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Shopper Trends|August 03, 2021

New Shopper Habits are Forcing Stores to Change The Space

Guess what? Shoppers grew to really like those quicker trips during the pandemic, and that’s forcing all retailers to rethink the space in their brick stores. We explored some ways retailers are reinventing their space to accommodate customers who have changed their focus, and our research hints at where it’s heading.

Stores Are Luring Shoppers With Services at the Entrance and Creative Spaces Inside

As retailers satisfy their shoppers demand for quicker trips for their basics, often never going beyond the entrance, retailers need to deliver the unexpected to entice them into the store. So they are reconfiguring space to provide cost-effective services their customers want, and will pay for. All while providing new reasons for customers to venture further into the store.

Welcome to the future of retail, now.

These Small Store Formats Are Gaining Market Share

Three years ago, 58% of shoppers told us in our How America Shops® research that they wanted to get their shopping for the basics done faster. Today, one-third are choosing small format stores: 34% visit Aldi, 33% go to Walmart Neighborhood Market; and 29% shop Target express stores.

These quicker trips did not start during the pandemic, but it became more urgent. In the midst of the pandemic, 48% of shoppers said they preferred to shop stores where they could get in and out faster; 40% wanted retailers to place necessity items in the front of the store.

Walking in the Shoppers’ Shoes, We Found 3 Key Footprints

Several retailers are retrofitting big-footprint stores to accommodate these quick trips. On our Retail Safaris®, and through conversations with retail executives, we’ve seen and heard the following examples.

  • Partnerships: Stores-within-stores are a lower-risk, high-profile way to fill space with another merchant’s goods.

Target partners with Apple to operate in-store tech hubs; Ulta Beauty runs boutiques in Target; and Walgreens stores are making space for Birchbox displays and Annie’s pretzels. These collaborations save shoppers extra trips while adding an element of exploration to a known entity. And, importantly, they create new revenue from existing space. We expect to see more partnerships.


  • Health Services: Facing competition from clinics in malls and on Main Streets, more retailers are encouraged to dedicate more quality (aka private space) to their on-site wellness.

CVS HealthHUB offers consultation rooms at its pharmacy stores; Walmart has created immunization space in the pharmacy; and Dollar General recently added a chief medical officer to expand its healthcare offerings so shoppers have “increased access to affordable healthcare products and services.” In a related effort, Kroger is partnering with Anthem to make Medicare Advantage plans “simple, affordable and accessible,” by 2022. Details have yet to be released about how that will look in the store.


  • Space for Omni Services: Target’s curb-side pickup service is here to stay. 

Nordstrom Local stores serve as “service hubs” for easy online order pickup and returns, as well as for express alterations; and Walmart’s in-store online order pickup kiosks offer a quick-trip solution to walking the aisles. Meanwhile, drug stores are joining big-box merchants and supermarkets in partnering with fast delivery services. CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid recently began offering same-day delivery through various services such as DoorDash, Shipt and Uber Eats. And at Ulta, staff will order products online for shoppers if they are not on the sales floor – and ship it for free.


The trend is clear: Quick-trips are here to stay, and this trend is the antithesis of classic retail. It keeps shoppers out of the store, or sends them to small formats where they get in and out fast. This doesn’t mean retailers have to tear down the bricks, however. Their opportunity is to reinvent their spaces to accommodate the quick-trips while finding creative reasons to bring shoppers into the store – because it’s human nature to love to shop for things that surprise us.

WSL Strategic Retail continually collects and analyzes proprietary How America Shops® research to advise brands and retailers on how to better advance their strategies. To learn more about how WSL Strategic Retail can help your brand or retail innovations, visit us here.

Coming soon: WSL is exploring the nuances and new values that shoppers will be looking for as a new generation of younger shoppers forms families and expects to find their values in the brands retailers offer them. Stay tuned for our next How America Shops® report.


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