A Facelift Can Put Bricks And Mortars Ahead of The Game

Retailers May Be Neglecting Their Strongest Competitive Advantage

Digital technology has transformed our industry – some might say disrupted it – along with just about everything else in contemporary life. Retailers, over the last few years, have risen to the challenge of their online competitors with major investments in omnichannel. But have all those dollars poured into online come at the expense of the retailer’s biggest asset: the bricks-and-mortar store? This provocative question was recently raised by Antony Karabus, CEO of Hilco Retail Consulting, in a recent article in Women’s Wear Daily. He gave us cause for some thought.

Investing in Bricks: Is a Retail Real Estate Trend Emerging?

Karabus maintains that bricks-and-mortar retailers “consistently underestimate the enormous advantage they have relative to their ecommerce counterparts, in particular their physical brand assets.” A bricks-and-mortar store, he goes on to say, satisfies the consumer’s innate desire to interact with merchandise in an inviting environment. Yet, according to a survey of the CEOs and CFOs of top retailers conducted by Hilco, only 20 percent are investing capital in their stores. Forty percent of the stores in Hilco’s study, in fact, had not been remodeled in a decade.

The vast majority of retail sales still occur in stores rather than online. The most recent statistics from the U.S. Commerce Department show online sales accounting for 6.8 percent of total third-quarter retail sales. Online is growing at a steady pace, but Forrester Research projects that by 2018, it will still represent only 11 percent of total annual sales. Still, leading retailers remain fixated on tech – perhaps at the expense of their physical brand, which is the chief driver of revenue.

An Experience Technology Can’t Match…Yet

Steve Barr, U.S. Retail and Consumer Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, echoes Karabus’ views on the overlooked value of bricks. “There are reasons people are still going to the store – it’s accessible, people can see and feel the product, try on merchandise, see what a room set looks like. It’s a very visual experience that can’t be replicated through even the best online tools,” he told Retail Dive earlier this year. He added this caveat: “Retailers are going to need to adapt the physical store to stay relevant and compete with online retailers.”

Levin’s President Matthew Harding agrees that while a strong online presence is vital, retailers can’t afford to ignore their physical stores. “As a leading retail real estate company, we’re naturally concerned about the physical appearances of the tenants in the centers we manage. The look of a store is a valid concern for any retailer. Many of ours are doing an outstanding job. A good example is ShopRite. They’ve created high-quality environments for grocery buyers. Pier 1 Imports is another good example. I’ve seen some great interior and exterior remodeling of their stores. They’re driving more traffic because of their fresh, new look. Shoppers are drawn to novelty.”

Retailers Who Find the Right Balance Will Own the Future

Bricks and clicks need to be brought into balance, according to Karabus, who insists that success will come from serving customers “consistently at all touch points (online and in-store) however and whenever they want to interact with a retailer.” Bring stores up to meet the expectation of today’s savvy consumers, he urges. Merchants who do so will reap dividends. “The prize,” he predicts, “will be huge when retailers find the right balance of capital spending.”

A&P Bankruptcy Opens a New Era in Retail Real Estate

New Opportunities Ahead for Shopping Centers in Northeast U.S.

We recently saw the end of a long chapter in American retailing when the parent of the iconic A&P brand filed for Chapter 11. This is the second time in five years that the quaintly named Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (now a division of Montvale-Para Holdings) has entered bankruptcy proceedings and it looks as though this is the end of the line. Once the Wal-Mart of its day, A&P created the supermarket concept in 1936, bringing a diverse inventory at low prices to a mass market and becoming the world’s largest retailer. There are many reasons for its demise, including a string of strategic blunders, and we can count on the media to deliver a full autopsy soon. But from my perspective, the primary failure of the 156-year old retailer was remaining static while the world was changing. A&P tried to retain its classic retailing model in the midst of a dynamic and robust competitive landscape of supercenters, dollar stores, convenience stores, and discounters. At the high-end, Whole Foods, Fresh Direct, and new concepts like Amazon Fresh and Blue Apron were staking their claims. In the middle, retailers such as ShopRite and Stop & Shop reinvented and modernized their stores. In an industry with razor-thin margins, the competitive squeeze was too much.

