News

ASG Welcomes Paul Hiers as New CFO

ASG Welcomes Paul Hiers as New CFO 1440 428 ASG

ASG Welcomes Paul Hiers as New CFO

Asset Strategies Group (ASG) is pleased to announce Paul Hiers has rejoined ASG as its Chief Financial Officer. Paul is no stranger to ASG, having co-founded the company more than 25 years ago with Steve Morris. He helped develop the financial and business processes for ASG’s services and was integral to the startup and growth of our industry-leading outsourced lease management service.

“I am delighted that Paul has returned to the ASG family as our CFO,” said Carrie Barclay, ASG’s President. “His desire to re-join us and develop the business is a huge compliment to what we are building.”

Prior to co-founding ASG, Paul was VP/Controller for Limited Inc.’s Real Estate and Store Planning divisions, where he oversaw $300 million in annual store capital expenditures and over $1 billion in occupancy expenses. He also worked for four years at KPMG’s Cleveland office providing independent insight and investigative research to a variety of clients. Paul has a BBA in Accounting from Kent State University.

“Paul is a good friend. I’m thrilled to have him re-join the team and value the leadership he has always demonstrated,” said Steve Morris, co-founder and CEO of ASG. “His dedication and commitment will be instrumental in helping us achieve our vision for ASG’s future.”

Over the years, Paul has stayed actively involved with ASG as an advisory board member and contributed to various financial projects, including our conversion to an ESOP in 2019 and the acquisition of Chute Gerdeman in 2020.

ASG is thrilled to welcome Paul Hiers.

ASG Rebrands as a Commitment to Business Transformation

ASG Rebrands as a Commitment to Business Transformation 1440 428 ASG

Retail can serve a higher need, a greater purpose. At Asset Strategies Group (ASG) we believe connection is that purpose. It’s why we’re here. We are rebranding to show our strength in the power of connection, rebranding to show that connection can lead to purpose, rebranding to find true meaning. We believe a more connected world empowers change across clients, consumers, and communities. We embrace a bold curiosity and willingness to explore new ideas and pathways and a comfort for pushing boundaries as a catalyst for progress.

“The retail industry is changing so rapidly, and it was important for us to not only to embrace the change but demonstrate an evolved approach to creating a foundational future for retailers. We built this company from the inside out based on our love for retail. The rebrand provides us an opportunity to accurately represent our vision and mission through a cross-discipline ecosystem of expertise.” – Carrie Barclay, President


Logo Design

The infinity mark represents the connections at the heart of ASG. It is a symbol of weaving together. It is a symbol that reflects a number greater than the whole. It is continuously moving, as it is dynamic, relational, and boundless. It is always changing but in balance, stable.


Website

Our new website works to expand on the new identity and better highlight the people, processes, and impact around our work. We use bold color highlights as vibrant counterbalance to the clean, simple structure of the site.


Brand Palatte

Steel gray pays homage to the brand’s stability as an industry leader for over 25 years, while a vivid reflex blue evokes the energy and optimism of a future-forward outlook. Together, the two primary colors represent a harmony of real-world practicality and possibility. Secondary brand colors, including magenta and red, support a vibrant visual energy and creative passion that drives the brand’s momentum.

“Our new branding reflects our connected services and represents our next stage of growth: delivering holistic real estate and design solutions for our retail customers.”- Steve Morris, Founder & CEO

Thank you to the team at Sketch Blue for their work helping us create this new identity.

ASG Acquires Design Agency Chute Gerdeman

ASG Acquires Design Agency Chute Gerdeman 1440 428 ASG


Columbus based Asset Strategies Group Acquires Design Agency Chute Gerdeman to expand its retail real estate solutions business.

Asset Strategies Group (ASG) has cleared a path forward to strengthen its strategic real estate solutions business in the acquisition of the leading environmental design agency Chute Gerdeman.

ASG has a nearly two-decade history of providing an expanding portfolio of real estate services to retailers —improving all aspects of real estate decision making and performance. Through its five practice areas it has helped more than 125 specialty retailers strategically plan real estate investments, control costs, streamline business operations, and maximize profit potential.

