PROFILE
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Richard Layman

Urban Planner
commercial district revitalization planner
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  • Posted on: 09/08/2017

    Will CVS’ sales take off in airports?

    Yes, if you are a member of ExtraCare, no if they set up these stations to take ExtraCare sign in, but not print out long receipts with promotional coupons. (This from someone who got an email saying that I was in the top 6 percent of "savers" using ExtraCare loyalty system in D.C.)
  • Posted on: 09/08/2017

    Will CVS’ sales take off in airports?

    Plus the machine/logos, etc. reinforce the brand, the brand promise of convenience and top-of-mind awareness. They won't lose any money from doing it, even if they won't make that much money either.
  • Posted on: 08/29/2017

    Retail Mash-Up: What if IKEA and Kohl’s birthed a new concept?

    I was reading an article that referenced computer science research about the difference between "exploration" (looking for new things, new ways of doing things) vs. "exploitation" (using what you already know). My sense is that IKEA shoppers are explorers and Kohl's shoppers are exploiters. Therefore, it would be hard to make such a mash up work. Maybe the mashup already exists as Primark, at least in terms of some product categories (not furniture), not experience.
  • Posted on: 08/29/2017

    Are Whole Foods’ price cuts game-changing for food retailing?

    I think this is a very good point. If instead of creating a "loyalty card" system comparable to other supermarket firms, the Whole Foods loyalty program is an element of Amazon Prime, not a separate standalone initiative, it could make a big difference. For example, Dorothy Lane Market in Ohio and how they work their loyalty program.They don't want someone like me, who is a member of multiple loyalty programs, to get the best discounts from various stores. Instead, they focus on their best customers.That's the direction Amazon + Whole Foods should move towards. It's dangerous for supermarkets because it will operate on a much bigger platform than a typical supermarket (outside of Kroger Marketplace, Fred Meyer, Meijers, and the HEB Plus formats).
  • Posted on: 08/09/2017

    Is an urban revival a sign of hope for indie grocers?

    DC's independent retailer sector was wiped out in the 1968 riots and has never really recovered. Separately, the independent grocery chains that existed either got acquired or went out of business. The same goes for the independent department stores and regional apparel.Plus, the city's commercial real estate has been "reproduced" on a different scale because the downtown market is part of the national-international real estate development and financial system, and this in turn shapes the property tax assessment methodologies for the entire city, whether or not a "neighborhood" commercial district is part of the national-international system or not. This makes rents too high, generally, to support quality independent retail.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2017

    Is an urban revival a sign of hope for indie grocers?

    Actually, what I think is most interesting in city supermarket trends is happening in Boston, where Royal Ahold is testing the bfresh format. It's the kind of urban specialty market that the Post thinks is happening in D.C. but isn't. What's interesting to me is that Ahold has tested this in Philadelphia (under a different name) and Boston but not D.C., where it could be a useful addition to the market --especially given that WaWa thinks so and will be introducing an upscale convenience store to the city (no gas). The bfresh format is probably like the 365 Whole Foods store, but more focused on conventional products.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2017

    Is an urban revival a sign of hope for indie grocers?

    Well, there is a big difference between a "grocery store" and a boutique specialty store selling food. The Washington Post story is describing the latter. These places sell very expensive and specialty foods. That's fine, but it's not like they are addressing "food deserts."While D.C. has a number of independent "full line" but small footprint groceries, it's not a growing segment of the market. There are also a number of small grocers operating in lower income areas and the independent Yes! Natural Grocery which has about six stores in the city. (My Organic Grocery, MOM, opened a store on the outskirts of the city a couple years ago.)But in terms of seeing the development of independent, creative "full line" but small, appropriately urban-sized markets (like a Bi-Rite in SF, or the various markets like on Mission Street in San Francisco or on the streets of Brooklyn or Manhattan) other than Yes!, only one comes to mind, the Korean-American owned "Streets" market, which is mentioned in the Post article. It is not a boutique store, while the others mentioned in the article are.Note separately that D.C. has experienced significant expansion of stores by traditional firms. Harris Teeter's entry about 10 years ago has forced a response from Safeway and Giant, which have expanded their store count in the city, renovated stores, etc. Similarly, Whole Foods continues to expand, and they entered the market more than 15 years ago through the purchase of Fresh Fields.In fact, some of the RTAs in D.C. have more traditional grocery store coverage than the suburbs (e.g., within a 2.5 linear trip in the H Street neighborhood you have Walmart, Harris Teeter, Giant, Whole Foods, Safeway and Aldi, plus a food market district and soon the addition of a Trader Joe's).I sit on the board of the city's public market, and in addition to a myriad of farmers markets, in its RTA are four Safeways, three Harris Teeters, two Whole Foods, an Aldi, a Giant, a Walmart, a Yes! and some small "neighborhood" groceries. There are two Trader Joe's to come (this RTA overlaps with H Street NE).I believe the Post article misrepresents what's happening in the food sector within D.C., and I am not sure how what's happening is generalizable to other places. Like most center cities, it has only been recently that the main line companies have been expanding in the core of the city, and they still pretty much plop traditional formats into the city fabric.
  • Posted on: 07/12/2017

    Why do so many people love shopping at Ace Hardware?

