Las Vegas is the ideal place to discuss the new retail environment. This city was, after all, built on experiences, excess and entertainment. Its hospitality, food and beverage programs and ability to shock are second to none. These attributes make for great conversation at RECon networking events – but they make for much more, too.
In many ways, the city can provide a blueprint for where consumer tastes and spending are heading, which is why we’re following up last year’s retail lessons with a new top five.
1) Support Local
Sure, all the big guys have a presence in Vegas — the city has more Starbucks per capita than anywhere else in the nation — but this desert oasis loves to take care of its own. Vestar looked local when it came to filling a few vacancies at the District at Green Valley Ranch in the southeastern submarket of Henderson. It provided fertile breeding ground for Fine Entertainment to launch its fourth expansion of PKWY Tavern, which focuses on brews, sports and interactive games, as well as its new concept, an Irish pub called Ritchie McNeely’s. Northwest Valley favorite SkinnyFATS also expanded to two locations, including the District, this past March.
“We’ve done a good job of balancing both local and national tenants at the District at Green Valley Ranch, and that’s very important to our local shoppers,” notes Angie Kory, associate vice president of leasing at Vestar, which owns and manages the District.
Howard Hughes took a similar approach when it created the food and beverage offerings at the newly debuted Las Vegas Ballpark at Downtown Summerlin. Fans of the Triple-A (minor league) Aviators can sample customized ballpark hot dogs from Las Vegas chef Brian Howard of Sparrow + Wolf, Aviator Ale from local brewer Tenaya Creek, Summerlin Swizzle from Las Vegas-based bartending icon Tony Abou-Ganim, and other hometown fare from Capriotti’s, Ferraro’s Italian and Me Gusta Taco. Celebrity chefs Giada De Laurentiis, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Miliken —known for the Giada Restaurant, the Cromwell and Border Grill at Mandalay Bay, respectively — will round out the offerings with tastes both new and familiar.
We all know the four F’s – fun, food, fitness and fashion – but these strategies are taken to another level in the land of excess. Sports fans can order off a “digital menu” at the Book inside the Linq Hotel & Casino at half-time or between games. They can play Xbox, social or augmented reality video games, and electronic beer pong and shuffleboard. The Book also features a build-your-own Moscow Mule option, as well as a self-pouring beer wall.
Yoga can be done at many studios around town, but those looking for a new way to achieve enlightenment can participate in Yoga in the Sky, a silent yoga (with headsets) event held 550 feet in the air inside the High Roller observation wheel. There are also specialty events, such as Oms in the Outfield, a pre-game yoga class hosted at the new ballpark stadium by neighboring Downtown Summerlin tenant TruFusion. Andy Ciarrocchi, vice president of management and operations at Howard Hughes Corporation, which owns both assets, notes the stadium will host many events as it becomes a community staple.
“The Las Vegas Ballpark will also host a number of different community, civic and sporting events — from high school tournaments to concerts and more,” he says. “It will become a community resource for everyone in Southern Nevada. Event and community programming are key for us. It ensures we stay top-of-mind with consumers and helps ingrain us in the community.”
3) Try New Things
Las Vegas pulls in business and leisure travelers from all over the globe. This included more than 42 million visitors in 2018, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Stats like these make the city an ideal testing ground for the new and novel. That’s what STEER believed when it launched its autonomous parking solution at Downtown Summerlin this past January. Similar to autonomous cars, STEER envisions a world where shoppers could simply pull up to a retail destination like Downtown Summerlin and hop out, leaving their cars to park themselves. These vehicles would then be summoned to pick up their owners via an app. This convenience could not only alleviate some of the headaches associated with in-center transportation, but it could reduce parking requirements by 20 percent since the car doors don’t need to open once the vehicle is parked.
DSW is also testing a new concept on the Strip. The store is half the size of a typical DSW but delivers the experience and spectacle Vegas crowds expect. Customers enter the store through a “video tunnel,” which provides a three-sided light and sound sensory experience. It also features a shoe elevator, or Shoevator. The display wall of shoes includes three elevator lifts serviced from a mezzanine over the sales floor. Customers order shoes from the wall via the DSW app or a tablet at a nearby kiosk. An associate receives the order, picks up the shoes and sends them to the sales floor in a numbered bin via the Shoevator where the customer picks it up.
“Our video tunnel is an immersive and exciting feature that makes customers feel as if they’re flying over a city, swimming under water or walking through a desert,” says Roger Rawlins, DSW’s CEO. “[The Shoevator is] essentially a giant shoe vending machine inspired by the assembly line-style mechanisms that we use to move product around our actual warehouse.”
4) Emphasize Everyone’s Favorite Four-Letter Word: Free
Las Vegas is one of the most diverse travel destinations in the world. As such, there is something for everyone — at every price point. Vegas isn’t known for being stingy on the giveaways, and today’s experience-seeking consumer appreciates that. The city encourages photos and social media posts — even poking fun at itself through the “What Happens in Vegas” marketing campaign. As such, there are opportunities for photos, posting and conversation starting everywhere. There are the classic Vegas spots, such as the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, and conservatory and fountain show at the Bellagio.
There are new opportunities as well. There’s the walkway into Catch restaurant at Aria, which features an 80-foot-long arched pergola lined with twinkling foliage and flower walls; the James Turrell light installations at the Shops at Crystals, which offers that modern pop-art glow Instagrammers love; and the giant fire-breathing praying mantis that ushers visitors into Downtown Container Park, a shopping and dining destination made out of shipping containers in Downtown Las Vegas. What do all of these “freebies” have in common? They draw crowds toward the larger destination where there are plenty of opportunities to spend money.
“Launching Catch in Las Vegas will further elevate Aria as one of the city‘s premier destinations,” says Ari Kastrati, senior vice president of food and beverage at MGM Resorts International. “We jumped at the opportunity to bring Catch to Aria. The vibe of the space is terrific and will offer unforgettable experiences for our guests.”
5) Be on the Cutting Edge of Emerging Trends
Never one to rest on its laurels, Las Vegas is far from being done. In fact, some may even call it retail reinvention at its finest. When Polaroid Fotobar, an Apple-type store for photographs, closed at the Linq Promenade in 2016, the large space was quickly divvied up. Part of it now hosts Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop, while another portion is dedicated to one of today’s most popular trends. VR Adventures offers a virtual reality roller coaster, zombie shoot-out, haunted house and more, all in one intimate room.
A few doors down is Pop Vegas, a permanent space for temporary themed pop-ups that keep the promenade new and fresh. The current installation is Tattoo’d America, which celebrates everything ink. The attraction even includes a photo booth where visitors can share the stories behind their tattoos and a ball pit known as an “ink pool party.”
“Pop Vegas joins a variety of other distinctive attractions — such as the Fly Linq zipline, Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club and I Love Sugar,” says Shaun Swanger, senior vice president of attractions, retail and leasing at Caesars Entertainment, which owns the Linq. “No other destination in Las Vegas can compete with the promenade’s growing roster of genuinely unique and entertaining attractions.”
Whatever is next for Vegas and retail, Ciarrocchi thinks the city is ready. It’s been giving consumers what they want since the 1950s, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
“Vegas is known as the Entertainment Capital of the World,” he says. “Everything in Vegas is bigger and better. That reigns for retail, too.”
— By Nellie Day, contributing writer. This article is part of the Retail Insight newsletter by Shopping Center Business, which includes a brief series of articles and videos surrounding some of the retail industry’s biggest gatherings, including ICSC RECON. Some of the articles and the videos in the publication are created in conjunction with our content partners, which sponsor the newsletter.