Headshot of Steve Morris

ASG’s Co-Founder and CEO, Steve Morris said,

“This is the perfect pairing, strengthening our creative solutions with data-driven operational strategy and expanding our implementation practice to deliver everything from prototypes to full execution across a fleet of stores. We’re also happy to play a bigger role in our beloved Columbus community, once again.”

Chute Gerdeman is a recognized global leader in innovation, experience, and design for retail, restaurants, and grocery brands. With a singular focus on delivering connected physical branded experiences that transform guest perceptions and deliver business results, their clients include a diverse array of Fortune 500 companies. Spanning every aspect of experience, their capabilities include insights and strategy, environmental design and communications, visual merchandising, and implementation. With over 30 years of industry accolades, including “Design Firm of the Year” and four “Store of the Year” awards, Chute Gerdeman is one of the most respected retail design agencies in the world.

“We’re incredibly excited for this partnership with ASG,” said Jay Highland, Chief Creative Officer of Chute Gerdeman, “Aligning our capabilities will allow our creative teams to expand into new arenas and set our clients up for long-term success—specifically combining the ASG’s strong real estate expertise with CG’s consumer strategy and creative innovation. We see endless opportunity for growth as retail continues to rapidly evolve, specifically in the new landscape of physical experiences.”

Chief Operating Officer, Wendy Johnson, added,

“This is the perfect pairing, strengthening our creative solutions with data-driven operational strategy and expanding our implementation practice to deliver everything from prototypes to full execution across a fleet of stores.”

ASG’s current practice areas provide strategy, deal execution, store rollout project management, lease administration services, and ASGedge, a SAAS real estate technology platform that complements its strategy and real estate execution practice. Adding Chute Gerdeman to its roster will allow the combination of companies to offer a complete end-to-end solution, customized for the unique challenges facing retail and restaurants today. Together they will build an unmatched practice across strategy, real estate, innovation, design, rollout, and implementation.

“Retail is being challenged on all fronts—online, climate change, rising costs, new consumer preferences, sustainability, and the DTC business. These challenges present opportunities for retail and we believe this is a moment for a redefinition of its role,”

Headshot of Laura Back

ASG President, Carrie Barclay, said,

“Chute Gerdeman is at the forefront of that redefinition through consumer forward design. Combined with ASG’s real estate expertise, we see a clear picture of new retail evolution.”

Chute Gerdeman will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of ASG Holdings LLC, an Employee Owned (ESOP) company, and will retain its name—building on the longevity and excellence Elle Chute and Denny Gerdeman established in 1989. Gerdeman has joined the board of advisors for ASG Holdings to ensure the legacy of creative design and practical implementation remains true in this new chapter.

Reinventing Retail: The Post Pandemic Strategy

Reinventing Retail: The Post Pandemic Strategy 1440 428 ASG

Has there ever been a more challenging time for retail? Without the business disruption insurance that we lobbied for, we’re seeing more and more retailers forced into bankruptcy. And even as states are in the midst of phased reopenings, the ongoing civil unrest, however justifiable, has made it impossible for some retailers to open as planned. There are more unknowns than knowns – and there’s a lot to unpack. What has become clear, however, is that whatever role you play in retail, the one word you need to remember is flexibility. 


Flexibility is our Mantra for 2020-2021

Retailers, landlords, lenders, and consumers – and all the organizations involved in keeping them up and running – must all embrace flexibility. But what does that really mean?


Retailer Flexibility

Retailers who survive need to throw their old models out the window. Consumers have changed. The economy has changed. We are not going to be able to predict everything that is going to happen (did you ever once think in January that this is where we’d be in June?). 


Location

For a retailer, this means flexibility in your location strategy: pop-ups, regionalization, localization, adapted design, modular design, movable walls to adjust to consumer and operational needs. 


Leases and Lending

This also means flexible negotiations with landlords and lenders, because traditional, long-term, fixed deals are not and cannot be the future. While terms have been adapting over the last two years, even more change is going to be required for new retail players. Flexibility tied to performance and structure will be a mandate from those retailers expanding and moving forward.  


