Los Angeles should be your next retail location — Here’s why

Sara Weinreb

Welcome to Los Angeles— the city of celebrities, beaches, traffic, and one of the hottest retail scenes in the country. While New York City may be the number one destination for brands looking to expand into retail, L.A. is quickly and steadily gaining ground as a hotspot for old and new brands alike to sell their wares, and not necessarily in the same way they are doing so elsewhere.

Retail has a long history in L.A., with the Miracle Mile developed by real estate developer A.W. Ross in 1921. During the following decades, the area attracted office buildings, museums, and the like, and the Miracle Mile became a shopping destination for people all over the country and the world. Over the years the city has grown and expanded to be a hotbed of retail, with several distinct shopping destinations. Robertson boomed in the early 2000s, with the Ivy and Kitson being go-to destinations, gaining nearly as many visitors as the revered Rodeo Drive, but has lost traction since. Now shoppers hit up Melrose, Abbot Kinney, Silver Lake, and Downtown L.A., amongst others.

LA is an optimal place for retail, with designer and independent brands alike represented across the city.

Melrose and Abbot Kinney are highly coveted neighborhoods, especially for brands. They view the steady and growing traffic as an opportunity to reach a high volume of consumers. These spots, much like SoHo in New York City, have become go-to destinations for innovative retail experiences, especially for e-commerce brands looking to drive offline sales. Cult-favorite Glossier and The RealReal both have Melrose and SoHo locations, and Cuyana, Saje, and Alternative Apparel have outposts on Abbot Kinney while maintaining a presence in SoHo as well. Investing in a retail location on Abbot Kinney is not just about securing a storefront, it’s about brands aligning themselves with other trendy, independent, and community-minded shops on the street. It’s highly coveted real estate, and there’s no surprise that cool, new brands are opening up there regularly.

Silver Lake is also growing as a retail and residential destination for trendsetting millennials. Creatures of Comfort, Parachute, and Le Labo have outposts in the buzzing neighborhood, which caters to young families and intelligentsia-loving 30-somethings. While it’s a quieter area than Abbot Kinney, Melrose, and Downtown L.A., it’s one that shouldn't be overlooked.

In addition to the independent and startup brands taking LA by storm, larger legacy brands are also using L.A. as a ground for innovation. This year, for example, both Nike and Nordstrom launched new retail experiences in L.A. Nike launched a hyper-local, customized 4,557 sq. ft. store called Nike by Melrose on Melrose Ave. showcasing experimental retail. Customers can use an app to purchase in advance and pick up at the store or shop the store’s vending machine loaded with exclusive products. The store also boasts a sneaker bar, text-to-return option, and a treadmill to test shoes out, amongst other individualized and unique offerings. Just down the block, Nordstrom launched a new concept, Nordstrom Local. Taking a cue from Bonobos and Everlane, the 3,000 square foot store does not carry inventory, rather it focuses on being a neighborhood hub and optimizing customer experience. Both brands are using LA as a testing ground for radical retail innovation, and it’s not surprising they are choosing to do so in West Hollywood.

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The landscape of retail in LA is changing fast, and nowhere is growing as rapidly as Downtown L.A. Both the number of stores and retail spending are growing year over year. Downtown L.A. had $2.8MM in retail gross receipts and 4,513 retail establishments in 2014 In 2017 spending had increased to $3.7MM with 5,302 retail establishments, a growth rate of 30%, according to the DTLA Retail Report by the Downtown Center Business Improvement District. According to the report, FIGat7th was the most popular shopping destination, followed closely by Grand Central Market and Little Tokyo. Development efforts are continuing in DTLA, and retail is only expected to keep growing. It’s no surprise, considering the population in the area is rapidly increasing, now at over 70,000 residents with an expected 200,000 residents by 2040, according to BID, and a weekday population of 500,000 individuals.

L.A. is an optimal place for retail, with designer and independent brands alike represented across the city. Along with London, New York, and Paris, it’s considered one of the trendiest cities in the world. Since there is a wide range of influential people inhabiting L.A. including celebrities, writers, musicians, bloggers,digital influencers, stylists, and more, the spotlight is often on the city. Having a presence in L.A. has proven to signify relevance and desirability as a brand. Just behind New York, L.A. leads as the second top city for both brands to pop-up in and build their first permanent location.

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