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Medtail: When Healthcare Meets Retail

Barrie Scardina • 12/8/2022

Consumer expectations for convenience have extended beyond the home delivery of goods to include easier ways to obtain health and wellness services, prompting medical services to move into retail space once occupied by apparel and accessory tenants. An aging Baby Boomer population and increased focus on health has caused services from urgent care to dermatology to expand from coast to coast. This new retail sector, known as “Medtail,” is a great addition to the retail tenant mix, providing creative ways for landlords to fill vacancies and generate foot traffic. Landlords should be aware, however, that Medtail tenants have different needs than typical retail.

What is Medtail?

Medtail refers to healthcare services located in a retail setting. Typical Medtail tenants include vision or dental offices, but specialty wellness services are now also growing in popularity. Medtail can be found in a variety of retail centers, including strip malls, shopping centers and shop-in-shop concepts (i.e., clinics inside retail stores). Top U.S. retailers are quickly joining the healthcare industry, including Walmart, Walgreens and CVS and private equity firms are eager to invest in these types of healthcare providers, most notably those with urgent care clinics. In addition to big box retailers, Medtail clients in the alternative medicine and veterinary services sectors are growing in number, driving demand for space.

Types of Medtail include:

  • Urgent care 
  • Cosmetic / medical spas 
  • Veterinary and pet services 
  • Occupational / physical therapy 
  • Skincare 
  • Acupuncture 
  • Holistic / alternative care centers 
  • Wellness / recovery centers 
  • Imaging services

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Why is Medtail in demand?

A deferred healthcare crisis, an aging baby boomer cohort and the impact of a global pandemic is driving the rising demand for a wide range of medical services—from access to convenient care to higher acuity services that are delivered in an inpatient setting to chronic disease management and in-home healthcare services. The U.S. continues to see changes in the healthcare landscape that include a variety of mediums. “A combination of digital, physical, and personal experience in all industries is the best recipe for success, so finding a way to marry all three is now the main task of healthcare providers,” says Dan Stanek of WD partners. This new healthcare mix features a combination of virtual visits and Medtail visits to help minimize appointments scheduled at hospitals. 
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This omni channel approach to healthcare has been significant with large retailers like Walmart acquiring telehealth technology, as well as CVS acquiring Aetna. Retailers are considering the new healthcare mix as an opportunity to grow their business which will lead to an increased real estate footprint. According to Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos, “our customers have told us that they would like to see increased access to affordable health care products and services in their communities.”

What Medtail sectors are growing? 

The growing popularity of traditional alternative medicines, like acupuncture, homeopathy and naturopathy, is also providing new Medtail opportunities. In today’s definition it has expanded to include things like massage, chiropractic medicine, herbal medicines, and meditation. From 2010 to 2020, the alternative medicine industry grew its employment by double, from 60,000 to 120,000 employees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”). 
 

Medtail In Action: SweatHouz

SweatHouz, a new boutique wellness and recovery concept, offers a full range of modalities designed to improve your physical and mental health, taking the guesswork out of self-care to help members “live well, recover well and stay well.” Their science-backed modalities include infrared sauna, cold plunge, hydromassage and redlight therapy. The benefits are vast and include improved cardiovascular health, better mood, accelerated muscle recovery, healthier skin and a stronger immune system.
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It’s not just human wellness services that are growing, pet care is too. As the number of household pets has increased, so has the number of veterinarians to care for them. According to the U.S. Bureau of Census, the number of veterinarians, veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants has roughly doubled over the last two decades. This growth is driving demand for increasing amounts of veterinarian retail space across the nation. Modern Animal is an example of a growing veterinary clinic. In addition to the convenience their clients experience with accessible retail locations, they take it one step further by offering a membership model with no exam fees and 24/7 virtual services. 

Why should landlords capitalize on Medtail’s growth? 

In a world of convenience, delivering healthcare and other personal care services from retail locations is the next step in the retail evolution. In fact, according to CoStar Group, about 20% of today’s leased medical space is in retail, and over the coming decade, we expect to see the Medtail sector absorb even more retail space in shopping centers across the nation.  

This is good news for landlords as Medtail tenants have historically been insulated from economic cycles and the services they provide offer creative ways to recession-proof their portfolios, fill vacancies and enhance cross-shopping activity.  
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What are the specific location requirements of Medtail tenants?  

Retailers are constantly trying to understand where they should be and why. Even though Medtail is very much in demand, these retailers must also take the time to understand critical insights such as their core consumer profile and market demand in order to be successful.  
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Medtail tenants also have different needs and considerations than a typical retail tenant that landlords should be aware of, including:  

  • Load factors / weight constraints  
  • Disposal of medical waste 
  • Utility requirements 
  • Fire and life safety 
  • Co-tenancy 
  • ADA considerations 
  • TI costs 
     

Convenience is key

With about 20% of today’s leased medical space in retail, up from 16% in 2010 according to CoStar Group, Medtail tenants are creating a new source of demand. This exciting transformation is bringing valuable and unique experiences to shopping destinations while making it easier than ever for consumers to prioritize their health and happiness—in a much more convenient way.  

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