Big box retailers opening smaller-format stores in urban settings is trendier than ever. Kohl's, for example, in March opened seven stores nearly half the size of their regular locations, while Target has launched several CityTarget stores ranging from 60,000 to 100,000 square feet, compared to the full-size stores that range from 128,000 to 135,000 square feet. Walmart, too, has been expanding its 30,000-square-foot Walmart Express units, which are such smaller than its supercenters ranging in size from 78,000 to 260,000 square feet, according to wwd.com.

The recession, combined with the fact that the U.S urban population increased by 12.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, has inspired retailers to scale down, said Brian Dyches, international president of the Retail Design Institute.

"Growth is no longer in the reckless abandon phase of the '90s," Dyches said in the story. "The real strategy driving smaller formats was about the costs related to real estate, employees, and inventory."

Also, retailers are realizing that shoppers living in the city don't want to drive to suburban areas for big box retail locations, nor do they want to spend a lot of time in them, according to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor Survey. Offering smaller locations in urban areas is one way retailers can reach more elusive, and sometimes lucrative, consumers, such as the millennials, boomers and seniors.

Read more about store design.

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