The Mighty Dollars: A Bricks and Mortar Success Story

Retail Real Estate Trend: Will Good Times Be Bad for Bargain

You might call them the mice that roared. They’re the dollar stores – now almost 30,000 nationwide and growing. These price point retailers not only weathered the economic recession but they triumphed, growing their annual sales by 50 percent from 2010-15, compared to the 17 percent notched by retail overall in the same period. And while every week seems to bring news of closing doors and downsizing among bricks and mortars, the dollar niche remains in expansion mode. Dollar General, the top player in this category, is set to open 1,000 new stores this year (that’s 3 per day)! (Read more: http://www.retaildive.com/news/why-dollar-general-will-keep-its-promise-to-build-1k-stores-this-year/434044/)

Demographics Plus Location Equals Dollars for the Dollar Niche
Low- and middle-income shoppers have been these stores’ sweet spot since the first Dollar General opened in 1955 with a variety of wares, all below a $1 price point. As more retailers joined the bargain bandwagon, a location strategy emerged: cluster the stores within a small range for maximum ease of access. It was the reverse of Walmart’s centralization strategy. Consumers who must economize on gas or who rely on public transportation can always find a dollar store close to home or work. The convenience factor also proved a powerful draw for time-starved shoppers at higher income levels.

Not Your Grandpa’s Dollar Store
The crash of 2008 that brought misery to merchants nationwide was a boon to the category. The newly price-conscious turned to the dollars and the stores responded to that rush by pushing their inventories beyond novelties, out-of-date seasonal decorations, discontinued brands and basic staples. To meet the needs of a new class of bargain hunters, they improved their product mix, while retaining their original “treasure hunt” appeal. Consumables – food, household paper goods and cleaning products, health and beauty aids and tobacco products – now comprise three-quarters of the average dollar store’s inventory. Some dollars have added frozen meals, and prepared sandwiches. And 99 Cents Only’s website promises “Fresh produce daily.”

Bargain-priced consumables have drawn another new demographic to the dollars: Millennials. Known for their thriftiness and their preference for experiences over possessions, these sought-after consumers are among the dollar stores’ most loyal customers. In fact, NPD Group reports that at the three biggest dollar chains, 25 percent of purchases were made by Millennials from $100,000-plus households.

Dollar Stores Continue to Boost Commercial Real Estate
Shopping centers shared in the success of the dollar store niche during the recession and that positive connection continues. We are pleased to have 16 dollar stores in our portfolio, all representatives of the major chains. Dollar stores typically seek ten-year leases on 8,000-12,000 SF spaces in properties with strong anchors and high traffic counts. Their solid financial positions and brand names plus their ability to pull in shoppers make them ideal tenants.

Retail Real Estate Trend: The Growth Pace of Dollar Stores May Ease
As the economy strengthens, retail trend watchers predict that in the dollar store category new challenges may cool the growth of dollar stores. Will consumers become less interested in bargain hunting? Will the reduction in SNAP benefits curb less affluent shoppers? Will some stores fall victim to the saturation of these retailers in certain areas and end up cannibalizing each other? What about competition from drug stores who now compete with the dollars in the food and beverage categories? Will Amazon finally chip away at the dollars’ convenience appeal with its same-day delivery of low-priced consumables? (Read more: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/21/when-1-can-be-much-more-the-dollar-store-divide.html)

On the positive side, the dollar stores stand to remain immune to the threat of online among their original sweet spot – the less affluent household who does not typically shop online. Their low overhead and the minimal investment required to open a new store are also strengths. And then there’s the loyal Millennial consumer segment. Dollar General, the category leader, just launched a new smaller-store concept catering to the taste and needs of urban Millennials.

We’re keeping an eye on this category. These were the big bricks and mortar bright spot of the last decade and we’re not likely to bet against the dollars.

Retail Real Estate Trend: Non-Traditional Tenants Go A-List

Web-Proof Services Are Attracting Landlord Interest as Some Retailers Falter

Last month I served on a panel at ICSC’s PA/NJ/DE Conference and Dealmaking event in Atlantic City. My group’s discussion focused on non-traditional tenants and their growing popularity in commercial retail leasing. On the four-person panel, I was the sole spokesman for the landlord side, with the rest of the members representing non-traditional tenants who lease space (or want to lease) in shopping centers. As might be expected, they were all attracted by the visibility, convenience and traffic a popular shopping center offers. They want to be where the customers are. No surprise there.

At Levin, we have many non-traditional tenants under lease – fitness centers, health services, day care providers, gaming centers, and, of course, restaurants. Not long ago, like most managers in the business of commercial retail leasing, we were reluctant to go with tenants other than more traditional retailers. That’s changed big time. I’d like to tell you why non-traditionals are now on our A-list.

