Technology Taking a Central Role in Connecting Consumers with Deals

Retailers are heading into the homestretch of the 2018 Back-to-School Shopping Season – second only to the winter holiday period in sales volume. Survey results from the National Retail Federation and Deloitte have indicated that retailers can expect to see an estimated $27.5 billion from the K-12 market segment alone, with 25 percent of U.S. households involved in purchasing items for the coming school year. That’s on par with 2017, and as consumer confidence surges and household finances stabilize, there’s every reason to expect those predictions to materialize.

With a diversified portfolio of 105 retail-focused properties in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, Levin Management Corporation (LMC) follows the BTS season closely. From its start in early July to the closing weeks of mid-September, we support our retail tenants in their efforts to maximize their sales during this critical period.

Nine Trends and Insights on the Back-to-School Shopping Season

We keep a close watch on consumer shopping patterns, market trends and predictions, looking for patterns that can help our tenants get an edge in this competitive season. Here are nine trends (identified in the NRF Survey and the Deloitte study) that have caught our eye:

Lengthening of the BTS Season – Shopping now extends from July 1 to mid-September.
Early Shoppers vs. Late Shoppers – Early birds will continue to be the biggest spenders. They plan to drop an average of $544 per household vs. latecomers who say they will go with a $455 outlay.
The Rise of Prime Day – Amazon’s July 16 online bargain event, which premiered four years ago, is echoed by bricks-and-mortar retailers who now offer their own Prime Day deals.
Bricks-and-Mortar Stores Still Rule BTS – Deloitte Back to School Survey respondents preferred in-store (57 percent) over online (23 percent) as their BTS shopping channel – but 20 percent remained undecided – leaving $5.5 billion up for grabs.
Clothing and Accessories are Biggest Category – Most of the BTS spend for K-12 will be on clothing and kids will have an active say in purchases decisions.
Mass Merchants will be 2018 Shoppers’ Top Choice – Walmart and Target are the favorite brick-and-mortar destinations, followed by traditional department stores and fast fashion apparel retailers. Dollar stores will draw lower-income households ($50k and below).
Price Sensitivity Remains – Retail price cutting during the recession may have created a deal-seeking consumer habit. Across the range of household incomes, shoppers indicate that they are continuing to bargain hunt. Price will be a key driver in their choice of the stores or sites where they make their 2018 BTS purchases.
Seeking Deals and Coupons Online – Price-conscious 2018 BTS shoppers will be active online, especially on mobile, looking for special promotions and coupons.
Biggest BTS Spenders are in the Northeast – With a planned spend of $568, households in the Northeast look to be the heaviest BTS spenders in 2018.

Technology Helps Retail Tenants Make the Grade in Back-to-School Shopping Season

Persistent price sensitivity, which drives the search for special promotions and coupons, caught our attention, along with the spending predictions for the Northeast (where our retail centers are concentrated). LMC is proud to support shopping centers and retailers in meeting the needs of these value-oriented shoppers through our tech-centered consumer engagement marketing platform.

As a core focus of this service, LMC implements and maintains business-to-consumer websites for select shopping centers. Popular with tenants and consumers alike, these portals automatically generate promotions run by national retailers and enable all tenants to upload information on their current sales and events. Properties taking advantage of the service include The Shoppes at Flemington in Flemington, N.J.; The Plaza at Harmon Meadow in Secaucus, N.J.; Blue Star Shopping Center in Watchung, N.J.; Somerset Shopping Center in Bridgewater, N.J.; Mayfair Shopping Center in Commack, N.Y.; and Post Road Plaza in the Village of Pelham Manor, N.Y. LMC also recently created a new property website for Westbrook Outlets in Westbrook, Conn.

Websites for these Levin-managed properties are continually updated and provide a digitally attractive and functional experience where users can view the latest sales, connect directly to tenant websites, and browse and even share deals. A BTS shopper can visit one of these websites several times a week on their mobile phone or computer and always find something new and valuable.