Whats Next for Grocery-Anchored Shopping Centers Post-A&P?

In a recent article, USA Today said “A&P’s biggest asset may be its real estate,” which includes A&P, Pathmark, Waldbaums, SuperFresh, Food Emporium, A&P Liquors, and Best Cellars stores. This puts the spotlight on the shopping centers of the Northeast region of the country, where most of these stores are located and where our portfolio is concentrated. It appears that Stop & Shop, Acme and Key Foods have struck deals on 120 of the locations. A&P has said it will close 25 stores, which leaves 176 on the block. Lots of retail real estate trends are in the making.

As leading retail leasing advisors, our Levin team sees the A&P bankruptcy as signaling a new paradigm. We’ve found that retaining competitive advantage following a change in a retail anchor tenant requires both strategic rethinking and capital infusion. Retenanting and repositioning is a constant factor in effective asset management. It’s part of the game plan for success in our dynamic retail real estate industry. Sometimes a bankruptcy is the driver, sometimes other factors are at play. Whatever the impetus, these are situations that present opportunities for reinvention and growth. And in a market that’s got plenty of post-recession momentum going, there’s cause for optimism in the face of anchor changes. It’s much too early to get specific about the effects of A&P’s passing, but the takeaway here is that one of the few things we can count on is change.

Curation: The Future of Retail (And The Past)

A Trend Goes from Bricks to Clicks Then Back to Bricks Again

A few years ago, The Motley Fool, the online stock advisor, proclaimed that “the future of retail is curation.” True, but it’s also its past. The pioneering department stores launched in the late 19th century were all about curation – selecting market-oriented merchandise and organizing mammoth inventories into designated areas (departments) where shoppers could easily browse items that matched their budgets and tastes. Departments were the retail real estate trend of the day, enhancing the shopping experience by organizing the goods formerly found in multiple stores under one roof and presenting them in a shopper-friendly manner. On the opening day of its Herald Square store, Macy’s was not unlike today’s Amazon, featuring a slogan that was all about size – “A Place Where Almost Anything Can Be Bought.”

Online Merchants: New Masters of the Curation Universe

With the largest selection of goods in the world today, Amazon and its merchant partners continue to refine curation online with algorithms that deliver systematized suggestions based on individual consumption patterns. These formulas guide buyers through a staggering selection of items. The goal is to “drive consumer choices and offer new ways to spend money,” says Netflix, another master of online curation. Netflix, along with Zappos (an Amazon company), Wayfair, and furniture.com are among the leaders of the online pack, mining masses of data and matching it with tailored choices to smooth the online shopping experience.

It’s not all algorithms though. Beyond mathematical formulas, online is also the home of celebrity tastemakers and influencers who lend their star quality to collections they appear to have curated on sites like ShoeDazzle and Overstock.com – all chosen to fit their fans’ shopping profiles. And then there’s social commerce, which brings social media into the shopping mix. Glance, a product of Zappos Labs, is a curated fashion platform that lets shoppers “heart” their favorites and share the word about their buys with their Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter communities. Niche online marketers, like Nasty Gal, which evolved from an eBay store, are natural curators with merchandise so sharply targeted that tech may not even be needed to serve up a selection.

Keeping up with the Curators

So what’s a bricks-and-mortar retailer to do when facing celebrity-curated collections and ever-improving product recommendation technologies? Just as the bricks-and-mortars have achieved success online, they’re also rising to the challenge of 21st-century curation. They’re turning sales staff into in-person curators. Well-trained and well-equipped with tablets that connect to a digitized inventory and supply chain, associates on the selling floor are turning browsers into buyers. Employees at Leica, a camera retailer in Manhattan, use a mobile-inventory-centric retail system to present shoppers with products that match their needs. Leica’s system also allows sales staff to do check outs from their iPads (a la the Apple Stores) – for a bricks-and-mortar version of one-click purchasing. That’s a retail real estate trend worth watching.

Struggling Sears is approaching curation in a more traditional but still creative way.