Behind the Trend #1: Non-Traditional Tenants Are Amazon-Proof
While many retailers are struggling against branded online stores and behemoths like Amazon, service businesses face no web-based competition at all. WebMD can’t stitch up a cut. YouTube videos are no substitute for a Nautilus circuit or Spin class. You can’t leave your toddler with babytv.com while you work. You get the point. Services and experiences can’t be provided by the Internet (at least not yet). We in commercial retail leasing like that. We’re looking for tenants that are fiscally solid and likely to stay that way.

Behind the Trend #2: Service Businesses Drive Traffic
In our era of the time-starved lifestyle, people look to consolidate as many of their errands and activities as possible. A shopping center that offers the opportunity to combine a fitness session with grocery shopping and a prescription refill will draw traffic, benefitting multiple tenants and attracting new ones. Our grocery tenants, for example, report a substantial flow of customers from their fitness center neighbors. That’s a win-win-win for the tenants, landlord and shoppers.

Behind the Trend #3: Long Leases and Solid Financials
Non-traditional tenants typically seek longer leases, often because of the higher construction costs due to the more extensive build-outs they initially require. They also tend to be stronger financially and have better credit than many of today’s retailers. Both these qualities make them a highly desirable addition to the tenant mix.

Non-Traditionals Do Pose Some Challenges in Retail Leasing
Since nothing’s perfect, we have to consider the challenges that these businesses – appealing as they are – present. The most common is parking. A fitness center user, for example, may tie up two hours of parking space per visit. We’re always very careful to assure that there’s adequate parking before any new lease is signed. Another roadblock may be image. Some specialized medical centers, for example, can seem out of place among the existing mix of restaurants, boutiques and entertainment providers. We’re sensitive about overall image and have declined some prospective tenants that weren’t a good “fit.”

At Levin-Managed Properties Non-Traditionals Are Here to Stay
Our portfolio has many fitness centers, which are now considered mainstream uses in today’s shopping centers. Levin-managed properties are home to most of the major national brands, including Blink, Crunch, LA Fitness, Leisure, Snap and Planet Fitness.

More health services are coming on board with us. We just signed a lease for 2,500 square feet at our Mayfair Shopping Center (Commack, NY) with GoHealth, a walk-in clinic. This medical services model is growing rapidly, with a third of the new establishments situated in shopping centers. We expect to see more of them as Levin tenants in the near future. Physical therapy services are interested in shopping center space, too. A Kessler rehab is located in our Aldrich Plaza (Howell, NJ).

Daycare (Apple Hill Academy and C2 Education Center), postal services and even a vet, along with restaurants and the popular gaming chain Dave & Buster’s evidence Levin’s interest in cultivating this new segment in commercial retail leasing. Non-traditional tenants meet the needs of today’s consumers – and even boost business for our traditional retailers. A combination that works quite well

Study Finds That the Vast Majority of Americans Shop Online

But…Bricks-and-Mortar Stores Are Still Dominant by a Wide Margin
Online shopping is no longer a trend. It’s now a way of life in America, with 96 percent of the respondents in a recent study saying they shop online. All demographic groups – from Millennials to Seniors – are turning to their various screens for making a purchase. And, they’re loving the experience, ranking it ahead of smartphone GPS and streaming media as “something they can’t live without.” Big Commerce, an e-commerce platform, and Kelton Global, research consultants, discovered these facts and more in a March 2016 study of 1,000 shoppers. Their findings have been reported by Chain Store Age (see article) and other retail industry media.

The massive report is also well worth a read for leaders in retail real estate. But before you dive into all the findings, check out these ten highlights.

1.Good News for Retail Real Estate
Shoppers love online, but 64 percent of those surveyed still buy in bricks-and-mortars. This includes Millennials – 44 percent said they shop in stores. Women make more shopping trips than men. Men buy more online.

2.More Good News for Retail Real Estate
Survey respondents said their least favorite aspects of online shopping were: inability to touch and feel merchandise, shipping charges, exchanges, and waiting for delivery.

3.Brick-and-Mortar Websites are Online Shopping Hubs
Twenty-five percent of respondents in the Big Commerce study had shopped at the website of a brick-and-mortar store.

 4.Favorite Features of Online Shopping
No surprises here. Shoppers choose online for convenience and speed of sale.

 5.Most Online Dollars Go to E-Commerce Marketplaces
Big Commerce’s respondents spent an average of $488 last year on sites like Amazon and eBay. Their second highest spending level was on the sites of major online/offline brands ($409).

6.What Do Online Shoppers Want on Websites?
Online shoppers want images, video demonstrations, customer reviews, and product comparison – all the things that bring an item to life.

 7.How Do Shoppers Choose an E-Commerce Site?
Price is the main driver (87 percent), followed closely by free shipping and speed (80 percent).

