Even before COVID-19, we saw record-breaking store closures — leaving vacant retail spaces across the country. And when the pandemic happened, it was a matter of months before mass closures swept the nation. More and more stores closed as people quarantined, practiced social distancing, and chose to do all their working, studying, and dining at home. Online shopping habits increased dramatically.

Fortunately, the world is reopening. Slowly but steadily, people are returning to their pre-pandemic lives. However, many business owners remain cautious. The last two years have forced them to pivot and think of creative ways to provide their products and services without a brick-and-mortar location. Many have decided to maintain remote operations indefinitely, while others choose to wait for more stability.

When retail space owners are faced with vacancies, the obvious approach seems to be to appeal to tenants with businesses similar to the last ones. But in this new environment, property owners should be thinking creatively and consider marketing their vacancies to “non-traditional” tenants. Here are some ideas:

Co-working space

While many offices have re-opened, some companies have realized their employees are happier and more productive working remotely, thus, deciding to maintain a remote workforce. However, this doesn’t mean that workers prefer to work from home entirely. Many don’t like being cooped up at home and seek co-working spaces where there are amenities, access to food and coffee, and less distraction.


Pop-ups can be anything — from seasonal crafts and product launches to restaurants and coffee shops. We generally see pop-ups in the high-traffic areas of malls, specifically the spaces between “main” tenants where shoppers walk. A good way to fill a vacancy is to split the space into quarters and offer it to small business owners under short-term agreements. Long-term leases may be riskier and many small business owners aren’t willing to take just yet. Also, shorter term leases many times command a premium in pricing. Even if you were to rent out the space on a monthly basis, it would be better than leaving it empty while you hope a long-term tenant shows up.

Art gallery

With the alarming number of galleries that have closed in the past two years, the art world realized that traditional art commercial models were dying. Art dealers had to rethink their methods and real estate needs. While virtual galleries have been somewhat successful, art circles still demand to have physical interactions with the art. An art gallery in a high-traffic area such as a retail center also allows gallery owners and art dealers to tap into a wider, more diverse audience.

Here are some other “non-traditional” tenants to consider for those empty spaces:

Daycare and activity centers — Parents will love having a place to drop off their kids so they can shop faster and more efficiently.

Local animal shelter — A nonprofit animal shelter would appreciate a short-term space where people can meet the cats and dogs that need adopting.

Community clinics — Walk-in clinics offer shoppers access to quick medical services.

Gym and health club — Health and fitness has come front of mind as health scares swept the nation. The gym industry has evolved quite a bit in the last 10 years, with many smaller “boutique” gym spaces that offer classes, vs. larger format open area gyms, and people will appreciate easier access to gyms and health centers.

Charging station and lounge — Imagine a space with comfortable couches, massage chairs, and stations where people can charge their devices.

Ultimately, we recommend that retail space owners not only explore “non-traditional” options but also consider the other options depending on their sub-market.If you’d like more information, or additional advice on any specific property please reach out to joe@joekillinger.co




Entrepreneur-Investor-Founder. Posting tips and insights from my experiences in real estate, investing & entrepreneurship- https://www.joekillinger.co/

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Joe Killinger

Joe Killinger

Entrepreneur-Investor-Founder. Posting tips and insights from my experiences in real estate, investing & entrepreneurship- https://www.joekillinger.co/

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