Shopping Centers Today

SEP 2018

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

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Page 53 of 59

54 S C T / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 8 N E W S M A K E R S discipline that has grown in impor- tance as mall owners and operators seek to refill vacated space (some- times on a temporary basis) and to add vibrancy and local flavor to shop- ping centers. In March Brown, who has also held high-ranking positions at Covington Realty Partners, GGP, RREEF and Urban Retail Properties, joined CBRE's growing mall practice as its very first senior vice president of specialty-retail leasing. The division, led by Mark Hunter, a managing director, has tripled its volume of mall space under management since its launch in 2016. Specialty leasing "has assisted in filling merchandising voids as we've lost retail chains and seen a lot of store closings," said Brown. "Instead of having vacant spaces throughout our properties, we backfill these sec- ond-generation spaces with unique regional and local offerings." In his new position, Brown over- sees alternative-revenue assignments, which have taken on increased impor- tance for landlords and consumer brands alike. Alternative revenue covers such things as sponsorship pro- grams, advertising, events, and vend- ing and mobile-marketing initiatives. "Back in 1995 you may not have seen a lot of vending, for instance, in shopping centers," said Brown, who was GGP's vice president for strategic partnerships, along with other posi- tions he held there. "Now you can hardly walk through a mall and not see Coke or Pepsi being represented as a national brand." Among the most popular trends in specialty leasing today are the carts and kiosks that sell bubble tea (a Taiwanese tea-based drink) or mac- aroons or fantasy-and-science- fiction-related merchandise (think Pokemon, Star Wars and Harry Potter), and also kiosks that offer "eyebrow art" services, according to Brown. Special events and entertain- ment have become a major focus of specialty leasing and alternative-reve- nue programs too. Temporary, in-line tenants that offer virtual-reality experiences, Xbox video gaming and inflatable playgrounds for children tend to do very well also. Home shows, car shows, farmers markets and even touring acts like Cirque Italia — a European-style circus that pitches its tent in mall parking lots — are adding some vibrancy to many a shopping center. Play areas are always a hit with families, says Brown, noting that landlords can offset the cost of installing these by signing up sponsors such as health care organi- zations. The sponsorship deals may be coupled with special events such as fairs that promote pediatric or heart health, Brown suggests. "It's all about driving traffic, keep- ing customers [on-site] and filling vacant spaces so that we have a vibrant shopping environment," said Brown. "Events at one point were very much a part of making retail centers the community gathering place. A lot of us got away from that." Specialty leasing is not without its challenges, Brown says. In recent years, it has gotten harder to operate any merchandising units that sell only one type of product. "Merchandise can be easily replicated by large retail- ers," he said. "The speed at which products can penetrate other retail sources has made it challenging." To address the issue, landlords have put a bigger emphasis on static com- mon-area displays, such as carts that showcase materials for universities, insurers or home-improvement firms. In many instances, these displays are staffed only during busy periods. Vending operations such as photo booths and candy or soda machines have proliferated too, notes Brown. For some national brands, vending has become the key to building a national presence in shopping centers. It is not especially difficult to iden- tify local concepts that could work well in a shopping center environ- ment, but it could take some legwork, Brown says. "We really like to have our [specialty leasing and alternative revenue] people out in the field pros- pecting and hustling after leadings in their markets," he said. Some merchants test out the mall waters with a single temporary loca- tion before deciding whether to roll out additional temp units, Brown says. This happened with Downtown Book & Toy, an independent chain in Missouri that opened a temporary unit at Capital Mall, in Jefferson City, for the holidays. (CBRE manages the mall.) Today Downtown Book & Toy operates two temporary, in-line stores at that mall — one selling books, and the other only toys. n It's all about driving traffic, keeping customers [on-site] and filling vacant spaces so that we have a vibrant shopping environment. Events at one point were very much a part of making retail centers the community gathering place

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