staff Reporter, Washington Business Journal Around Town

Via Washington Business Journal 

A section of Tysons Corner Center mall will soon be reserved for pop-up stores from mostly new and emerging online retailers.

BrandBox, as the space will be called, spans 11,000 square feet on the mall’s first floor that property owner The Macerich Co. (NYSE: MAC) can divide into as many as six pop-ups. It will open to the public Nov. 17 and be the first of several the company plans to open around the country.

The first round of startups in the Tysons location will be Naadam, a cashmere apparel company; Winky Lux, an experiential cosmetics retailer that targets millennials; Interior Define, a high-end, custom home furnishings company; Nectar, the first brick-and-mortar location for the online mattress company; and locally based flower company UrbanStems.

The sixth store in the BrandBox when it opens will be DKNY, a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer that will use the pop-up to test the market and new store designs.

BrandBoxes are designed with modular walls, fixtures, lighting and other elements so they can be reconfigured easily as stores move in and out. Macerich also embeds the pop-up shops with tech infrastructure such as Wi-Fi, beaconing capabilities, security cameras and sensors that help each retailer gauge foot traffic inside and outside the store.

Macerich leaders said they see BrandBox as a way to help digital-first retailers feel out a brick-and-mortar store before making the full investment. The experience helps translate traditional mall foot traffic into digital metric terms that online retailers can better understand.

“A lot of them, because they’re born online, have no education on real estate. And quite honestly, none of them had the capital structure to open a lot of stores,” said Macerich Chief Digital Officer Kevin McKenzie. “When we started talking to them purely on our numbers, they’ll say, ‘So when a person walks by your store, that’s kind of like an impression online. And when they walk in, that’s like a click.’”

It’s a scenario playing out throughout the brick-and-mortar retail world. Owners of urban retail spaces are increasingly offering short-term leases to nascent retail players — such as what Eastbanc has been doing in Georgetown — in hopes of creating a more distinctive shopping experience. And many online retailers, once they’ve grown to a certain size, are taking the chance on brick-and-mortar. They’ve had mixed success, however; while Warby Parker has exploded its physical presence in D.C. since its first store in Georgetown, retailers such as Frank and Oak and Bucketfeet both closed their physical locations at The Shay since opening in 2016.

For Macerich, the theory is that successful pop-ups can graduate into regular mall storefronts. Although McKenzie declined to discuss specific rents, he said the pop-ups will pay “a reasonable monthly fee” that includes some of their store design and configuration — comparable, he said, with what online brands would pay to acquire new customers on multiple digital channels.

Ideally, each pop-up will stay in BrandBox for six to 12 months to get a feel for the retailing rhythm before moving on to a larger space — or not, depending on how the experiment goes. It formalizes what Macerich had offered to past online retailers, brands like Warby Parker and Peloton, which had to start from scratch on their physical outposts.

Macerich could add a second BrandBox next year across the way from Tysons Corner Center, but it plans to deploy the concept at Santa Monica Place in Santa Monica, California, where the mall owner is based; Fashion District Philadelphia; and one of its malls in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Image courtesy of Washington Business Journal