Three pilot stores are hosting “Connected Solutions” – an online and in-store collection that demonstrates how connected electronic smart goods can make for better living. Sear’s in-store sales centers feature a full range of branded devices in the fitness, home, automotive, and mobile categories. The entertaining, interactive environment and tightly edited collection of products helps tech-shy consumers get comfortable with the latest gadgets.

New Tech Innovations for In-Store may be the Next Retail Real Estate Trend

Sophisticated data-capture is the online retailer’s key to providing tailored product recommendations. Tech innovations are now ready to deliver similar insights for the bricks-and-mortar world. Nomi, the largest player in physical analytics, is extending web analytics into the real world with a platform that gathers insights into shopper behavior via mobile. Mobile identification and facial recognition software, and heat mapping technologies are providing information that will enable merchants to offer an individualized experience that’s not so far from the one shoppers have come to expect online. That’s the kind of experience Rowland H. Macy would have loved.






Will Falling Gas Prices Pump New Life Into Retail Sales?

Retail Trend Watchers Predict Upcoming Surge in Consumer Spending

Across the U.S., drivers are doing the happy dance at the gas pump. And they’ve got cause for celebration. Between September 25, 2014 and January 5, 2015, the average price of gas fell every single day, dropping nearly a full dollar from July levels and delivering a reported total savings of $50 billion to consumers in the fourth quarter of last year. But where will all those dollars go? Retailers have high hopes for a first-quarter surge and the retail real estate industry is optimistic about what’s next.

Retail sales for November, just four months into the gas price decline, saw a gain of 0.4 percent. December brought some good news with non-store holiday sales (indicator of online purchases) growing 6.8 percent according to the National Retail Federation. Restaurants and bars enjoyed a gain of 0.8 percent over their November performance, while food and beverage stores, pharmacies and other health and personal care stores reaped higher sales. Full year figures for consumer spending show retail sales rising 4 percent for the year. Considering the massive savings in energy, some wonder if the numbers could have been higher.

Steve Barr, retail and consumer sector leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, suggests that the picture might have been even better except for the “the conflicted consumer” factor. These are the cautious shoppers who may still have been struggling to balance cost of living expenses with recent gas savings. But with the added factor of the strengthening national economy and continued low energy costs, this conflicted consumer may soon feel much less conflict.

Consumer Confidence Is Gaining Traction Fueling Retailers Optimism

“It’s a no-brainer. It’s going to be a better year for the consumer in 2015,” predicts Paula Campbell Roberts, consumer analyst at Morgan Stanley, citing the $80 billion dollars in savings from lower gas prices projected for Q1 of 2015. Terry Lundgren, Macy’s CEO and Chairman, agrees. Addressing the National Retail Federation earlier this month, he said, “I think we’re in a place right now where consumption can return back to what we’ve seen in the past.” So with an additional $550 to $750 in their wallets during the coming year, Americans may be about to go on a long-delayed shopping spree.

Younger Demographic and Lower-to- Middle Income Households To Benefit Most

Households with lower-to-middle disposable incomes will feel the biggest economic boost from cheaper gasoline. This includes members of the large 18-34 demographic, who are inclined to spend even when their budgets are tight. This group may lead the anticipated retail spending surge. In a recent National Association of Convenience Stores Survey, a third of the 18-34 year old respondents said they would use their gas savings to make more discretionary purchases beginning in January.

Rising Wages and Employment Help Brighten the Retail Outlook

The American Automobile Association, whose Daily Fuel Gauge recently reported gasoline at $2.08 per gallon, predicts that low prices will remain stable for the first half of this year, with a moderate rise post-summer. The price-per-gallon is expected to remain under $3.00. That mid-year uptick in gas prices should be offset by rising wages and declining unemployment in a recovering national economy.

Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, sums it up. “Consumers real disposable cash flows are surging, confidence is high and rising and the labor market is recovering at an astonishing rate.” That’s good news all around, especially for retail real estate.


Blink Fitness Opens at Clifton Plaza in Clifton, N.J.

