When The Summit at Fritz Farm staged its preview opening on April 27, a different style of shopping hit Lexington.
The Summit at Fritz Farm is a jump into the next generation of shopping — like being set down into a small and very upscale tech-savvy town with a hyperlocal feel.
Most stores are small, but chic, including national brands and local boutiques. Restaurants are trendy, again including national chains and local eateries. Luxury apartments are adjacent to the retail and, according to the Bayer Properties website, a 120-room boutique hotel is planned.
The new property is very different from shopping in Lexington in days gone by. In the ‘50s, most people shopped downtown. Families frequently made a day of it, with a restaurant visit and some time walking around the downtown streets. Then there was the arrival of the now-defunct Turfland Mall which consolidated lots of stores under one roof.
Lexington Green offers some storefront and some mall-like common space in a destination complex anchored by Joseph-Beth Booksellers, which moved into the center of the space after starting in a smaller storefront.
Hamburg Pavilion offers shopping at separate big box retailers and a smaller walkable “village” retail concept, but its nearby housing and offices are not generally considered an easy stroll to the retail. You pretty much need a car.
P.S. Raju, professor and chair of the department of marketing at the University of Louisville, said in an e-mail that the trend in retail “is to move away from traditional enclosed malls to a planned ‘lifestyle center.’ ... The objective is to provide a combination of shopping, dining and entertainment which would appeal to almost all age groups and demographics.”
Traditional malls “are facing intense competition from on-line merchandising, and people, especially the younger generation, are reluctant to malls just for shopping since they are quite tech savvy and can buy things on-line.”
Modern shoppers are also reluctant to devote time exclusively to shopping and like to combine shopping with dining out and other forms of entertainment for children — among them playgrounds, fountains and open areas, he said.
“The inclusion of apartments and office space as part of the complex provides stores with a steady source of customers and the people with easy access to shopping and dining,” Raju said.
That places The Summit smack dab in the middle of recent trends.
Consider Bonobos, the menswear store that opened April 27 at The Summit. At the door, the customer is greeted by a dedicated sales guide with an electronic tablet. The store stocks all its merchandise in all sizes; once a customer makes a purchase, the clothing is sent to them. Customers can also create a dashboard to visit later to reconsider items for purchase.
Daniel Sheehan, assistant professor in marketing and supply chain at the University of Kentucky, said that current retail shows “a trend toward customer experience over just function. It’s about telling people to come for a day, for an experience.”
“Nowadays it’s not about shopping for shopping’s sake,” Sheehan said. “It’s about entertainment, and shopping’s almost tangential.”
Is The Summit’s approach this decade’s preferred retail approach? Sheehan thinks the formula is successful, for now.
“This town square feeling, this ‘live, work, play,’ does attract a community that is well beyond the retail space,” he said.
So what does that mean for other, more traditional retail locations in Lexington, like the Fayette Mall?
Sarah Enlow, the mall’s marketing director, said in an e-mail that the mall is always working to enhance the customer experience. Most recently it added what it calls the Fayette Mall Pop-Up Shop.
“It hosts a different local or regional boutique every week,” Enslow said. “It gives our guests a fresh local shopping destination every week at Fayette Mall, and it gives a taste of the mall store concept to more local businesses without a long-term commitment.”
In recent years the mall has added more dining and retail tenants that customers seek, she said. The opening of the wildly popular Cheesecake Factory in 2014 brought droves of customers to the mall. But the Travinia Italian Kitchen, opened in 2015, did not fare as well; it closed in November, 2016.
For those deterred by its capacious parking lot, Fayette Mall added a complimentary seven-day valet service allowing customers “to enjoy their time shopping without the hassle of parking,” Enlow said.
Starwood Partners, which includes Hamburg Pavilion in its portfolio, had little to say about the new competition in the Lexington market.
“New development always proves the strength of a market — and that’s certainly true of Lexington,” Chelsie Petereit, vice president of marketing for Starwood Retail Partners, wrote in an e-mail.
Hamburg offers “a huge assortment” of shopping, dining and entertainment experiences and is continually in discussion with the goal of finding more appropriate tenants “to meet the needs of this growing market,” Petereit said.
Langley Properties, which is the hardest-hit by the Summit development — losing its Whole Foods, Anthropologie and lululemon athletica to The Summit — did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Anthony Dukes, a professor at the University of Southern California, said that consumers “are increasingly more trustworthy of web-based payment systems. And new technologies like virtual mannequins and showrooming apps diminish the advantage of having a physical environment.”
“It may not be the end of brick-and-mortar stores entirely, however, because many people still enjoy the shopping experience,” Dukes said. “Shopping with a good friend, followed by coffee or a movie, is impossible to deliver online. This could explain why many malls have repackaged themselves as ‘experiential retail’ centers.”