||Healthy Offerings on Retail Menu at Shopping Centers
Shopping can be good for your health.
The national obsession with fitness, healthy eating and battling obesity is altering the retail landscape of neighborhood shopping centers and strip malls: They are becoming suburban havens of healthy living.
Health clubs are increasingly anchoring outdoor shopping centers. Yoga studios, yogurt shops, vitamin and workout apparel stores, organic food markets and health foods restaurants quickly follow.
Health clubs -- from large workout centers featuring indoor pools and row after row of equipment to small home-gym types of franchises -- have undergone "a huge explosion over the last 10 years," says Tom Simmons, Mid-Atlantic president of Kimco Realty, the largest owner and manager of neighborhood and community shopping centers. "The consumer is becoming more mindful of healthy living."
Frozen-yogurt stores are replacing retailers of fattier ice cream, he says. Kimco had 13 yogurt stores in its portfolio just five years ago. Today, it has 73. The square footage they occupy went from 16,000 to 108,000 during that time.
Restaurants with names such as Sweetgreen, Sweet Leaf and Energy Kitchen (slogan: "fast food, not fat food") are sprouting in strip malls across the country, catering to the national passion for all things "green."
GNC, seller of vitamins, supplements and herbal remedies, is opening 150 stores this year, Simmons says, and Smoothie King plans 1,000 more stores in five years.
Fitness International, owner of 665 LA Fitness and City Sports Club locations, opened 54 clubs last year -- many in shuttered Circuit City and Borders stores, says Bill Horner, senior vice president/chief real estate officer.
"Typically, the health club member has higher educational attainment and disposable income," he says. "As a shopping center owner, if you think that's what's coming into your center two or three or four times a week, we've become a very viable anchor tenant to attract a pretty attractive customer."
Peak visits at health clubs are from 4-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Horner says. "We've taken the dinner prep time away from them," he says and that's where healthy prepared foods from restaurants such as Sweetgreen or produce from a MOM's Organic Market come in.
The shift is happening even in centers that don't have health clubs.
At one of Kimco's properties along Philadelphia's posh Main Line, Suburban Square in Ardmore, Pa., Macy's remains the anchor store, but the 63-year-old outdoor center's healthy makeover is striking:
"When we are looking at opportunities for new store locations, we look for areas that are considered the hub of health in the community," says Wynn Spencer, Lululemon vice president of store development. "Often, that means we are in close proximity to yoga studios, fitness centers, coffee shops and healthy eateries and grocers."
- The old Pierre Deux Furnishings is a New Balance store, a favorite of runners and workout enthusiasts.
- The former Seidenburg Luggage shop is now a Lululemon Athletica, the popular and fast-growing Canadian purveyor of fashionable yoga wear and free in-store yoga instruction.
- Zinman Furs is gone and Sweetgreen has swooped in in its place. A cafeteria line serves locally grown arugula and other fresh items for wraps and salads. Tables are made of reclaimed wood. The "responsibly sinful dessert" is fro-yo.
- Suburban Square also has City Sports, which sells athletic supplies from bike helmets to heart-rate monitors, and The Walking Company (stylish but comfortable shoes). At one end is a food paradise: The Ardmore Farmer's Market and a Trader Joe's.
Rebecca Olsen, a sophomore at Elizabethtown College about 80 miles from Philadelphia, takes the train to visit home in Mullica Hill, N.J. Instead of going all the way to Philadelphia, she gets off at Ardmore and her mother, Nancy, picks her up and drives the hour home. One reason they meet there: the healthy restaurant fare.
"My mom and I would both agree that when they put in a restaurant, both of us would rather go to healthier ones than not," says Olsen, 20.
The two also pick up fresh food at the farmer's market. And when Rebecca got home from spring break, her friends were "all excited" to tell her about the new place that just opened in a strip mall in her hometown: a make-your-own frozen-yogurt shop that offers a wide variety of fresh-fruit toppings.
"It's just a reflection of people being more in touch with their health and watching what they eat and their lifestyle," says Mark Bachus, general manager of Suburban Square. "It strengthens the brand and becomes a destination. The whole healthier lifestyle is not something that's going to go away. It's not a flash-in-the-pan trend."
(Source: USA Today, 03/07/13)
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