Office Space Converting to Retail? (Office Conversion Series – #4)

December 6, 2023

We are halfway through our series and in today’s entry we’re talking about office to retail conversions.   As retail vacancies continue to drop and office vacancies rise, owners are exploring the idea of converting unused office space into retail space.  According to the Phoenix Business Journal, retail space has had a low vacancy rate of 5.1% as of Q3 2023. (Read more here.)

Converting empty offices into retail shops offers a cost-efficient option, but this conversion is not a walk in the park.  It not only takes a lot of planning to turn an office space into a retail space — more importantly, it requires a great location.

– If the office space is in a high-traffic area, it could be an attractive opportunity to investors.
– It would be seen as an added “amenity” for the area.
– Opportunity for increased brand awareness — again, if in a good area.

– Location – If it is not in a highly populated area, customers will not be willing to drive far to get there.
– Visibility – Buildings need to be in an area that has high visibility to drive customer demand.
– Parking issues may arise – retail centers typically require more parking and easily accessible spots than office.

Here are some articles on the topic:
Can You Use Office Space for Retail?
The Future of Retail

Final takeaways on this potential conversion:

1. Location is EVERYTHING:  Any retail site has to be in a high-traffic area for maximum visibility and accessibility. If it isn’t, forget about this type of conversion.

2. Detailed Planning is Required: After location, the layout is critical. Will they be able to build what they need?  Zoning restrictions, fire safety, power, ceiling height, and noise restrictions are all challenges to consider.

3. Versatility: Instead of the whole office building going retail, we will see some retail on the first floor.  They can use the remaining space for offices and this provides tenants with extra amenities.  This won’t work for every building, but has the potential to work for some in the right location.

With all of the above said, this is a very tough conversion from my perspective. We have seen a few older office buildings in cool locations get demolished and rebuilt as retail centers.  We are also seeing some ground floor offices go to quasi-retail given the slow demand for office, especially if the use is symbiotic with office tenant demands.

The commercial office market is changing. Retail might fill in a few gaps to optimize the right office building space.





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Can You Use Office Space for Retail?

Lauren Valensky
12 May 2022

Unused office space is both affordable and accessible, but can it be used to house a retail business? Read on to find out.

Considering the high cost of rent, which makes it difficult to find a space that is both affordable and visible to potential customers, many entrepreneurs have begun to explore the possibility of converting unused office spaces into retail stores.

However, there are a number of factors to consider when contemplating this transformation, since retail requires a very different kind of setup than office spaces typically do. Fortunately, we’ve been doing some research, and have collated some simple steps to follow if you’re thinking about using office space for retail.

What is ‘office space’?

Office space is commercial property specifically designed for use as an office, typically one that is rented out to businesses on a short-term basis. Such spaces can range in size from small cubicles to large open floors and can come equipped with everything from meeting rooms and private offices to shared workspaces and conference facilities.

While these specific features can make office spaces ideal candidates for interesting retail establishments, they can also hinder compatibility with the retail set-up, and such it’s important to consider these crucial points:

Some of the key considerations when transforming office space into a store include the following:

Location, location, location

First and foremost, you’ll need to carefully consider where your business will be located within the office space, as this will impact everything from traffic flow to visibility and accessibility. Ideally, you’ll want your store to be located in a high-traffic area of the office that is easily visible, such as near the entrance or within a busy common area.

Create a floor plan

Once you’ve decided that an office-turned-retail space is a right fit for your business, it’s time to get to work on creating a floor plan that can be used to evaluate your layout’s legalities – potential zoning issues, (such as fire safety regulations), building codes or restrictions on noise for example.

In addition to this, you’ll also need to take into account things like utilities and storage needs, as well as electrical outlets and plumbing. All of these factors will play a role in determining the feasibility of your office-turned-retail space, so it’s important to consider them all carefully before getting started.

Conduct a feasibility study

Talking of feasibility, before committing your business to any office space, it’s essential that you conduct a thorough feasibility study of the entire vicinity. This will help you get a better idea of what kind of store would work well within this setting, as well as what kind of traffic you can expect.

Some factors to consider during your feasibility study include:

  • The demographics of the surrounding area
  • The levels of consistent foot traffic
  • The accessibility of the location, with regard to customer parking and public transport

By carefully evaluating these factors, you can determine whether your office space would actually be a viable location for a retail store.

Get the appropriate permits

If you’re planning on making changes to the office space itself, such as painting walls or installing new fixtures, you’ll need to obtain the proper permits from your local authorities before proceeding.

While the process can be somewhat time-consuming, it’s essential to obtain the necessary permits in order to ensure that your retail operation is legally compliant and safe. You can find more information on how to do this online, or by consulting with an experienced retail professional in your area.

Choose your merchandise wisely

When selecting merchandise for your store, it’s important to consider what will complement the office setting, and ensure that you have a wide enough selection of different products so that customers can peruse your wares easily.

Be sure to select items that complement your company’s branding and image and provide the product your customers expect – it’s important to carefully evaluate the specific needs of your target customers and determine how those needs can be best addressed within the available space.

How to use an office space for retail

If you’re looking for additional revenue streams, need extra space for product fulfillment, or just want to try something new, you might be asking how exactly office space can be used for retail?

Well, there are a number of ways that you can utilize your office space for retail, aside from a simple brick-and-mortar store. Some simple transformations that can help turn these empty spaces into vibrant and profitable retail operations include:

Pop-up shops

Pop-up shops are a great way to test out a new retail concept without making a long-term commitment.

By setting up shop in your office space for a few days or weeks, you can determine whether there is interest in your product and gauge customer reaction before investing in a more permanent store.

In-office showrooms

If you have products that are too large or delicate to sell online, setting up an in-office showroom can be a great way to give customers the opportunity to see your products in person before making a purchase.

This can also be a good option if you have limited space for inventory, as it allows you to showcase a selection of your merchandise without having to keep a large stock.

Platforms for partnerships with other local retailers

If you don’t have the time or resources to commit to running a full-fledged retail operation, partnering with another local retailer in an office space can be a great way to get your products in front of customers. This can be done through consignment arrangements, co-branding, or simply by renting out space in your office to the other retailer.

No matter what route you decide to take, remember that the key to success is all in the planning. By taking the time to evaluate your options and make thoughtful decisions, you can successfully turn your office space into a vibrant retail hub that will help grow your business and engage your customers.


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