‘Micro-Mall’ Concept ‘RAAS’ Looks to Expand After Initial Success

By Mario Toneguzzi

The future of retail may very well lie in the idea of micro malls - smaller spaces created within bigger malls that allow local and emerging retailers the ability to set up shop in a quick manner and develop their business.

Mark Ghermezian, part of the family that developed West Edmonton Mall and other big international shopping centres, helped develop the Retail as a Service (RAAS) concept which launched at WEM last fall.

“We wanted to create a platform that empowered and gave relevance to emerging and local stores. We really felt that there is a whole market of so much talent and so much good products out there and they’re prohibited today from opening up a brick and mortar store,” said Ghermezian.

“We looked at this and said what is the platform we can create that really helps these brands be successful and for us it was a component of creating a space, creating a community and creating an experience. And if we can bring all three of those together, we thought that would be something that would really unlock local and emerging brands to be successful.”

The first one tested was in Edmonton and it’s been a big learning curve on figuring out what the space would be like and what the community would be like in that micro or mini mall within the big mall.

Another concept opened in Mall of America in Minneapolis in November.

The West Edmonton Mall concept opened at the end of October 2017. It has just over 5,000 square feet dedicated for RAAS.

 Mall of America RAAS entrance. Photo: RAAS

Mall of America RAAS entrance. Photo: RAAS

 West Edmonton Mall. Photo: RAAS

West Edmonton Mall. Photo: RAAS

“We felt that was an appropriate size for where we are today. But we do see the sizes of RAAS locations being anywhere from 5,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet,” said Ghermezian.

The West Edmonton Mall site can have a minimum of 20 local retailers to as high as 30.

“In some cases, you have brands that are sharing space. On average it’s 20 to 25,” he said.

 At Mall of America

At Mall of America

“The plan is to democratize retail and create a platform that really allows these brands to be successful in a brick and mortar experience. The plan is to do this globally and create a community around the world of the best local and emerging and direct to consumer brands.”

Ghermezian said the belief is that a product can be created within the micro stores that can deliver on boosting direct to consumer business from their website. There is also the learning experience these brands can receive from the other brands who are also participating in the community.

“We have a five-year plan where we do this globally and we’ve been testing the last five months in the two markets we’ve been in and so far so good. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with a lot of the top brands in the cities that we’re in,” he said.

“We’re coming in and just trying to build a new platform that’s different from other people out there and hopefully the market really appreciates what we’re trying to do.”

Photos provided by Publicity Room unless otherwise noted.

Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com.

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Mario Toneguzzi

Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com.