Shopping Centers Today

AUG 2018

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

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50 S C T / A U G U S T 2 0 1 8 E X E C U T I V E M OV E R S A N D S H A K E R S N E W S M A K E R S L auren Thomas graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill less than two years ago. Today she is practically a house- hold name in the world of business journalism. As a reporter for CNBC's website, Thomas has for the past year and a half been chronicling the rapid changes under way in the retail sector. Among other stories, she has covered some of the iconic U.S. department store companies as they struggle to reinvent themselves; the bankruptcy of Toys 'R' Us and other formerly leading retail chains;'s ground- breaking acquisition of Whole Foods; and the emergence of today's digitally native brands. How did a recent college graduate land such a high-profile position in a field where reporters oen spend years paying their dues? e answer, it seems, is personal drive, talent and a bit of luck. As a journalism student at the University of North Carolina, omas spent her summers in the high-pressure, New York City media market. Over the course of several summers, she interned at Bloomberg, CNBC and She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in December 2016 — finishing in only three and a half years — with a bach- elor's in journalism (and a specialty in business journalism), and then she hit the ground running. In early 2017 she managed to parlay that CNBC internship into an entry-level job as a news associate. Not long aer starting there, she jumped at the chance to do some retail reporting when a change in staff le that beat without full-time coverage. e experience whet her appetite, and in February of that year she became a full-time retail reporter for CNBC Digital. "It's humbling in a way," said omas. "You're given so much responsibility and, obviously, you're writing alongside a lot of [ex- perienced] journalists at other places." From a journalist's perspective, there has never been a more exciting — and challenging — time to cover the retail sector, says omas, whose enthusiasm, intense curiosity and commitment to fairness and accuracy have served her well as a fledgling journalist and relative newcomer to her beat. "Now is a more exciting time than ever to be covering this, because there is so much evolution in the in- dustry," she said. "Everyone is waking up and realizing they can't continue to do things like they did for the past few decades." is year alone the amount of retail space going dark is on pace to set a record, as many big-box re- tailers either trim their store counts or liquidate entirely, says omas, citing CoStar data. Is this a sign of the so-called retail apocalypse? Not according to omas, who argues that the o-repeated narrative is too simplistic. Instead, she describes what is happening as "an evolution" in retailing, one that is perhaps long overdue. "I prefer to say it's like an evolution and it's time for change," she said. "We've gone on long enough without mixing things up." e rise of Amazon has certainly sped up the pace of change, but there are other forces at work too, she says. "It's very easy, I think, as a journalist to paint broad brush strokes over certain things or to just say that this is happening because of Amazon. But I think the beat deserves more due diligence, and you have to dig deeper and find out what's actually going on." omas has certainly covered her fair share of dismal news on the retail front, but she also sees some bright spots in the sector. For one, she says some retail-industry sources indicate that the pace of store closings may soon subside. Also, there are new retail brands emerging — including Bonobos, Untuckit and Warby Parker, along with several others that got started online and are now rolling out brick-and-mortar stores, albeit relatively small ones, she notes. "e digitally native brands are really starting to grow," omas said. "ey would tell you it's a really exciting time." omas says she is only now get- ting warmed up, having just skimmed the surface of many of the big stories, and that she plans to dig even deeper going forward. ough retail remains her primary focus, she says she hopes to do more real-estate-related stories as well. She will be keeping a close The retail beat Fast-changing retail is a dream assignment for CNBC's Lauren Thomas By Anna Robaton Now is a more exciting time than ever to be covering this, because there is so much evolution in the industry

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