How Gen Z is Shaping the Future of Atlanta Retail

by Alex Tostado

Throughout history, new generations have come along with fresh attitudes and expectations that differ from those of previous generations. By taking a deeper dive into the demographics and psychographics of Generation Z, retailers can alter the way they utilize their brick and mortar locations and the function of these stores in driving overall sales.

“Gen Z” refers to those people born between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. Gen Z is increasing demand for experience and thought leadership within Atlanta’s fast-growing retail scene. These digital-age youth, who are quickly on track to become the largest generation of consumers, have traits that are a combination of those from previous generations. Most importantly, they are heavily influenced by technology, especially when it comes to retail shopping.

Consumers in this generation have a deep appreciation for brands with which they can interact, relate and contribute. Gen Z cares genuinely about product quality, product availability, store ambiance and shopping experience. They love collaborative environments and customer engagement. Gen Z includes many college students or recent graduates and they are an emerging presence in the local consumer market. In 2017, NerdWallet ranked Atlanta as one of the top 10 cities for graduates due to the abundance of jobs in high-tech and the reasonable cost of living.

Atlanta ranks among the top 20 metro areas in the U.S. for manufacturing jobs, making it easier for both headquarters and startups to do business in the market because the city is an entrepreneurial hub for more than 1,000 tech startups. Atlanta retailers are adapting to this new reality which has caused landlords to grow more receptive towards short-term leases (or pop-up shops) to activate many of our projects around town. Retailers are changing their approach to creating community-oriented spaces where customers want to gather and hang out, such as food halls and brand collaborations.

Meanwhile, our mall owners are focusing on leasing former big-box anchor stores, with entertainment concepts and coworking spaces, to create a demand for these consumers. By thinking about what attracts Gen Z, owners are leasing newly renovated and demised spaces to unique interactive users, coworking spaces and chef-driven restaurant spots to create a new, fresh and memorable destination.

We have seen more mixed-use projects develop across the city such that incorporate “live, work and play” all in one place. A developing example is the $55 million Georgia World Congress Center expansion that will add 1 million square feet of exhibit space, various new restaurant concepts and a luxury hotel opening in 2021. In these situations, the effort is to create a more unique shopping and entertainment experience for locals and tourists.

Some of the key variables we look for when identifying opportunities for our new clients who strive to capture this new generation are:

  • High trafficked areas with dense residential and daytime population;
  • Level of walkability and access to mass transit, that being bus, rail or etc. or even new technology like Bird scooters is crucial;
  • Projects that bring new concepts and amenities to energy areas that are rapidly growing and attractive to young professionals;
  • Markets that capture both daytime and nightlife customers.

In conclusion, one size will not fit all in Atlanta’s real estate market, and supply will need to match this rapidly changing demand. Gen Z-ers, with an ingrained affiliate toward social media, are going to change the world to their liking, so retailers need to shape their strategies accordingly in order to capture their spending habits.

— By Jessica Branch, Senior Associate with Franklin Street’s Retail Tenant Services team focusing on tenant representation in Atlanta and working with a variety of commercial real estate owners and developers. Branch specializes in retail/restaurant leasing and site selection for local, regional and national retail clients. In addition, she is a board member of the Young Atlanta Real Estate Alliance.

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