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Reimagining Retail: Seizing Opportunities on Main Street and in Ecommerce

Seizing Opportunities on Main Street and in Ecommerce

Curious about what to expect when coming to campus? Please visit our Campus Learning page.

At no time in history has retailing or, more precisely, the act of acquiring goods, services and experiences—been in more transformative times. For centuries, the retail experience has evolved to meet the needs of the public. And, from the time of the ancient marketplaces to the emergence of Medieval market towns, to High Streets, to Main Streets, shopping malls and modern-day mixed-use complexes all such commerce was the province of an analog world. In recent years this paradigm, grounded in a reality of touch, smell, temperature, varying light and perspective shared with others in a similar quest has been literally undermined, if not in some quarters attacked and replaced by new electronic realities.But what will retail shopping look like in the post-Pandemic era? Now in its 28th year, this course illustrates the best practices for retail centers responding to the emerging Post-COVID era and changing lifestyles.

Probably the most entertaining and instructive program I have experienced at Harvard [GSD] Executive Education.

Past Participant

Many recent expensive efforts to revitalize downtowns or build new centers have failed because the adopted design and planning recommendations along with poor implementation approaches hurt commerce. New and old towns need intelligent strategies for the survival of their commercial life. Sustainable development and vibrant community life are impossible without these strategies. In this program, we will explore the practical science of analyzing and adjusting all elements known to affect a shopper’s mood in the marketplace, and how that informs design and development principles for reviving retail in declining downtowns and for establishing viable commerce in new ones.

Other particular areas of focus will include:

  • The best practices for programing sustainable urban retail centers and repositioning failed suburban malls.
  • Proven planning and design practices for walkable retail centers including: architecture, parking, parks, streetscape and tenant mix.
  • The fundamentals of retail market research and site selection criteria by each retail category and many national retail tenants.
  • An introduction to consumer psychographics, and how this field leads to an understanding of and exerts influence consumer behavior.
  • An insider’s view for planning and managing resort and tourist retail destinations and resorts.
  • An optional tour and analysis of the evolving retail district of Harvard Square.
  • Modern industry standards for retail visual merchandising, storefront and signage.
  • The expanding importance of food in its many forms in the creation and sustainability of retail places.
  • International trends and opportunities, and the connections universally shared among great retail places around the globe.
  • Explore how modern proven principles of retail development can be combined with the best practices of traditional placemaking, new urbanism and modern shopping center development to create competitive urban commercial centers.
  • Provide an overview of electronic realities, the forces that created and that drive them forward, and explore how these two worlds can be mutually supportive.
  • Examine the impact of consumer psychographics and techniques along with the emerging virtual technologies for creating place-based brands.
  • Topics covered include: market research, branding, national retailer criteria and site selection principles.
  • Participants will learn about parking, streetscape, store planning, signage, tenant mix, merchandising plans, leasing, anchors’ roles and successful new urban planning techniques, design criteria, site planning and developer requirements.
  • Also reviewed is the synergy between residential, office, civic and governmental land uses and retailer performance.

Architects, city officials, institutional lenders, real estate investment trusts, policymakers, residential and commercial real estate developers, retailers and urban planners.

Day 1

  • Next Generation Urban Retail Design Principles
  • Best Practices in Urban Retail Planning & Development 
  • New Town Centers’ Design Principles, Lessons for the Future
  • Optional Harvard Square Tour

Day 2

  • New Town Center Post-COVID
  • Town Center Principles and Best Practices
  • Food Retail: Four Trends

Day 3

  • New Development Strategies
  • Urban Retail New Trends for Cities
  • Retail Brand Trends

Each day will feature case studies and interactive exercises to illustrate course concepts, and there will be open discussion about retail best practices.

Fantastic presentation–with organized and timely information. Bob [Gibbs] is an incredible lecturer.”

Past Participant


Headshot of Terry Shook

Terry Shook, FAIA

Principal, Shook Kelley, Inc.

Headshot of Bob Gibbs

Bob Gibbs

President, Gibbs Planning Group, Inc.


Lori Bongiorno

Managing Principal, Director, Mixed-Use Studio

Cindy Ciura

Principal, CC Consulting

Kevin Kelley

Founding Partner & Principal, Shook Kelley Inc.

Eric Larson

CEO, Downtown Detroit Partnership

Yaromir Steiner

CEO, Steiner & Associates

Terry [Shook] is a great presenter with an amazing command of the perspectives and psychological factors that drive retail decisions.

Past Participant

Reimagining Retail: Seizing Opportunities on Main Street and in Ecommerce

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