Big brands like Toys R Us and Bon-Ton liquidating their businesses might paint a gloomy picture for the retail industry, but smaller brands say there couldn't be a better time to grow.
Direct-to-consumer businesses like Bonobos and Warby Parker have paved the way from online stores to bricks and mortar. Others are following — in droves — and could help fill the glut of vacant real estate on the market in the U.S.
Like Warby Parker and Bonobos, these up-and-coming brands are being cautious, opening locations at a measured pace and setting up primarily where they have large followings online. In turn, mall and shopping center owners are all vying for their business. But many upstart retailers are also generally tougher negotiators than traditional ones and come to real estate owners with unique requests as the companies map out growth.
It's more common today, for example, for lease deals with online retailers to extend for just 18 to 24 months, also offering an optional kick-out clause where the retailer can terminate a contract early, Brandon Hoffman, a senior associate at Ashkenazy Acquisitions, said at the annual ICSC RECon conference in Las Vegas this week. "Trying to explain 10 years to some of these young brands [is hard] because some of them haven't even been around that long."
Growing retailers to keep on your radar include Adore Me, Outdoor Voices and MM.Lafleur. Below are eight brands looking to open more stores across the U.S. as they expand beyond the internet, where many of them started.