Retail Real Estate Trend Predicted Earlier This Year Is Materializing Fast

Blink Fitness recently celebrated the grand opening of its newest New Jersey location at our Levin-managed Clifton Plaza in Clifton. The affordable fitness chain occupies 15,000 square feet of newly constructed retail space at the 80,000-square-foot shopping center.

Fitness Centers Boost Health of Members and Retail Real Estate Companies

Early this year, the business media – including Forbes, industry bloggers and even the ICSC – predicted that fitness venues in shopping centers would be among the top retail real estate trends for 2014. They were on the money, especially with Blink. The off-price brand is on the move across our tri-state area, offering health-conscious members a low-cost workout.

Managers of retail real estate benefit too, when tenants like Blink move in. Fitness centers deliver the sought-after “experience” component that gives shopping venues an edge over online merchants. And fitness is one of the few businesses that can be relied on to draw steady traffic, even in an increasingly online-oriented world. Traffic from gym goers is decidedly steady, with 44 percent of members going to work out at least 100 times per year. Fitness centers are open to members every day of the week, with 4 to 7 p.m. as prime time, delivering potential customers to adjacent tenants, especially those offering services or merchandise related to health, fitness and lifestyle.

Fitness centers like Blink Fitness appeal to shopping center management for an additional reason and an important one. Their model does not require the expensive build-outs that their high-end cousins need in order to accommodate pools, saunas, steam rooms and other spa-style amenities.

This retail real estate trend toward low-cost fitness centers in convenient locations, which began during the recent economic slowdown, shows no signs of stopping. Health club memberships stand at more than 41 million and the demographics are expanding beyond the traditional 18-34 age group to include the fast-growing 50-plus population, who have embraced exercise as the key to weight management and longevity. Blink Fitness, which is in an aggressive expansion mode, typifies this trend.

Fast-growing Fitness Chain Joins a Stellar Tenant Line-up at Clifton Plaza

With more than 36 locations now open across the tri-state area and memberships starting as low as $15 per month, Blink Fitness is on target to achieve its corporate goal of creating healthier communities by giving virtually everyone the opportunity to incorporate fitness into their daily routine. Blink gyms are clean and modern with top-of-the-line cardiovascular and strength-training machines, easy-to-use, self-guided workout menus and a friendly, supportive staff.

The Blink Fitness brand is a perfect fit with other tenants at Clifton Plaza. Co-anchoring the shopping center is a 24,000-square-foot Big Lots and a 14,000-square-foot Dollar Tree. National and regional tenants include Work ‘N Gear, GameStop, Radio Shack, Angel Tip Nails & Spa, Bruno’s Pizza, Sally Beauty Supply, Valley National Bank, and a recently opened Dunkin’ Donuts.

For more on the growth of fitness centers, check out these recent articles in Sourcing Journal and National Retail Tenants Association (NRTA) online.

U.S. Shopping Centers 2014: Not Just Surviving, But Thriving

New ICSC Study Reports Robust Retail Real Estate Trend

According to a decade’s worth of media stories, the American shopping center is on life support, crushed by the rise of online retailing and fading fast from the national landscape. But with a new report from the ICSC, owners and managers of commercial retail real estate can now paraphrase Mark Twain’s famous quote: “the reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated.”

The report consolidates statistical data and trend analysis from numerous sources into an information-packed 18-page report, “Shopping Centers: America’s First and Foremost Marketplace.” The result is a portrait of a thriving industry with a bright future. Among the most upbeat statistics presented are the 2013 figures from the U.S. Commerce Department, indicating that the vast majority of retail sales continue to happen in brick-and-mortar stores, 94 percent last year, for a total annual spend in excess of $4 trillion. Online sales for the same period accounted for the balance of 6 percent and totaled $263 billion. But wait, there’s more good news. You can read it all at icsc.org. And even though you probably have seen bits and pieces of this data, the consolidated picture packs a punch. Here are some points that impressed us.