    It's not just that the stores are individually owned, it's that the Ace Hardware business cooperative operation is also leading-edge compared to their competition. This came out in the firm's early focus on promoting stores in center cities, in providing special incentive programs to help open new stores and in creating new merchandising schemes ("Destination Ace") and support for other types of stores (rental, farm, party) within the umbrella. In my market (DC), companies affiliated with Ace seem to have much more going for them then the stores within the True Value umbrella.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2017

    Can fitness centers save malls?

    There are three different issues. One is absorbing otherwise vacant space, especially in the context of department store consolidation and closure. Two is absorbing space with uses people actually desire. Three is whether or not the new uses will generate crossover clientele for the stores.Property owners are driven by the first two and probably pay lip service to the third. But it's unlikely that fitness center users are likely to be frequent retail customers for the co-tenants. Instead they are likely to be singly focused on whatever they intend to do at the fitness center. This is an issue in cities and increasingly restaurant-focused "neighborhood commercial districts." Especially as restaurants become more high profile, listed on local, regional and national "best" lists, etc. Their customers don't have much interest in exploring the rest of the shopping district, let alone tying shopping to their visit to the restaurant. They are exclusively focused on the restaurant experience.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2017

    Has produce-selling Dollar General become a real threat to traditional grocers?

    "Food sells." I worked on commercial district revitalization for awhile and the point I make is that "we eat every day" but we don't buy shirts, books, records, office supplies, furniture, etc." every day. So yes, as people buy less, or buy online, or go to big boxes, our traditional commercial districts shift more of their offer to food. And as you point out, there are a lot of interesting things going on. At the same time, a lot of these ventures focus on artisanal, expensive options (e.g. $8 "cold pressed juices," stores that sell locally produced items exclusively, etc.). The market is bifurcated. I shop at Aldi and Whole Foods....
  • Posted on: 06/06/2017

    Has produce-selling Dollar General become a real threat to traditional grocers?

    Whoops! Meant to mention the "seconds produce" trend in the industry, where food items that don't meet "beauty standards" had been discarded, but now some retailers are selling certain items like seconds apples or seconds potatoes for a significantly cheaper price.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2017

    Has produce-selling Dollar General become a real threat to traditional grocers?

    I don't know enough about their customers. In places where Aldi or Lidl are operating, there is no way Dollar General could out compete them. (I make a point shopping at Aldi myself, and I wish Lidl would be interested in entering center city markets.) In places that are food deserts, they may get more share of wallet from customers, but as pointed out, not generating great margins compared to non-food goods.With Brookshire opening the Spring Market format in closed Walmart Express stores, is there an opening for a dollar store + small food store like a Kroger Marketplace, but for low income markets (e.g., my sense about the Marketplace format is that it is intended to crowd out Walmart and Target). It'd be the right thing to do values wise, but whether or not it would generate more profits business wise is another question and likely we know the answer.
  • Posted on: 04/26/2017

    Can parking lots save the mall?

    Mostly, zoning codes for parking require an amount of parking far in excess of normal demand.
  • Posted on: 04/26/2017

    Can parking lots save the mall?

    FWIW, I've been making this point for more than 10 years with regard to urban settings and supermarkets, based on the DC experience. Open storefronts in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, on Mission Street in SF, or ethnic markets communicate how it could be and once was done. Whole Foods does this too. But generally, it's out of the skill set for modern supermarkets. Andronicos (went through bankruptcy, private equity, and now consolidation into Safeway) used to do farmers markets at some of their stores.Also, supermarkets could rebuild the sense of stores as "convenience retail headquarters" by creating space (adjacencies) for other convenience retailer and service businesses, e.g., dry cleaners, shoe repair, etc.
  • Posted on: 04/26/2017

    Can parking lots save the mall?

    A few years ago I was at the CNU conference, and one of the presenters was a night market creator and operator from Australia. A guy from Hines came up to him and started talking about how they could activate the parking lots at a particular mall that happens to be in my metropolitan area and I am familiar with it. It's 20 miles + from downtown Washington and comparatively isolated in terms of developing a "walkable" experience. I said "just tear the mall down." A few weeks ago it went into its second foreclosure.Anyway, events in parking lots merely extends the lifestyle center concept to the mall. It will work for some and not others. The thing is that events are best capitalized on by independent retailers, not chains (how does Gap do a special event related promotion?), especially when store "managers" have no span of control over what they do. So there is a disconnect between the type of store, events, and activation.But when I worked as a commercial district revitalization manager, and most businesses complained about events not benefiting their business, I realized we needed to do a kind of "charette" or focused planning engagement for each business, to brainstorm how they could leverage the event. That isn't typically done. But still, it seems hard to do for chain businesses.