Tech

Small brands are using malls to get noticed and connect with customers

  • Mall shopping is making a comeback — a return that could benefit the smallest of businesses.
  • Brands that sell directly to customers online are entering brick-and-mortar spaces.
  • In some cases, it’s less about making sales and more about building brand awareness. 
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Mall stores could prove to be big business for small brands. 

The model that once set buzzy upstart brands apart — selling direct-to-consumer online and on social media — is no longer enough. As ecommerce is growing, it’s become harder to stand out on Instagram or Facebook among thousands of other brands. 

That’s where a new model of department store and mall pop-ups like Brik + Clik and Platform come in. They lease or buy the real estate then rent temporary, affordable spaces to small businesses. In return, the small business effectively gets a billboard inside a high-traffic shopping center.

In some cases that billboard is a full store, and in other cases it’s a single shelf with a selection of products. Either approach helps the brand test in-store sales and local markets before they commit to something bigger, like a flagship or a deal with a big-box store. 

“The face of retail is changing,” said Roote founder Michael Mcpolin, who sells his candles in Brik + Clik and likes the store’s experiential nature. “You’re gonna probably see less Macy’s and things like that, and more independent retailers because they focus more on the customer experience.”

Another factor driving this sales channel is that people are returning to in-store shopping. “There are just certain things that you can’t buy online,” one shopper told Insider.

Even if people discover a brand online, they still want to tangibly connect with the product, Parsons School of Design professor Emily Huggard said. “I don’t think physical retail will ever be dead,” she said. “I don’t think anybody wants to sit at their computer ordering things up to their door all day.”

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