The Big Picture: The Retail Real Estate Industrys Vital Signs Are Strong

With the recession fading, unemployment receding and consumer confidence up, owners and managers of shopping centers can see a brightening picture for commercial retail real estate. According to the ICSC report, reasons for cheer include the surging US population, with a growth rate of 2 million per year expected to continue into 2050. With that expansion, new market niches and opportunities are emerging (Boomers, Millennials, Hispanics). Retailers want to supply those niches with plenty of places to shop, projecting the opening of over 100,000 stores in the next 24 months. That explosion of new stores, coupled with the slowdown in shopping center construction, will drive competition for prime space and boost rents. It’s little wonder that ICSC president and CEO Michael P. Kercheval believes that “the industry is poised for unprecedented success going forward.”

Consumers Continue to Prefer In-Store Shopping to Online

The shopper’s need to touch or try on merchandise is the prime reason why they rank in-store shopping above its online counterpart. ICSC reports that 75 percent of respondents to a recent survey conducted in partnership with the research firm of Alexander Babbage cited the shopper’s desire to experience potential purchases firsthand as the main reason for choosing in-store over online. That’s a competitive advantage unlikely to be duplicated. Other stated reasons for preferring bricks-and-mortar include the greater ease of finding items in a physical store, immediate satisfaction – no waiting for delivery, the desire to combine multiple errands into one trip, and the fun of shopping with friends and family. Even the digital natives of the Millennial generation state that they shop in stores for entertainment and fun. Statistics regarding the time spent shopping supports those preferences, with consumers making more trips to brick-and-mortars and spending more time and money in those stores than they do online. Mark Toro, partner in North America Properties, summed up the reason for the appeal of in-store shopping when he said in a recent SCT interview: “Humans are social animals. If we want to have an experience, we have to go to a public space to commune. That is what people are craving, because they are so isolated in their online worlds.” Shopping centers die for various reasons, he admits, but they are replaced by better venues – not by the Internet.

Destination malls, like the new Avalon mixed-use venue in Alpharetta, GA, Sarasota’s The Mall at University Town Center, and the Westfield San Francisco Centre, are satisfying those human social needs with diverse tenant mixes that integrate retail and non-retail, along with environments rich in entertainment value. However, the ICSC report indicates, the neighborhood convenience-oriented shopping center is still the industry’s dominant player, comprising 88 percent of commercial retail real estate in the U.S. and supplying basic consumer services that can’t be duplicated online.

Online Brands Venture Beyond the Internet in a New Retail Real Estate Trend

While Traditional Stores Continue to Tap into the Web

Like other trendspotting reports, the ICSC’s publication points out the movement of successful Internet merchants like Bonobos, Athleta, Boston Proper, Piperlime and Warby Parker into the physical world. Even the mighty Amazon is experimenting with traditional storefronts to push sales of its electronics line this holiday season. With in-store sales and conversion rates higher than online performance, savvy web retailers are embracing the omni-channel model. Their brick-and-mortar counterparts are in omni-channel mode as well, embracing the web as a tool instead of a threat. The results are impressive: omnichannel consumers shop three times more often than single channel ones and spend 3.5 times more.

ICSC Report Urges the Retail Real Estate Industry to Stay Flexible

The growth of the Internet has brought the most significant changes in retailing since the automobile and the pace is unlikely to abate. The ICSC report urges the industry to anticipate and adapt to these. The report concludes: “The transformation in the industry is bringing about one of the most exciting eras in the history of the shopping center.”

Get ready!

Retail Real Estate Trends: In-Store Restaurants and Hip Hybrids are On the Rise

High-End Cuisine and Artisanal Coffee Draw Customers, Boost Sales

The grand department stores of yesteryear – Marshall Field’s, Hudson’s, Wanamaker’s and others – always featured a “tea room” where elegant ladies could enjoy refreshments during shopping sprees. Over the decades, in-store food service has changed, along with shopping styles, but it’s never gone away. Today, Starbucks keeps Target shoppers caffeinated, McDonalds fortifies bargain-hunters at Wal-Mart and Ikea continues to serve up Swedish meatballs and other Nordic favorites. At the higher end of the shopping spectrum, Nordstrom operates multiple restaurants throughout its chain, boasting a total of seven different food service concepts and 200 eateries and coffee bars in its properties. Still, new food-related retail real estate trends keep emerging –and they’re definitely not your grandmother’s tea room.