Customer Service and Customer Experience

Flexibility in service to the customer, whether this means curbside delivery OR curbside return – yes, you read it here: curbside return – will be necessary.  Providing delivery options is only one of the simple changes that retailers have to make. The long pole in the tent is a complete overhaul of old processes and procedures as well as systems and devices that both associates and customers use.  Retailers have to pivot their strategies in order to address these new customer expectations.  Rachel Williamson provides the best guidance here:

  • Retailers must start with WHY. It has to be clear to your customers. Many businesses are focused on the WHAT and HOW. WHY is more important and draws customers to your brand.
  • Create WOW experiences. While safety is top of mind (and should be for the time being), it cannot replace genuine customer engagement. Sanitizing, masks, and long lines to enter the store must be met with engaging associates who are making the customer feel glad they chose to shop in-store.  The experience has to be tantalizing and connect the customer to the brand.  The only way this happens is through really thorough training of the store teams.  Shortcuts to training means shortcuts in delivery.  The customers will feel it and may not come back to shop.
  • Communicate to your customers regularly, reminding them about the safety protocols, but more importantly, about the different ways they can connect with your brand.  Now more than ever, the online and offline experiences have to be seamless.
  • Create a compelling reason for customers to come shopping and then continue to create reasons to return. Covid-19 created a supply chain disruption bigger than we have ever seen.  Stores have few fixtures on the selling floor and even fewer products.  Get creative on how to make the stores look and feel full.


Operations

Flexibility also means streamlining your company’s operations. Before COVID, removing ‘friction points’ was the focus. Now, the new processes designed to keep customers safe have created a new set of friction points for both store teams and customers. Every process that can be automated should be.  Examples include labor scheduling, merchandise flow, and performance management, as well as sensor product in the DC or at the manufacturer. Take it off the list of things the stores have to do. The focus in-store must be on delivering customer experiences and exceeding their expectations if brick-and-mortar is to survive.  

To be as nimble as possible, retailers should outsource everything that’s not part of the core business so that they can adjust more readily to changes. The future of retail belongs to the brands and companies willing to adapt to this constant state of flexibility – and there is a lot of market share up for grabs.


Landlord Flexibility

One of the core lessons learned during the pandemic is that force majeure did not save anyone but the landlords. Landlords – and the lenders behind them that often tie their hands – who refuse to renegotiate or provide any kind of flexibility will end up with empty buildings. The landlords who remain under-standing and flexible will be the landlords who win going forward. Retailers must be able to adjust lease terms to their needs. This can no longer be a negotiation to meet landlord demands. Retailers just can’t afford to do it anymore. Gone are the days of a 10-year, fixed-rate lease. Right now, retailers need leases that offer variable rents with more options; flexible terms are the new norm.   

The biggest outgoing is often rent. A number of landlords and tenants have already agreed short-term arrangements, such as rent concessions and deferments to cover the lockdown period. But what happens after lockdown? In a retail landscape where some trading is possible, but not enough to sustain rents at their pre-Covid levels, landlords and tenants will need to collaborate in order for both to survive. 


Store Construction and Design Flexibility

Retailers are going to need to be able to adjust locally and build in more regionalization and differentiation; so, there can be no more one-lease-to-fit-them-all or one size stores. National footprints won’t be normalized. Adding flexibility inside the spaces themselves will require flexibility with the landlord for things like movable walls to adjust backroom sizes and selling floor sizes as the stores or consumers demand, with multiple-size footprints and more showrooming for consumers.  

“This is a retail renaissance not a retail apocalypse,” said Whitney Livingston, COO, Centennial Real Estate. “For anyone to succeed, all parties need to move out of their comfort zones, and compromise and partner. Companies that are willing to innovate and think outside of the box will help the industry reset and thrive post-pandemic.”


Lender Flexibility

We’re spending all day every day in conversations with landlords. Landlords’ hands are sometimes tied as well. But without more flexibility from commercial lenders, we’re headed for a collapse that will make the housing crash of 2008 look like small beans. We’re already in a worse situation than we were then. It’s going to be ugly. 


Final Thoughts on Post-Pandemic Retail Strategies

Consumers may spend less. But even if they spend more, their spending is likely to be different. It will take time to collect data and develop trends, and until then, you’ll need to be able to quickly pivot.

The way forward in 2020 and 2021 is going to require innovation, technology, and data.

Data will be crucial. To get some real perspective on how little retailers know and how crucial data will be for future decisions, read this deep dive, from Retail Dive, on the uncertainty retailers face. From managing cash flow to determining a reopening strategy to making the tough decisions about locations in the coming 6-18 months, you will need analytics more than ever. 

