How do retailers react to the “new urbanism”?

There has been a well-reported “move back to the city,” including two stories in the New York Times this week (mid-April 2014). The question posed to RetailWire panelists is how retailers should respond to the trend. Here’s my brief comment on the issue:

While it’s too easy to stereotype Millennials as “tribal,” it’s not hard to understand why their desire to live in cities is a reaction to their parents’ lifestyles of exurban sprawl, McMansions and so forth. The long-term question for retailers planning their location strategies is whether the “new urbanism” will last, once Millennials start families. And having children seems to be happening at a later age among this group.

A recent New York Times article reflected on the growing numbers of young urbanites who are choosing not to make the traditional “move to the suburbs” even after having two or three children, so perhaps this trend will be long-lasting. It’s not surprising to see some of the biggest retailers (Walmart, Target and others) accelerating their urban and small-format strategies to keep pace with this trend.

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