Department Stores, Branded Shops Build Traffic with Quality Food and Drink

When Fodor’s, the venerable publisher of travel information, starts listing the 10 best in-store restaurants, it’s a sign that store-based dining has reached both a critical mass and a quality high-point. On the retail real estate NYC scene, big name chefs like David Burke preside at Bloomingdale’s. Hip restaurant brand Momofoku Milk Bar operates out of Soho’s Band of Outsiders boutique – right in the front window. Lord & Taylor shoppers can take a break at branches of Sarabeth’s. Ralph Lauren recently joined in with a main level coffee bar (featuring Lauren’s own brand of beans) and a full-service restaurant upstairs at its Fifth Avenue flagship. Among the latest to join the in-store food trend is Urban Outfitters, who opened a three-floor venue on Herald Square in June –the largest in their 400-store chain. A main floor feature is an outpost of Intelligentsia Coffee of Chicago, “designed to serve an ocean of coffee to thousands of passers-by each day.”

At Tommy Bahama’s “Lifestyle” Stores Food and Drink Reinforce the Brand

A brand-oriented take on the in-store food service trend in retail real estate is Tommy Bahama’s Island concept. The resort-themed menswear company has launched 13 “Island” stores, where shoppers find an immersive environment that includes tropical cocktails and menus, a perfect backdrop to the brand’s beach-y fashions and accessories. Tommy Bahama reports that its “Island” stores, located in such venues as The Woodlands Mall in Dallas, Corona del Mar Plaza in Newport Beach, and Scottsdale’s Kierlands Commons, generate two and a half times the sales per square foot as their other 97 locations.

At Hip Hybrids, Store and Restaurant Merge for a Single Customer Experience

Saturday’s Surf may have launched the hybrid trend in NYC retail real estate. The five-year-old Soho-based boutique (now with three additional locations) offers surfboards, accessories and a full line of surf-inspired menswear. Its artisanal coffee bar is integrated into the selling floor. Co-founder Josh Rosen, who is expanding into new markets, insists that coffee is so essential to his business that any new leases must permit beverage service. Management at Shinola, a Detroit-based merchandiser of watches, bikes and accessories with shops in NOHO and Tribeca, second Rosen’s sentiment. “Sights, sounds, and smells of a café bring a no-fuss feeling to a luxury goods store,” they said in a recent statement.

Custom-brewed coffee, along with craft beers, is fueling the success of lifestyle retailers on the West Coast, who, like Saturday’s Surf and Shinola, merge merchandise and refreshments in a single space. In Portland, Velo Cult, which purveys bikes and all things bike-related, relies on the “nerdiest black coffee around” and a menu of local beers, along with live music and film screenings, to pack their “man cave” venue. Seattle-based Chrome Industries, designer and manufacturer of bike-related clothing, footwear, bags and accessories, has six “HUBS” or stores in San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Chicago and recently New York City. San Francisco’s famed Blue Bottle Coffee is the go-to beverage and like Velo Cult, music and screenings are key parts of the mix.

What’s this latest in-store eating and drinking trend all about? Beyond attracting and satisfying the customer, there’s doubtlessly the recognition that in-store amenities like high-quality coffee and unique menu options enhance the shopping experience beyond just browsing and buying. Shopping centers with a rich tenant mix have picked up on this retail real estate trend, just as urban stores and boutiques have. Here’s a powerful competitive edge that online can’t match.

Reinventing the Town Square for 21st Century Shoppers

Hamilton Plz  Hamilton, NJ Levin Properties
Consumers Seek Retail Venues that Provide Connection and Experience Sparking a Retail Real Estate Trend

As far back as ancient Greece, the public square has been the center of civic and social life, the magnet that drew people together, the place to gather not just to shop but to recreate and connect. Successful merchants knew that proximity to the community hub was essential to their success. The power of community and the human need for social experience may be things modern retailers have ignored at their peril. Fortress malls, isolated big box stores, and single-focus shopping centers aren’t likely to attract the ever-growing population of online consumers. To maintain their edge with shoppers, retail venues will have to revive an older game plan and become places that offer more than just access to merchandise.

