Office Depot, Target and even Walmart are opening smaller stores in cities. Executives say the suburbs have as many stores as they can handle. Opening a smaller version of Walmart in an urban area is a challenge. However, the urban stores meet less opposition from residents and planners. They sell fewer and some different items than their stores in the suburbs.
The change follows the trend of young people moving into cities. Between 2000 and 2010, growth in suburban areas was slightly greater than growth in cities. In the last year, however, it is the cities that are growing faster.
Retailors are learning that the needs of city shoppers are different. City people do not drive to stores and have less time to shop. Items such as towel papers are sold in three packs, not in nine or twelve roll packs. Paper or plastic cartons are replacing heavy jars.
The new city stores will have items that meet the needs of young residents. For example, a Walmart near Toronto found that apartment dwellers are most interested in fixing up their bathrooms. So, they carry a lot of toilet seats and shower heads.
Most big stores have a great deal of information about what shoppers like to buy. They are using the data to change big suburban-type stores into places friendly to city shoppers. For example, the signs directing customers are clearer and the shelves are lower to save time for quick reaching.