Shopping Centers Today

AUG 2018

Shopping Centers Today is the news magazine of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)

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Katz has focused heavily on supplying the company's own brokers — along with such clients as retailers, landlords, developers, investors and financial institutions — with higher-resolution data, he says. While older approaches based on census data and the like offered broad outlines about trade areas, today's approaches are more targeted, he says. "Let's say you know what's going on demographi- cally or even psycho-graphically within a five-mile radius ring," Katz said. "That's great. But what's actually happen- ing in that ring? Are they actually visiting your location, or do they leave the suburbs to work downtown? With those older methods, you didn't know." By contrast, Katz says, data drawn from GPS-enabled mobile devices is a game-changer because of its ability to pinpoint shopper locations and movements. "Now you're not talking about 'maybes' — you're talking about 'defi- nitelys,' " he said. In some cases, this has led to some frank conversations between Shopping Center Group brokers and their landlord clients, Katz says. "They might think the trade area for their center is 30 miles, but then you have to show them that, realisti- cally — based on true travel and trip data — it is more like seven miles," he said. "That can be difficult, but at the end of the day, having that data allows for better decisions." As these executives pursue innovative approaches to data, marketing, place-mak- ing and more, they also face the challenge of keeping up with fast-moving industry trends. Smith, for one, describes ramping up his participation in such for- ward-focused conferences as South by Southwest (known informally as SXSW), in Austin, Texas, where next year's topics include cryptocurrencies, virtual reality, experiential storytelling, the "intelligent future" and more. "Typically in the past, people from the mall industry would not have gone to something like SXSW, but that's the type of thing we're looking at now," Smith said. "We're trying to get a sense of how to create truly unique experiences that can animate spaces differently." As Ward forges ties with tech startups and digitally native retailers, his efforts to understand larger trends are paying dividends, he says. "It's important, in my experi- ence, to sit back, think, do your homework and let infor- mation marinate a bit," he said. "It makes you much more effective in those conversations and in developing those relationships." Over the past few months, Ward has min- gled with venture capitalists, startup founders, data gurus and the like at such events as Shoptalk and the RetailNext Executive Forum. At press time his plans included attend- ing the Worldwide Business Research eTail East e-com- merce conference, taking place this month in Boston, as well. Likewise, Katz soaks up news and information about technology, retail and data through his job at Shopping Center Group. "It without a doubt influences almost every decision that we make," he said. "What's new? Where are things headed? We're always asking these questions." But for King, bringing innovation to the look and feel of Trademark's properties is more about old-fashioned artistic inspiration than about content worthy of Wired magazine. Much like an art collector or gallery owner, she cultivates relationships with local artists and is constantly on the lookout for new talent or unusual design ideas. "I travel a lot, both for work and for fun, and I'm always paying attention and looking for ideas to bring back," King said. "Even on a vacation to France, Italy or Vancouver, I feel like I'm gathering inspiration." The challenge, executives say, is to invest time, money and energy only in ideas that stand a realistic chance of yielding actual benefits. Though tech startups with millions of dollars in venture capital can spend lavishly on potential innovations, they say, the budgetary realities in the shop- ping center industry require a more grounded approach. "You can't just throw things up against the wall and see what sticks," Smith said. "You can try things, yes, but what you want is a targeted, surgical and smart way of testing and innovating. You have to make sure that you stand a good chance of demonstrating real value for your retailers and consumers." Are innovation officers, then, soon to become the in- dustry norm? Funding a C-suite position devoted solely to matters of innovation is no light matter, says Poline, and so most companies will probably encourage their executives in traditional roles such as development, leasing, opera- tions and IT to track trends as part of their jobs. While a number of Poline's developer clients do put a premium on forward-thinking candidates, relatively few so far have actually engaged his firm to hire the likes of a chief innova- tion officer. "We are taking a wait-and-see approach as far as wheth- er [creating such positions] will pay off," Poline said. "But one thing's for sure: The emphasis on innovation is happening in an incremental way at every level across an organization and throughout the industry. That has led to a greater focus on people whose skill sets demonstrate a capability of bringing new ideas to the forefront." n A U G U S T 2 0 1 8 / S C T 35 I work almost daily with our heads of IT and operations, our senior leasing executives and our data analytics team '' '' —JIM WARD, CBL PROPERTIES

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