“Place-Making” Emerges as Retail Real Estate Trend
Architect Dustin Watson, a partner at global design firm DDG in Baltimore, calls the response to the consumer’s need for an experiential retail real estate environment ‘place making.’ “Place-making is the most essential element for creating value in today’s competitive retail environment,” he writes in a recent article for Mid Atlantic Real Estate Journal. “To attract shoppers, keep them shopping – and spending money – for longer periods of time and bring them back again in the future, retail centers need to create a sense of ‘place’ that was formerly taken for granted.” He cites the D.C. area’s Bethesda Row and Station Park, outside Salt Lake City, as models of place-making. Both projects, along with other notables Crocker Park (Cleveland, Ohio), Victoria Gardens (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) and City Centre (Houston, Texas) are mixed-use, multi-block areas that invite the community in with events and accessible, ample exterior space that in some cases replicates an urban grid or revives an existing thoroughfare. Tenants include restaurants in different price ranges, office space, services, entertainment, lodging and a diverse collection of local and national retail brands. Sounds a lot like the old-fashioned downtown hub, right?

And speaking of downtown hubs, Walter Loeb, publisher of Loeb Retail Letter and consultant to domestic and international retail companies, predicts in a recent blog post on forbes.com that what he calls “hub destination centers” will be key to the survival of retail real estate in the coming years. These centers, he writes, provide newer suburbs that lack a town center and older ones who’ve seen a decline in their retail core with a place for residents to gather for shopping, lifestyle interests and social interaction. Hallmarks of these hubs include access via public transportation (Bethesda Row, Crocker Park and Station Park), parking, exterior spaces (proven desirable even in less than temperate climates), a range of tenants (including offices, hotels, professional services, event areas, and entertainment), plus a diverse choice of restaurants, including fast-casual dining in lieu of food courts. Reliable security is a must as well.

It’s important to note that recent retail commercial real estate projects that fit the visions of Loeb and Watson are conservative in scale compared to destination giants like Mall of America and Tyson’s Corners. And although Station Park draws shoppers and tourists to its spectacular “dancing waters” fountain, the entertainment offerings of the hubs tend to be more low-key, urban in feeling and community related (think classic downtown). With smaller stores, another retail real estate trend, these new venues can be more compact and navigable.

What’s ahead for the hubs? Will more retail real estate developers launch new versions of Bethesda Row? Will hubs influence shopping center design and renovation? Perhaps the popular lifestyle centers are leading the way. A retail real estate trend is in the making here. Let’s see where it goes.

Have you visited any of the new-style shopping venues mentioned in this blog post? Please share your experiences and impressions with us here at Retail Property InSites.
Look for more news and observations from Levin Management executives in upcoming posts.

Recently Renovated Hamilton Plaza Reaches Full Occupancy

Hamilton Plz  Hamilton, NJ Levin Properties
America’s Best Contacts and Eyeglasses Inks Lease for 4,500 Square Feet

Levin-managed Hamilton Plaza (Hamilton Township, N.J.) has notched a major milestone in commercial retail leasing, achieving 100 percent occupancy with the lease of America’s Best Contacts and Eyeglasses. Currently in an aggressive expansion mode, the 350-store chain of discount eyewear and eye care stores, was attracted to Hamilton Plaza’s access to a growing and affluent residential population in Mercer County. Located at the intersection of Route 33 and White Horse-Hamilton Square Road, the 175,000-square-foot shopping center boasts an average daily traffic count of 47,000 vehicles. The population within a five-mile radius of this prime retail real estate site is 177,000, with an average household income of $87,000.

A Mix of Top Retail Real Estate Tenants Creates a Shopping Destination
In addition to its high-traffic location and expanding population, Hamilton Plaza offered this latest tenant a strong position among a diverse mix of popular national retailers, services and restaurants. America’s Best Contacts and Eyeglasses will join A.C. Moore, Sleepy’s, Petco, Dollar Tree, Hallmark, Radio Shack, Let’s YO!, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Texas Roadhouse, and other leading brand names that make up the retail line-up at Hamilton Plaza. The shopping center is anchored by an 80,000-square-foot ShopRite.

