Consider two experiential initiatives launched in recent weeks. In the first, American Eagle installed a bank of free washers and dryers in its New York flagship. The hope was that Millennials would flock to the new upstairs lounge, charge their cellphones, do their laundry, look cool—and maybe even buy something.

Unfortunately, the so-called AE Studio fell flat with the college kids around Union Square. Was the chain responding to a real need or just pursuing the fictitious Millennial in a way that’s become cliché?

By contrast, Office Depot’s BizBox ( is a suite of services that feels as brand-right as Best Buy’s Geek Squad. We are rapidly becoming a nation of gig-economy freelancers, and BizBox aims to fill a need for back-end support. Starting at $99 a month, BizBox provides help with accounting, legal, marketing, payroll, HR, social media, logo design and website creation and hosting. If Office Depot executes well on this, it could be a boon to small- and medium-sized businesses across the country; which in turn could be welcome support for mom-and-pop tenants. Imagine supporting a new tenant by also supporting an existing one in your center: “Hey, why don’t you walk next door to Office Depot and talk to Biz Box?”

We’re only gently poking fun at AE Studio because we know not every initiative works, but the lesson here is to identify a genuine need for the customer and solve it creatively. Of course, BizBox could stumble, but if it does, you won’t say to yourself, “What in the world were they thinking?”

Rachel Elias Wein

Rachel Elias Wein is CEO & Founder of WeinPlus. Focused on the impact of consumer change on commercial real estate, Rachel serves as the principal strategic advisor for industry-leading owners and operators of commercial real estate. Additionally, Rachel is an independent director for Alpine Income Property Trust (NYSE: PINE) a net-lease retail REIT.

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