The Changing Landscape Of Shopping

Some of you will remember back in the day, when shopping was done at small shops owned locally. Over time these were squeezed out by the “big box” department stores. We have noticed that lately there is a sort of renaissance revival of smaller shops happening here in Kansas City, as well as the other places we travel. It is fueled from the desire to have a more cultural shopping experience that you don’t get at the department store level. This is changing the landscape of shopping for many of the downtown areas of cities across the Midwest.

Pop up shops give shoppers a view at some new small shop products.

They Keep Popping Up

Recently we attended a pop-up event in KCK. This style of event is organized by various facilitators who assemble a group of local vendors. Many of those selling have been running their businesses out of their homes and online. With a brick and mortar site, they struggle to build a customer base for repeat sales. These pop-up events give them the opportunity to showcase their goods to a larger group of potential customers over a couple of days.

A pop-up shopping event in KCK draws lots of interested shoppers.

This event took place at the Legends Shopping Center, so it is obvious that the larger retailers must see the changing dynamic in the shopping realm. Their choice to embrace these new competitors was surely based on the idea that it would create a larger traffic flow for their stores as well. While the event was earmarked for women, we saw plenty of men wandering through the booths. There were even small business owners who focused on food stuffs and non-apparel items.

A West Bottoms boutique has found a successful niche.


Crystal and I have enjoyed shopping at boutique clothing shops for quite some time. We find that they offer unique lines of clothing and we are supporting a locally owned business. When we travel we look for these same type of shops in the destinations we visit. Since most of our trips are designed to get us into the downtown districts, we usually can find at least a handful of these type of stores. When we are in our hometown, we have discovered pockets of boutiques that we frequent. One of our favorites is Sincerely, Ellis in the West Bottoms. We have come to know the owner well and that is the kind of experience we find lacking at the big box stores. (You can read more about Sincerely here.)

Shoppers have the added bonus of seeing inside many historic buildings.

Boutique shops can often be found occupying buildings that are being re-purposed. Many of these are old manufacturing plants or warehouses. We find them to have more character and charm. It is interesting to see how the owners will reuse the space and breathe new life into it. It also allows us a peek inside of these buildings that would otherwise be shuttered from the public.

Pop-up fashion shows offer shoppers a view of multiple shops products in one setting.

Runaway Runway

Downtown Bonner Springs, Kansas has a small cluster of boutique shops that work together to draw in shoppers. We attended one of their fashion shows where each of the shops supplied a model to showcase some of their fashions. It’s a fun way to see an assortment of their styles in a more social setting. Afterwards, most of the attendees would be heading out to visit these shops for a more in-depth look. These types of events are becoming more commonplace, as boutique shop owners are finding strength in numbers.

The Boxyard in Tulsa, Oklahoma has found an inventive way to re-purpose shipping containers.

Box It Up

Boutique shop owners are beginning to find that city planners and developers have noticed this trend and are working to facilitate its growth. In Tulsa, Oklahoma they have developed an area known as the Boxyard. An assembly of shipping containers have been re-purposed as shops with all the amenities of a brick and mortar. These open up small spaces for growing businesses to get a more permanent home in the city. This unique shopping center attracts many of the same people who are already interested in the rebirth of the urban spaces.

Boutique shops offer a variety of products for sale.

A recent visit to Oklahoma City allowed us a peek into their newest upcoming destination district, Automobile Alley. This area was once home to an assortment of automobile dealerships and supporting auto parts suppliers. After a severe decline, it is beginning its rebirth as a shopping and entertainment district. The installation of a streetcar will allow locals and visitors alike to traverse the area easily. Much like we are seeing along the streetcar line in Kansas City, this Oklahoma city also predicts huge returns on their investment. We took a stroll through the area and found that some shop owners are banking on the success of the plan. The once empty spaces are beginning to fill up with unique and interesting shops.

The authors pose for a selfie at a recent pop-up shopping event in Kansas city, Kansas.

Sitting Pretty

As the landscape continues to evolve, we expect to see more of these pop-up events across the city. With more and more shoppers seeking out unique styles and a personal experience, boutique shops will continue to flourish. While there is still plenty of space for some big box stores, we are pleased to see that the entrepreneurs who follow their dreams are finding success. After all, this is part of the American Dream and we should all be allowed to pursue it.  What are some of your favorite boutique shops? Leave us a note in the comments section below and we will check it out. Be sure to leave your name, so that we can mention you when we visit!

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12 thoughts on “The Changing Landscape Of Shopping”

  1. michele h peterson

    This is a really interesting trend and one I hope continues to expand across the world. When I travel I tend to avoid the big malls and haven’t really embraced online shopping for clothing so love to browse small local shops. I’ve never seen shipping containers used as boutique clothing shops but noticed them in Europe so would be curious to see what the Boxyard would be like. It sounds like an eco-friendly alternative to the big box malls that promote a car centric culture.

  2. Online shopping and boutique shops may finally put enough pressure on large department stores that will eventually make them fold. Very interesting new trends! And both are real.

  3. I must confess that shopping is one of my least favourite activities (or chores). But if I have to do it I’d rather go to small shops than to a shopping mall – it makes a much pleasanter experience.

  4. With the extreme rise of online shopping, I am always so happy and relieved to hear stories of independent businesses thriving. Nothing will ever compare to the experience of shopping in a curated, specialized shop full of unique goods. Glad to see these stores popping up!

  5. To say I’m not a shopper is an understatement. I would blame it on my parents, but my youngest sister is a credible shopper, so maybe it’s not that. I hate to say this, but I sometimes prefer big box stores because I don’t like to hovered over by a salesperson, especially one that is likely the owner of the store. I feel badly if they spend time with me and then I don’t buy anything. We have pop up stores in Philly too. It’s a great way for a small retailer to test the waters.

    1. We can see the correlation with being in such close contact with the owner. Thanks for sharing that point of view. Note to Shopowners: Be sure to allow your shoppers to feel some privacy while exploring your spaces.

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