Retailers continue to face keen competition and these sites help them to establish a unique advantage with shoppers who are on the lookout for the best deals. The sites have quickly evolved into a powerful tool both for connecting with consumers and generating more traffic to an entire shopping center. And that’s a win for both owners and their retail tenants. We see these websites playing a key role during the all-important 2018 BTS season and beyond.

Tenanting Strategy: The Key to Successful Retail Leasing

Market Demographics and Traffic Drivers Are Main ConsiderationsA Conversation with Jake Frantzman, Senior Leasing Representative

What’s the secret to creating the “right” tenant mix?

There’s no secret to it at all. It’s about analysis and understanding of two key factors: the demographics of the local market and the traffic drivers that deliver shoppers to the property. As a leading retail leasing company with more than sixty years of success, we consider these two as the foundation of our tenanting strategy.

We want to create shopping destinations. So we study the character of each market, including income levels, population, competition, and vehicular traffic patterns. There’s no template here. Each market is individual. What works in one, won’t necessarily work in another.

The right tenant mix in retail leasing is about variety. You want to combine big brand names in diverse categories with day-to-day-service providers. We look for an anchor store for each of our centers. This is the key driver. Typically, the anchor is a grocer.

Why are grocers such sought-after anchors?

The average American consumer makes two to three grocery buying trips per week. That frequency benefits every store in the center, as shoppers combine their errands or act on impulse to buy something at a neighboring store or grab a bite to eat. The pharmacy, the dry cleaner, the dollar store, the nail salon, the pizzeria, and others all get spillover from that anchor traffic. And obviously, grocers are selling goods that people need, so even in a negative economic cycle, they still draw shoppers. That’s why they’re such a cornerstone in a successful retail leasing strategy. Nothing matches them for pulling in a steady flow of shoppers.

What are some other must-have tenants?

Fast-casual restaurant chains, large brand name drug stores, discount fashion retailers like T.J.Maxx or Kohl’s – we’ve found these to be strong traffic drivers.

Any thoughts on the right mix of local vs. national retailers?

Our focus is always on the national brands. These are your mega traffic drivers. We go for these big names and then maybe backfill smaller spaces with regional franchises or local services like nail salons, dry cleaners, and banks. Specialty boutiques can work, too, as they often offer unique products and services and can bring a strong following locally. Again, when you’re leasing retail space, it’s all about area demographics and brand appeal.

First-to-market tenants…what’s their overall value?

A hot new brand that people have been waiting for in their particular locale has tremendous value. Its reputation boosts traffic and creates overflow to other tenants. And the presence of a hot brand can revitalize the entire tenant mix, by attracting other desirable tenants. They’ll often say: “If they come, I want in too.” But again, the new brand has to be a good fit for the market demographics. A good recent case is the Fairway Market lease in Post Road Plaza in Pelham Manor, N.Y. Being close to the city, area residents knew of and wanted ready access to this brand and the demographics were right.

Any other recent retail leasing cases you’d like to share?

Edgewater Harbor, a 100,000 square-foot mixed-use development on the Gold Coast of the Hudson River in Edgewater, N.J. comes to mind. Phase One is completed with 480 high-end condo units and a borough municipal office. Upcoming phases will include a hotel plus other businesses. A big grocer wasn’t quite right for this property, so we went with HomeGoods for our anchor. Another key tenant is CVS, which offers grocery items among its inventory. The rest of the tenants are higher-end retailers and service businesses – just right for the “captive audience” of residents and office employees in this property.

How do you plan ahead for vacancies?

We pay close attention to trends – demographic trends and trends in retail. And based on those, we project the kind of new tenants that will ensure the continued success of the properties under our management. We know, for example, that apparel retailers are challenged right now, while off-price merchandisers are solid. We’ll factor that knowledge into our tenanting strategy. As our tagline says we’re “positioning retail real estate for a new generation.” Understanding the trends are part of that positioning.