Each and every retail property wants to be something. Often, this desire comes more in the form of a scream than a faint whisper. But, is that message being heard and acted upon?
The challenge for developers, lenders, marketers and leasing agents is to develop” what comes naturally to the demographic. Whether the goal is to achieve grand luxe, luxury, better, moderate, value, or simply entertainment, the success of any project begins with the vision of what you want to see on opening day — and specifically what perception will be created for the initial consumers as they enter. A reality-based vision is the most difficult hurdle to cross, as the tendency to build what we want often overpowers building what the property innately wants to be.
There is no magic or hidden formula. But, in summary, here is what is needed:
- A keen understanding of each prospective tenant's retail brand.
- A clear picture of who is their target customer.
- A mutual understanding of their vision for the property.
- A realistic certainty of the “match” of goals and objectives for developer and retailer.
At a time when space is readily available and retail success stories are dwindling, there is the daunting task of not signing whoever steps forward. Although fueled by rents and returns, the long-term sustenance of any given property is always a result of the broader discipline allowing for the creation of a thoughtful development with retail brands that truly fit the landscape. Rents will follow as the consistent, clear messages reach their target — the consumer. Let's not build another “eatertainment” venue, add the movie theaters and then expect the luxury brands to assemble. The message is mixed and the results will be mixed as well.
There are a number of tests for the right retail tenant mix. For some, it might be the luster and lure of luxury brands. To others, it may be a restaurant line-up of celebrity chefs. Yet, all one could really ask for is a complete lease-up of creditworthy tenants. Will that alone ensure a successful development? It is only a matter of the measure. These are the ingredients for consideration:
- Development vision
- Building to that vision
- Marketing to that vision
- Leasing to that vision
It sounds so simple. Yet how many times have we seen marketing materials unsuited for the reality of the project? For example, the demands of leasing a luxury property are great, and luxury brands are quite used to a luxury environment — from construction, to amenities to marketing and of course, to co-tenancy.
Failure to execute to any of these ingredients may well provide the subtle point of failure for the project. Let the project speak to you. Trust in what it “wants to be,” and execute to that end. The tenant mix will come, as the clear, consistent message will not waiver.
Who Arthur Weiner
President of Arthur Weiner Enterprises, which directs the positioning, merchandising and marketing for shopping centers including Fashion Show in Las Vegas, The Shops at LaCantera in San Antonio, Tex., and 150 Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, Fla.