“Retailers need to understand that their response to dynamic customer behavior starts and ends with data. We already have an endless supply of data but using it intelligently to make decisions on where and how to invest, and what the customer needs and values, is where we’ve seen traditional retailers struggle.” – Andy Halliwell, Senior director, retail, Publicis Sapient

The future is unknown. But we can begin to build new models now.

Doug Tilson to Head Tenant Representation

Doug Tilson to Head Tenant Representation 1440 428 ASG

Asset Strategies Group (ASG) is pleased to announce the addition of Doug Tilson, who will lead Tenant Representation.

Mr. Tilson brings enormous experience in regional malls, off mall, flagship, and outlet venues in both re-structuring real estate portfolios and executing growth strategies. His in-depth experience in retail strategy will be a huge asset in helping ASG clients maximize the value of their real estate portfolios.

Mr. Tilson brings enormous experience in regional malls, off mall, flagship, and outlet venues in both re-structuring real estate portfolios and executing growth strategies. In his role as Executive Vice president of Real Estate for Express, Mr. Tilson set the strategic direction for store locations and real estate strategy across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. He also oversaw store design and construction, as well as real estate legal matters. His in-depth experience in retail strategy will be a huge asset in helping ASG clients maximize the value of their real estate portfolios.

Prior to his tenure at Express, Mr. Tilson was Senior Vice President of Leasing at Steiner & Associates, a commercial real estate developer that specializes in new town center concepts. From 1999 to 2005, he was Senior Vice President of Real Estate for Tween Brands and also held several senior real estate positions with Limited Brands.

A graduate of The Ohio State University and Capitol University Law School, Mr. Tilson is a member of the ICSC Board of Trustees and brings deep developer relationships and extensive market knowledge.

ASG is thrilled to welcome Mr. Tilson to our team.

How Individual Cities Can Influence Real Estate Investment

How Individual Cities Can Influence Real Estate Investment 1440 428 ASG

Numbers drive virtually everything, especially in real estate. And no investor wants to establish real estate property if the prospects of success are poor. Before committing to any property development, a real estate investor wants data on business growth rate, the resilience of the economy, population size, tax incentives, and other components that are a piece of any retail real estate lease or contract. However, as the landscape of consumer demands becomes more personal, as well as socially mindful, individual cities are now defining the retail real estate market.


Economic size is only one factor.

Global leaders, such as London, New York, and Tokyo, are noteworthy cities in which to invest. Their sheer size and booming economies result in ambitious growth, accounting for a sizable percentage of global real estate investments. However, the markets are known to be cyclical. It’s a fast-paced environment with a sink-or-swim mentality, and not every business is capable of thriving.

Although large cities are attractive to real estate investors, they are far from the only option. Smaller cities captivated by innovation or driven by a niche product offer their own paths to success. Retail real estate is no longer limited to who can open the biggest store or have multiple locations throughout a city. The traditional approach to dominating the market has shifted, and consumers crave something more. Columbus is often the epicenter of retail.


Demographics and local interests matter.

Numbers drive virtually everything, especially in real estate. And no investor wants to establish real estate property if the prospects of success are poor. Before committing to any property development, a real estate investor wants data on business growth rate, the resilience of the economy, population size, tax incentives, and other components that are a piece of any retail real estate lease or contract. However, as the landscape of consumer demands becomes more personal, as well as socially mindful, individual cities are now defining the retail real estate market.


Individual cities have a unique competitive edge.

The cities that are most successful are those that have a distinctive reputation. Size does matter, but it certainly isn’t the only stimulus for achievement in retail. The enterprising mindset of the city itself, regardless of industry, will drive the innovation and unique experiences that consumers want. Peer groups have a significant influence on how a city grows and the retail that thrives, ranging from tourist hubs to entire neighborhoods driven by sustainability practices.

It can be challenging to balance efficiency and innovation, but different cities will demand completely different stores and retail strategies. What functions well in New York City is not guaranteed to launch similarly in Tokyo. A flagship store may do well in the suburbs of Chicago but sink completely in the neighborhoods of Toronto. The demographics of an area can be so specialized that two stores within the same city limits cannot market themselves the same way. Retail real estate must spend less time defining who they are and more time strategizing how they fit into a city’s existing strengths.