Shopping Centers Today

JUL 2018

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

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52 S C T / J U L Y 2 0 1 8 has developed some 325 projects, totaling roughly 27 million square feet, and it currently leases and manages nearly 10 million square feet, primarily in the Southeast. Popovics, 37, holds degrees in sports man- agement and in business with an emphasis on real estate from Florida State University. Here she dis- cusses her career and this new position with SCT's Ben Johnson. How did you get into retail real estate? I started in 2003, when the market was really, really good, and got my feet wet by door-knocking, cold-calling, canvassing pretty much every day for a good year, calling on small mom-and-pop shops to lease in mostly grocery-an- chored shopping centers. So retail has been my home. Is there anything you enjoy in particular about the business? What I love was what got me into it: the shopping part of it. I love being able to create a place, an experi- ence for customers to come to shopping centers, and I have the mindset of a con- sumer, as I am a consumer on a day-to-day basis. I really like putting the piec- es of the puzzle together. How did the Sembler opportunity come about? I was looking for a place where I could have career growth — as well as long-term growth in the Tampa–St. Petersburg market — to call my home. This is a very unique opportunity. The company has been around for over 50 years, so it is just a great family atmosphere. It is all of the things that you would want in a company, and it took me out of the public sector and put me in the private sector again, which was very nice. The public sector is great and offers a lot of structure, a lot of the corporate envi- ronment that is a great thing to learn from, but being on the private side, I can be a little bit more out- side of the box and dabble in some different pieces of the business that I didn't get to do while working at a public company. What do you consid- er to be your primary strength? Building relationships and continuing relationships over years is pretty much my bread and butter. It is what I take with me everywhere I go. This is a relationship business, and that is also another part of the retail sector that I really like. What do you see as your biggest challenge? Sembler has a vast portfo- lio along the East Coast, in Texas and up through the Carolinas, and it is grow- ing, so knowing these mar- kets and knowing what is going on in each territory is a challenge, just by sheer size. Getting that under my belt has definitely been the largest challenge. As we are continuing to grow and going to new markets I am utilizing the relationships side of the business to help with that challenge. What has being in retail leasing taught you? It goes back to: Don't over- complicate things, and stick with your roots and really focusing on the relation- ships. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to build relationships in this business. I mentor students and, obviously, my team here, and we really focus a lot on that. I will say that during the downturn is when I made a lot of my connections, because a lot of people were just trying to figure out what to do, and a lot of people were willing to take meetings that they may be too busy for now. So forming those relation- ships whenever you can is extremely important. Do you have an ultimate career goal? I am always looking for opportunities to grow as a person in this business. I need to grow within my role currently. I know there is a lot I can still learn; I don't think you can ever stop learning, so I am always looking to better myself in this position and in retail in general. As far as the indus- try goes, it is interesting to watch it evolve. I want to know more; I want to know where it is heading. I don't have a crystal ball for any of that, but I don't think that brick-and-mortar will go away, and I do think that everyone still wants to touch and feel and see. I think we are all guilty of Internet shopping, but I don't think the Internet is going to kill retail. What advice would you offer someone entering this business? Always be honest and true to your word. The truth will never come back to haunt you. Always be hon- est, and that will keep the relationships going; it will build your credibility, and it will continue your credibili- ty through your career. n N E W S M A K E R S

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