Real Estate Strategy

Retail Location Strategy & Consumer Connection

Retail Location Strategy & Consumer Connection 1440 428 ASG

I have talked about the importance of retailers connecting with their customers – meeting them where they are, understanding how they’ve changed, and refining what is offered to better serve them. But this idea of connection goes further. Retailers are finding new ways to engage authentically with their customers, and there is an opportunity for retailers to provide space, purpose, and reason for people to reconnect with each other. But even as retailers seek to reengage with consumers, many people are finding that – for at least a couple of reasons – reconnecting isn’t as easy as they thought it would be.


They Don’t Remember How

As areas of the world come out of the most stringent lockdowns of the pandemic, many people have been saying the same thing: they don’t remember how to relate to other people. It’s become an almost-painful joke that underscores the extreme isolation of the last year. People are struggling with figuring out how to reconnect and be with others. 


Many are Experiencing Profound Lonliness

In and among all the parents struggling to work from home while supporting their children doing online school while never having a moment of quiet, there have been even more people struggling to simply survive the loneliness of the pandemic. Self-isolating and social distancing as a family is much different than self-isolating and social distancing for someone who lives alone. 


Retail Provides Opportunities – and Excuses – to Connect Again

I think this is one of the most understated purposes of brick-and-mortar retail. Beyond ordering something online, which is a one-to-one experience rather than an immersive experience, retail becomes part of the social fabric. I believe that this affords many opportunities for retail to explore different dimensions to socialization.  Whether it’s connecting with a friend in a newly re-opened café, shopping with friends for wardrobe updates, or enjoying a mani-pedi session with a family member that you haven’t seen in six months, retail of all kinds opens doors to connecting people. And as retailers consider the consumer desire to connect, it will impact the way they locate and design their stores.

As we observed in a recent Chute Gerdeman article:

People are actively seeking out communities to find support and belonging. Consumers are finding strength in numbers, and it’s clear that it’s impacting retail. No matter how big or small, brands are re-assessing their efforts to bring a sense of community into their offering. For some it’s sparked an entirely new format strategy, while others have created outlets that bring communities together.


Retail Location Strategies that Bring Communities Together

Retailers should meet and connect with consumers where they want to be. These days, it’s more than just at a mall. A great example of the future of retail location strategy is the opening of Bloomie’s in Fairfax, Virginia, this summer. The store will be roughly 10% the size of a traditional Bloomingdale’s department store. The store will “serve as a hub for experiences, with a focus on fashion, and feature Colada Shop, a restaurant serving coffee, Caribbean-inspired small bites and cocktails into the evening.”

Rather than locating in a shopping mall, Bloomie’s will be located in the Mosaic District shopping center – a mixed-use development with retailers, apartments, offices, town homes, a grocery store, and a movie theater. 

This approach by Macy’s (owner of Bloomingdale’s and Bloomie’s) is precisely where retail location strategy and consumer-centric retail converge: in the neighborhood, in a more focused space, with the goal of giving people a place not just to shop but to gather, socialize, and connect.

The Landlord-Tenant Partnership to Save Retail

The Landlord-Tenant Partnership to Save Retail 1440 428 ASG

The loss of specialty retailers, such as Jos. A. Bank, J.Crew, Lord & Taylor, and Pier 1, didn’t just impact the companies themselves. The ripple effect ran through the malls in which they were tenants and indirectly impacted the other mall tenants that relied on their presence as a draw. Many tenants had anchor store requirements that allowed them to renegotiate or even cancel their leases. Unfortunately, landlords are often caught in a tough spot, between tenants who are also trying to survive and must use every leverage point they can, and mortgagers, who require a minimum level of revenue to avoid foreclosure.


Landlords and Tenants Can Work Together to Save Retail

The worst situation for all parties involved would be foreclosure. Landlords and tenants are going to need to find ways to work together. The retail real estate industry must assume a collaborative stand with tenants through these unprecedented times. That doesn’t mean just agreeing to what the tenant wants. Understanding how a tenant makes money and what they can afford to pay is incredibly important. So owners, view your tenants’ requests for assistance as opportunities to strengthen the non-financial aspects of a lease. Reduce co-tenancy requirements, shorten terms, and remove exclusives or other cumbersome items that limit a landlord’s flexibility.


Anchor Stores Need to Change

The downfall and demise of the traditional department store means that anchor stores must change. Given the focus on consumer experience, it makes sense that the anchor stores should be experiential. From hotels and restaurants to gyms and theaters, reimagining retail space is a way forward that can benefit both the landlord and the tenants.

As e-commerce continues to grow, retail investors and tenants are being forced to reconsider what consumers gain from the brick-and-mortar shopping experience. Traditionally, landlord and tenant relationships were ultimately transactional. Today, the sides are teaming up, realizing that together, they can achieve a shopping experience worthy of drawing consumers away from their smart phones and devices. – CBRE


The Future of Mall Space Can Be Exciting and Functional

Elizabeth A. Whitman takes a deep dive into what can be done with retail space in malls that is no longer being taken up by department stores. Temporary options include becoming a vaccination site or converting to warehouse space for last-mile delivery. But long-term solutions are even more exciting in the potential they offer. One mall is transforming its now-empty Sears location into a fitness center with a pool. Another has converted boutique shops into micro-apartments for single tenants. The one common element of all of the reimagined uses of the space is that it recenters the mall as the place where people congregate to live, shop, and have fun – and that’s the key.

We use phrases like ‘omnichannel’ to describe scenarios as though every consumer wants to move seamlessly across everything a retailer, for example, has to offer. However, we have to turn that idea inside out and remember that for consumers it’s all about experience, and always has been. A consumer will choose the experience they want, based on the service or goods they are buying, and then the channel. The businesses that will be rewarded with brand loyalty are those delivering great experiences in stores and online.


Where Do We Go from Here?

Two truths on which we need to remain hyper-focused have come out of this year: One, tenant representation is essential – tenants who had someone capable of navigating, renegotiating, and changing lease terms were more capable of being flexible in meeting their customers’ needs; and two, the adversarial nature of the tenant-landlord relationship needs to transform into a partnership that keeps them all in business. If these things are not achieved, then banks are going to end up owning a lot of empty malls.

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.