Morning Brew - ☕ Best footprint forward

Big box retailers experiment with store formats.
November 08, 2023

Retail Brew


It’s Wednesday. Keeping track of financials is critical to success in retail, and it doesn’t have to be a dreaded task. Join us Nov. 13 for the return of our hit Financial Forecasting course. Walk away with a strong plan for the year ahead and enter this holiday season stress free. Enroll now!

In today’s edition:

—Alex Vuocolo, Andrew Adam Newman, Erin Cabrey


Footprint shuffle

Walmart Store of the Future: Apparel department Walmart

At the end of October, Walmart celebrated the “largest single-day rollout of re-grand openings in company history.” The retail giant reopened 117 locations in 30 states after sinking $500 million into upgrades, ranging from new signage and lighting to “digital touchpoints” that connect customers with Walmart’s online store.

  • The investments are part of a $9 billion initiative to modernize 1,400 stores.
  • “Every change is thoughtful,” Hunter Hart, senior VP of Walmart Realty, wrote in a blog post. “They all ladder up to a greater goal: to meet our customers wherever they are, leveraging our stores to welcome people to a more modern, highly-connected Walmart.”

Walmart’s remodeling spree comes as several large retailers are also shaking up their brick-and-mortar footprint with new layouts and sizes. Here are a handful of those companies.

Smaller is better: For some, bigger is no longer better. The Container Store and Macy’s are both embracing small-format stores as they expand their footprints.

Keep reading here.—AV



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Chain of command

Blocks on a table with storefronts printed on them, to represent a franchised chain. Cagkansayin/Getty Images

When it comes to owning their locations or franchising them, restaurant chains tend to choose a lane and stick to it.

Among those that are gung ho for franchising, for example, is McDonald’s, which owns just 5.2% of its US locations in 2022, (693 of 13,444), according to QSR magazine.

Others lean into the franchise model even more:

  • Chick-fil-A owned only 2.6% (73 of 2,837) in 2022.
  • KFC owned 1.2% (46 of 3,918).
  • Those owning below 1% include Dunkin’, at 0.33% (31 of 9,370), Dairy Queen at .05% (2 of 4,307), and Subway, which owned none of its 20,576 locations.

But the company-owned model has its devotees as well. Many chains eschewing franchising and owning all their locations, including Chipotle, Shake Shack, Sweetgreen, In-N-Out Burger, and White Castle.

Starbucks licenses locations including colleges, hospitals, and grocery stores to sell its offerings, but those are not franchise agreements. And that, according to Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, is all about control.

Keep reading here.—AAN



Coworking with Elias Stahl

Elias Stahl headshot Elias Stahl

On Wednesdays, we wear pink spotlight Retail Brew’s readers. Want to be featured in an upcoming edition? Click here to introduce yourself.

Elias Stahl is CEO and co-founder of HILOS, a zero-waste footwear manufacturer.

How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t work in retail? Twenty-four billion shoes are made every year; 1 in 5 go straight to the landfill. Because a brand never knows exactly what size or style will be bought when, they massively overproduce, and that waste is built into the price, quality, and waste we live with at the end of the day. My job is to try and bring that model to an end. As the CEO and founder of HILOS, I began a company with a mission to reinvent how and where shoes are made so they can be made locally, only after a customer purchase, without waste. The key to that is new technology like 3D printing and computational design, allowing us to make incredible shoes with a fraction of the time and labor.

One thing we can’t guess about your job from your LinkedIn profile? Every now and again, my role requires me operating heavy machinery.

What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on? Our first concept line, the Georgia, will always have a foundational place in my heart. It was where we proved our concept—that you could invent new methods of make specifically for 3D printing that delivered a compelling, comfortable shoe (in this case, a heeled clog) [in] 72 hours click-to-ship and completely circular.

Keep reading here.—EC




Size up. French Toast is a school uniform brand working across the US and Asia—so they’re pretty busy. That’s why they tapped HSBC to help manage their financial needs internationally, which in turn helped their business boost sales in a big way. Learn more about HSBC’s thriving partnerships.


Today’s top retail reads.

Ride or diet: Tracing the history and evolution of Los Angeles grocer Erewhon, founded by macrobiotic diet supporters Aveline and Michio Kushi in 1960s Boston. (The Cut)

Bring to bear: How Build-A-Bear is scoring record sales, from releasing limited-edition items like the viral Pumpkin Kitty to targeting adults and teens. (Retail Dive)

Common sense: Walmart is making changes to its store operations in the morning hours in an effort to be more inclusive of customers and employees with sensory disabilities. (CNN)

Attention retailers: Time to get to know your customers. We partnered with PayPal Braintree to dig into how retailers are getting a 360-degree view of their customers and how they shop. Read on.*

*A message from our sponsor.


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