How retail adds to commercial buildings when done right


Office workers spend money on retail near their office.  That’s fact. So, should a good commercial development also include retail?

By and large, yes, if it’s in the right place and done right.
Based on extensive Urbis analysis of retail components of largely commercial developments, there are five main benefits:

  1. Retail uses typically attract higher rents on a per sq.m basis than office
  2. Retail provide amenities to workers that make a location attractive to commercial tenants
  3. Activation of street frontage which enhances the “sense of place” of the location
  4. Marketing and branding – retail provides a commercial building with exposure to a broader market beyond its current tenants
  5. Food and beverage in particular can generate activity and business after office hours (weekends and evenings)

  1. Size of immediate catchment market – the size and spending capacity of the worker and resident population  is the most important determinant of the viability of retail within a commercial development, particularly those on-site
  2. Competition – does the number and quality of competitors make additional retail unviable
  3. Accessibility – Easy access by public transport and car are essential to the successful performance of retail during evenings and on weekends.
  4. Exposure to ant track – strong visibility, particularly to passing pedestrian traffic, is essential

Operational and Property Development Factors

  1. Layout – the location and visibility of retail within an office building
  2. Appropriate scale and mix of uses – tenant mix has to be sufficiently extensive to be attractive to a range of market segments and also of a scale sustainable for its market
  3. Operator/tenant – the operator needs a strong reputation, brand and offer to create destinational appeal, particularly in locations that do not have direct street access
  4. Signage and way finding – highly visible signage and way finding are important particularly when not located on a strong ant track

As the density of our CBDs continues to grow, the appropriate provision of retail will become increasingly important. However, planning for retail and managing retail tenancies is different to managing offices, and these 8 key factors need to be considered during any development to ensure success.


This article first appeared in the Urbis Think Tank. Urbis is an interdisciplinary consulting firm offering services in planning, design, property, social planning, economics and research. Working with clients on integrated or standalone assignments, Urbis provides the social research, analysis and advice upon which major social, commercial and environmental decisions are made. With over 300 staff Urbis is uniquely positioned to handle projects from the simplest to the most complex.

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