Published: November 11, 2023

Retailers from Walmart to Macy’s are experimenting with new store formats

Big box chains tweak their footprints to engage more customers.

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.

The Container Store touted the success of its smaller 12,500-square-foot locations earlier this year during an earnings call. CEO Satish Malhotra told investors that they were “exceeding expectations” and outlined a plan to open nine more in 2023 and 2024.

Macy’s, meanwhile, announced plans earlier this month to open 30 new off-mall small-format locations starting in 2024. CFO Adrian Mitchell said the smaller store size allowed the company to “target high-traffic shopping centers” and balance its omnichannel strategy.

Mega stores: Moving in the opposite direction is a retailer with plans to open even bigger stores, with the goal of making them destination spots. Dick’s Sporting Good over the summer said it planned to open nine new locations under its “House of Sports” model that are at least 100,000 square feet, which is double Dick’s typical format size. The extra square footage allows Dick’s to incorporate new amenities such as in-store activity areas, including golf bays, climbing walls, and sports cages.

“It's exciting that the feedback from customers has been so positive and the communities see the stores as a destination,” Toni Roeller, a senior vice president at Dick’s, said in a press release.

Target had started prioritizing larger-format stores in 2022, in part because they provide more backroom fulfillment space for e-commerce operations. The retailer had been rapidly expanding its footprint of small-format stores for years, though it recently closed several small-format stores, blaming theft and poor performance.

Pop-up to flagship: Splitting the difference between big and small is the recently revived Toys R Us brand. In partnership with the Go! Retail Group, the toy seller, is opening smaller pop-up stores at airports, cruise ships, and Macy’s stores.

It’s also launching 24 brick-and-mortar flagship locations across the country starting next year, which includes a 20,000-square-foot store at the American Dream mall in New Jersey.

“The Toys ’R’ Us brand is growing fast and our expansion into air, land and sea is a testament to the brand's strength,” Yehuda Shmidman, CEO of WHP Global, which now owns the Toys R Us brand, said in the announcement.

© Public Gaming Research Institute. All rights reserved.