Shopping Centers Today International

MAR 2016

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

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a program it calls Passport to Shop- ping, which gives visitors hailing from at least 50 miles away access to dis- counts and other perks. "For us, the program yields a number of analytics: where shoppers are from, what they spent, what stores they shopped, what brought them to the mall, and how they heard about the program," said Glenda Cole, the firm's vice president of marketing and sponsorship. "So I can absolutely say that spending is up from both domestic and international travelers at our tourism centers." Tourism is especially important at Taubman properties such as Beverly Center, in Los Angeles; City Creek Center, Salt Lake City; Dolphin Mall, Miami; and Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, Auburn Hills, Mich. By ana- lyzing the data culled by its tourism program, Taubman is able to identify property-specific travel trends in real time, Cole notes. Bev- erly Center was hugely popular with Australians last year, but the data showed that Chinese visitors continued to be the biggest spenders. "Even with the Chinese yuan drop- ping and the American dollar being superstrong in the past year, we actually more than doubled sales from Chinese shoppers at Beverly Center," Cole said. But given their upscale tenant mixes, Taubman malls are more likely to attract wealthier international travelers who can keep spending amid currency shifts. Other visitors to the U.S. do appear to have cut back on spending in response to the strength of the dollar, according to consultant Adam Sacks, founder and president of Tourism Economics. "All of the data we have for 2015 show some modest growth in the volume of international travelers to the U.S. but a decline in how much each one of them was spending," Sacks said. "You still need a hotel, and you still need to eat. The most discretionary part of the trip is actually retail and shopping." Over the past few years, U.S. retail properties near Can- ada have benefited from strong cross-border shopping by Canadians, in part because the Canadian government in 2012 allowed Canadians to bring more goods back into the country duty-free. Owing to the strong dollar, cross-border shopping among Canadians dropped by about 8 percent last year, Sacks says, even as the looser purse strings of U.S. shoppers appeared to compensate. "If you broaden the view to look at the entire travel industry, including U.S. domestic travelers, it was a banner year," he said. Lower gas prices and stronger consumer confidence contributed to the trend toward more travel and shopping activity among U.S. consumers, in Quinlan's view. As com- pared to 2009, when the economic recovery was just under way, U.S. consumer-lodging sales rose by an unprecedented 27 percent last year, she notes. "You just don't see that," Quinlan said. "I keep reminding everybody that [the 2008 economic crash] wasn't a recession — it was a version of the 1929 Depression all over again." As such, the watershed event led to lasting changes in the way Americans spend their money, Quinlan observes. Instead of merely accumulating stuff, more Americans now want to use their money to acquire experiences, too. "The consumer has decided that experiential spending — building a memory with her family and friends — is the way she wants to go," Quinlan said. This bodes well for such experience-oriented projects as Ben Carter Enterprises' ongoing revitalization of Brough- ton Street in tourist mecca Savannah, Ga. Having acquired 37 buildings in that historic area, the company is now ren- ovating and restoring facades, storefronts, upper floors and awnings at those properties, many of which are more than a century old. The $90 million project aims to bring new life to Broughton Street by dividing it into themed retail districts with clusters of synergistic shops and restaurants. Known for its festivals, antebellum architecture, natu- ral beauty and thriving art scene, Savannah saw a 3 per- cent increase in hotel occupancies last year, according to 44 S C T / M a r c h 2 0 1 6 t a u b m a n c e n t e r s ' D O L P H I n m a L L , m I a m I

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