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Retail Traffic

Fighting Rolodex entropy offers owners and brokers an online database loaded with thousands of up-to-date retailer profiles.

You might call it "Rolodex entropy." It's the tendency for names and numbers in your contacts list to expire at an alarming rate. A business card mysteriously disappears, even though you saw it just moments ago. A cup of Starbucks "Kenya AAA" topples in a splash, soaking that notebook full of e-mail addresses on your desk. A familiar phone number unexpectedly connects to a recording. "We're sorry," says a shrill voice. "The number you have reached has been disconnected."

Not to mention all the work involved in gathering that information in the first place. To fill their hefty Rolodexes, for example, property owners and brokers often spend untold hours hunting down the best retailer contacts, from corporate bigwigs to local franchisees.

Brian McGowan remembers such headaches well. In his years as a broker, McGowan completed more than 300 transactions totaling more than $100 million. He learned firsthand the importance of accurately acquiring and updating retailer information, but McGowan also grew frustrated with the inefficiency of the conventional approach to that endeavor.

A better way McGowan and his partners launched, an online retail tenant database, in May 2000. "The information that populates our site we gather through research," he explains. "That's the only way to do it, and that's what we're selling. We're saving you the brain damage of doing it yourself." offers a secure Internet environment where owners and brokers can search through more than 6,000 retail tenant profiles. The profiles include up-to-date real estate contacts and site criteria for franchisees, multi-unit independents, and local, regional and national chain stores. Members log onto custom home pages that, among other features, offer breaking retail news and a "virtual Rolodex" for tracking and managing contacts. "If an address or telephone number changes, we automatically refresh that content in that member's home page," McGowan notes.

To keep information current, TenantMix employs a full-time research staff. The researchers update profiles for the largest chains every 30 to 60 days, medium chains and franchisees every 60 to 90 days, and smaller independents every 90 to 120 days. The site includes not only corporate contacts, but also hundreds of local franchisees. Within each profile, brokers and owners can view a variety of target site criteria, including GLA, traffic counts, and location types. Retailers are listed by their trade names, not by the names of their corporate owners.

A continuing effort TenantMix plans to add even more detail to the online profiles, including prototypical buildings and renderings, store photographs and space plans, building footprints, links to tenant websites, and maps displaying areas of operation.

"Our objective is to have the largest sheer volume of profiles and the greatest depth," McGowan says. "We'll have around 30,000 profiles within the next year, and we'll soon have the ability synchronize that data with ACT!, Outlook and Palm Pilot."

TenantMix makes money by charging end-users of the site. Given the depth and volume of the database, the site's ease of use, and the "brain damage" of the off-line alternative, McGowan predicts that TenantMix will become the industry's dominant provider of retail tenant information and leasing services.

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