Sheila Marikar/Fast Company – As malls across the country succumb to declining foot traffic and the lure of online shopping, a development in Los Angeles’s artsy Culver City neighborhood is proving that it’s still possible to draw customers in person—if you design the right experience. Called Platform, the year-and-a-half-old space is a cluster of boutiques, workout studios, offices, and restaurants by up-and-coming chefs, all housed in an Instagram-worthy refurbished industrial complex. As customers line up for the mall’s free yoga classes and stroll through its outdoor gardens, Platform is emerging as a template for a new kind of shopping experience.
Developers David Fishbein and Joey Miller, principals of the real estate company Runyon Group, prioritize experimentation. To secure a lease, each of the 26 long-term tenants had to offer an experience unique to its Platform location. At the on-site Sweetgreen, for example, customers can choose one of the fast-casual chain’s salad staples or sample a dish from the in-house test kitchen. (Sweetgreen’s headquarters are located in the development too.) At Reformation, shoppers who prefer not to sort through racks of clothes can order styles from touch screens installed throughout the boutique. Fishbein and Miller also set aside spaces for short-term pop-ups, which online surfboard maker Salt Surf and event producer Spring Street Social Society have used as launching pads to physical retail. “We thought we knew who our customer [would be], but there was no way to know until we opened,” says Fishbein. “The pop-ups allow this period of discovery to continue.”