Malls, Retailers, Hotels Benefit From Workforce Changes


Offices? Cubicles?


What about retail stores, restaurants and hotels?

The location of work always changes with the times. Fields, hovels, factories — all have been home to historically significant human labor. Technology is making it easier for the workforce to put in the daily eight (or 10, or 12) hours from their own homes, but another change is taking place: Using commercial space left behind by retailers, or in eateries or hotels, as communal areas of work.

Nordstrom has embraced the concept. The chain’s idea for its inventory-light Nordstrom Local store — a part of the merchant’s growth plan — includes a marble communal table for the WeWork crowd, along with other features such as a manicure and pedicure shop in the back and a refreshment station ready to roll with an extensive (if pricey) assortment of beers, wines and juices. The store is designed to appeal especially to millennial consumers.

“One of the clear messages we’ve gotten is people love our brand when we’re able to bring the combination of highly relevant, great products — with a layer of our people and services — to help make [the shopping experience] compelling … and super easy for them” said Ken Worzel, Nordstrom’s chief digital officer and president of

WeWork Efforts

WeWork — the ever-expanding, office-sharing mega-firm — has further married retail and work spaces. It recently launched a new concept called WeMRKT, housed within one of its early WeWork locations in downtown New York City. The small shop is designed around a small but specific collection of curated merchandise and offers healthy snacks, office supplies and apparel exclusive to company members.

WeWork has a network of 260 facilities across the globe. Last October, the firm bought out Lord & Taylor’s  flagship store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, with plans to convert it into its corporate headquarters.

Coworking Growth

According to projections, more than 105 million square feet of retail space will close in 2018, breaking a record set in 2017. That provides opportunity for coworking companies. By 2013, retail coworking spaces will amount to some 3.4 million square feet, representing an annual growth rate of 25 percent, according to a recent estimate from JLL. By comparison, conventional office buildings in the United States already have 60 million square feet of coworking space.

Mall owners are looking to work spaces to gain more revenue from their properties as merchants, especially anchors such as Sears and J. C. Penney, pack up and leave. Macerich, a mall owner, is working with Industrious to use that empty space for coworking spaces — the latter company is doing so in a former Barney’s mall location in Arizona, with the space set to open in January.

According to CNBC, “A start-up called Cowork at the Mall is taking the empty Sports Authority in Chicago’s Water Tower Place mall that’s sat vacant since 2016. Owned by GGP, the 15,000 square-foot space will include shared offices, event space and an area for up-and-coming brands to market new products. It’s set to open this fall.”

Restaurant Spaces

It’s not just malls, either.

A startup called Spacious is helping restaurants turn dining rooms into workspaces during hours when those locations are closed to diners. Platforms such as AND CO are also helping with such efforts, working to bring in gig and remote workers to food and beverage providers, building another source of foot traffic. Such spaces can provide a boost to workers who might not have the social interaction of a traditional office.

“There’s a different mood when you leave your home office versus a restaurant,” one worker told Fast Company about Spacious. “I can either leave when I’m done with my work or I have a choice of staying for happy hour. It doesn’t feel like I’ve left a long workday.”

Hotels are getting into the game as well.

Crowne Plaza’s Plaza Workspace represents “a global change for the brand’s lobby and public spaces that focuses on four key components: service, food and beverage, at-a-touch technology and new modern design,” according to Hotel News Now. “Part of it includes a studio space in the lobby that people can rent by the hour. It has a seating area, a table for smaller board meetings or brainstorming sessions with at-a-touch technology to ask for service. The Plaza Workspace is a ‘canned solution’ … which means it can be dropped into a hotel in as little as three weeks.”

The nature of work is ever changing, as are locations of labor. Retail and other locations stand ready to benefit from this next phase of human toil.