In the Louisville retail sector, property owners are turning to creativity to thrive. This includes non-traditional uses for large spaces and bringing entertainment centers and other forms of experiential retail to fill in the empty spaces left behind by companies such as Sears and Macy’s.
Brent Dolen, senior associate specializing in retail and investment sales with Cushman & Wakefield Commercial Kentucky, said Louisville’s retail sector is mirroring retail trends across the country.
This means an increase in experiential retail, retail experiences that consumers can’t simply order up online.
Dolen points to Jefferson Mall in the Okolona neighborhood of Louisville. The Mall’s former Macy’s location is being transformed into a Round1, a sprawling bowling and amusement center. At the same time, a Dave & Buster’s will open in Mall St. Matthews in Louisville.
And Topgolf, another entertainment center, hopes to open in Oxmoor Center mall in Louisville. Topgolf is proposing to take over a space that was once occupied by a Sears store, a good example of old-style physical retail being replaced by the experiential kind.
“Those are big transformational pieces,” Dolen said. “With Topgolf, they are proposing to level the old Sears box. They want to build this driving range. It’s a total change.”
On the other end of town, in Louisville’s downtown CBD, bourbon tourism is providing a real boost to retailers, Dolen said. Several distilleries around the downtown area offer tourist experiences, which Dolen says drives more foot traffic downtown.
At the same time, new hotels are being built and delivered throughout Louisville.
“With the distilleries, visitors get the opportunity to see, fell and taste these products as they are in production. They have the ability to take them home with them after seeing them made,” Dolen said. “It’s a smart, strategic play for the distilleries to humanize themselves. The reception has been electric. You can see the growth in tourism dollars that is directly attributable to the distillery industry. We think it has a very long run to make.”
There do remain challenges, though. Dolen said that it is difficult to fill empty B- and C-class retail spaces. Big-box space is especially difficult to fill.
Some landlords are looking at nontraditional uses for these former large spaces, Dolen said. This often includes churches and indoor self-storage facilities. Retail spaces are also being transformed into last-mile warehouses or call centers.
“These are uses that no one envisioned when these spaces were built,” Dolen said. “I don’t think retail real estate is going away. But it is changing in a manner to reflect consumers’ ever-changing tastes and preferences.”