A Multi-Million Dollar Renovation, a Premier Property Management Team
We have worked hard to make Hamilton Plaza one of the top retail destinations in Mercer County, undertaking a mega renovation that transformed this property into a fully modernized shopping center. Our experts in property management services and construction management oversaw the replacement of building façades and outdated pylon signs, reconfiguration of the parking lots, new landscaping and the addition of two new pad sites and a 10,000-square-foot end cap. Hamilton Plaza has the potential for further expansion, thanks to a 3,075-square-foot proposed pad site, which has been approved for drive-thru.

Look for news and observations from Levin executives in upcoming posts here at Retail Property InSites. Please join us and share your comments about our posts or about your own management experiences and challenges in retail real estate.

Levin Reaches Major Milestone in Retail Leasing on NJ’s Gold Coast

Retail Component of Premier Lifestyle Community is Now Fully Leased

Levin Management is celebrating a major milestone on New Jersey’s Gold Coast. The 100,000-square-foot retail component of Edgewater Harbor, a premier mixed-use waterfront redevelopment on River Road in Edgewater, is now fully leased and open for business. Levin is the exclusive marketing and retail leasing agent for the property. We credit our ground-up development history and expertise, unique among retail leasing and management companies, with the successful conclusion of the first phase of this high-profile project.

Edgewater Harbor Redevelopment Transforms the Hudson River Shoreline

A project of National RE/sources, Edgewater Harbor sits on the 21-acre former Unilever R&D campus, providing Hudson River views and a coveted Gold Coast address. The property’s retail real estate component is comprised of ground-level retail space along the project’s Main Street, as well as free-standing pads. Phase I of the redevelopment of this lifestyle community also includes 495 high-end loft and apartment residences, a 1,900-foot river walk along the Hudson and the borough of Edgewater’s new municipal building. Phase II of the project is now under way and includes up to 7,500 square feet of restaurant space and two pad sites, which Levin will market and lease, and a hotel.

In record time, Edgewater Harbor is transforming the Hudson River shoreline into one of the area’s leading shopping and dining destinations. From a tenant’s perspective, we believe, its demographics, aesthetics, visibility and access create a perfect retail leasing scenario. As a result of this winning combination of factors, we were able to attract a diverse tenant mix that supports the mixed-use nature of the community, while establishing a retail environment where consumers from throughout the region will want to shop.

Gold Coast Address Drives Commercial Retail Leasing at Edgewater Harbor

Edgewater Harbor’s retail component serves a population of more than 2.1 million people within a five-mile radius. Some 896,000 of the households within that same radius boast an average income topping $107,000. The daily traffic count exceeds 43,000 vehicles. The property’s enviable location, equidistant from the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel, makes it an easily accessible destination for shoppers from both upscale New Jersey communities and the affluent environs of Manhattan’s West Side.

Anchored by a 24,000-square-foot HomeGoods, Levin’s leasing transactions to date at Edgewater Harbor include CVS/pharmacy, Haven Riverfront Restaurant & Bar, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Beach Bum Tanning, Great Clips, Floris Nails & Spa, European Wax Center, Sotheby’s Real Estate, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Pampered Pregnancy Boutique, Edgewater Eyecare, Dunkin Donuts and Touch of Elegance.

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About Jake Frantzman:
Jake Frantzman is responsible for more than 1.6 million square feet of gross leasable area throughout Levin’s extensive management and leasing portfolio, including Somerset Shopping Center in Bridgewater, N.J., Paramus Place in Paramus, N.J. and Stafford Park Shopping Center in Manahawkin, N.J. In addition, Frantzman serves as leasing agent for the retail component of Edgewater Harbor. Frantzman obtained his real estate license at the age of 18. He is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), as well as ICSC’s “Next Generation” program, designed for real estate professionals who are seeking to develop their careers and build relationships in the shopping center industry. In addition, in 2013 he earned ICSC’s Certified Leasing Specialist (CLS) designation, reflecting the high standards and expertise required to be a successful shopping center professional.