8.Shipping Costs are a Major Stumbling Block to Online Sales
Online shoppers are super-resistant to paying for shipping. Two-thirds of those in the Big Commerce study said they had abandoned their shopping carts when they saw the shipping charges.

9.Social Commerce is on the Rise

Thirty percent of the respondents said they were open to buying through a social media network. More than half the Millennials were ready to shop on social. Facebook and Pinterest were the social platforms of choice.

10.Online Shopping is Everywhere and Round the Clock
In retail stores, in the car, in the office – 24/7 – people are shopping online. Forty-three percent shop in bed and 20 percent shop while in the bathroom. Ten percent admit to shopping under the influence of alcohol (13 percent of them Millennials and 17 percent Gen-Xers). Maybe this is why 42 percent of Big Commerce’s respondents admitted regretting an online purchase, and 21 percent said they had bought something online “by accident.”

It’s an Omnichannel World but Retail Stores Continue to Rule

Consumers Love Online but Still Prefer Shopping at Bricks and Mortar

You know there’s a big retail real estate trend brewing when Amazon, the premier pure play online retailer, announces a plan to open 300-plus book stores. Yes, that’s stores, as in bricks-and-mortar establishments. Market tests of on-campus locations and pop-ups in major cities preceded their February 4 announcement. Amazon’s move is an important indicator of the increasing success of omnichannel and an acknowledgment of the role of the physical store in branding and building sales in concert with online and social media. But the successful bricks-and-mortar establishments of the new omnichannel era we’re doing business in are not your grandpa’s retail store. Read on for a quick glimpse of what’s happening and what’s ahead.

The Traditional Store is Morphing into an Omnichannel Hub

As a leading retail real estate company and one of the top construction management firms in the Northeast, Levin is excited about the coming changes in store design. And, of course, we’re pleased that bricks-and-mortar establishments continue to be favored by America’s shoppers. (Over 90 percent of the transactions in December 2015, in fact, took place in a store, according to the ICSC). http://www.chainstoreage.com/article/icsc-omnichannel-wins-physical-stores-epicenter

As one ingredient in the omnichannel mix, stores now and in the future will have to offer more than just physical access to merchandise. Today’s consumers tend to have pre-shopped online and expect the store to be just one element in a seamless purchasing experience. Store design and construction will have to accommodate “click and collect” purchases made online and picked up in-store, plus returns and exchanges – that means easy in-and-out and space to hold pre-ordered merchandise. The demand for same-day delivery will have implications for parking and loading vehicles.

Information-on-Demand and an “Entertaining” Environment: Retail Real Estate Trends to Watch

Omnichannel shoppers expect web-supported shopping. That means kiosks and touch screens that let them check product availability and place orders, plus store associates with tablets to provide up-to-the-minute information and hassle-free checkouts. As a model store environment, think Apple.
Virtual fitting rooms and same-day delivery are predicted to shrink the selling floor, with more space going to lounges for food and beverage services that rank high, especially with Millennial shoppers. Since omnichannel shoppers prize the VIP treatment, expect to see more sensors, beacons and other electronics that will allow a retailer to deliver coupons and points to mobile phones and direct shoppers to merchandise based on their purchasing profiles. Retailers on the leading edge of omnichannel have already introduced these in-store features. Take a look at Crate & Barrel, NordstromStarbucks, and Top Shop to name a few. Expect more to come. https://erply.com/case-study-how-you-can-copy-nordstroms-secrets-to-massive-retail-success/ and http://insider-trends.com/why-omnichannel-is-the-elusive-holy-grail-of-retail-and-three-retailers-who-have-found-it/

No Longer a Secondary Player, Logistics are Now Key to Omnichannel Retailing

Click and collect and in-store online ordering, both with demand for same-day delivery, have placed new importance on logistics. Warehouses and distribution centers will need to be in closer proximity to stores. Some retail real estate trend watchers predict that large warehouses will become the hub, with smaller centers near stores serving as the spokes in the delivery wheel. The possibility that retailers may supplement their flagships with pop-ups or small specialized boutiques will mean further logistical challenges. http://www.inboundlogistics.com/cms/article/new-retail-strategies-its-a-store-its-a-site-its-a-warehouse/
Warehouses, whatever their size or location, are facing changes driven by the fulfillment of small individual orders with quick turnaround. The impact on IT, employee levels, building design and configuration, and transport are massive, along with the need for acreage in densely populated areas. Retail real estate and construction management are certain to feel the effect of these changes in logistics.

Every Step in Omnichannel Leads to Another Step

The convergence of the virtual and the physical in retailing is just the beginning. As that blend is achieved, new doors are opening. Retailers and the businesses that service them will have to walk through those to succeed in the evolving and complex world of multichannel.