ICSC RECon Redux

Posted: June 7, 2017 by Paul Cohen, Regional Director of Business Development


ICSC RECon REDUX

In May I shared my Top Ten Tips for Surviving ICSC RECON 2017. Having now had two weeks to work off my hangover, I thought it valuable to share some additional thoughts from this year’s conference. Send me your tips for surviving and thriving at ICSC Vegas.

 

  1. Stay off the strip. I’ve always found it a little depressing to come down from my hotel room each morning and see an old lady on the slot machines next to an insurance salesman who has been playing Blackjack all night. This year, our team at CREXi used AirBnB to rent a five-bedroom house five minutes from the strip. Initially, the goal was cost savings and flexibility as we hadn’t finalized our roster, but what we found was the time we spent together in the evenings before going to the strip was an effective team building experience. As someone who has stayed on the strip multiple times, it was nice to see where the locals live, go for a run in the neighborhoods without inhaling cigarette smoke on my way in and out of the hotel lobby, and to support some local restaurants and bars. I’m not suggesting readers do it every year, but give it a try.
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  3. Not just a pretty face. I got some blow-back on my previous Survival Guide post for suggesting that unless you are “an attractive woman” people won’t just stop by your booth. Some took that to mean that as a female professional you should use your looks and not your abilities to get business. Far from it. I was talking about paid models meant to lure passerby’s in. While the practice seems to be on the decline, when applied it often comes off as tacky and less than professional.
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  5. One giant step for man. Take advantage of the vast distances walked by setting step goals for the day.  I took 45,484 Steps over the two days.  Anyone do better?
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  7. Elevator Pitch Redux. I visited several booths and asked what I believed to be a simple question: What do you do? I expected a simple elevator pitch. You know, like if you were going up an actual elevator. Here’s what happened instead (on almost every occasion): first, the booth host became defensive and asked who I was while they looked directly at my chest to scan my badge. Five minutes later after completion of their “elevator pitch” I was still no clearer. I felt like I was in Willy Wonka’s Glass elevator on the way to Umpa Lumpa land! I am now getting emails from some of these companies and still don’t know what they do.
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  9. Get better swag. Sorry but somebody had to say it. Other than the group that gave out flip flops and the sandwich guys, the swag was very unimaginative. Throw away those stress balls. I suggest that you come up with a theme based upon what your company stands for and then build around that. According to Rich Curran, owner of Expo Convention Contractors (the country’s leading Convention Services provider), “make your theme and swag match. For example, Miami based developer uses a beach theme and gives out sunglasses. You can also use your giveaway to capture leads without asking. You can set up a photographer and offer headshots or a caricature artist. A simple business card drop gets them in line.” 
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  11. The booth, you can’t handle the booth. It was interesting to see how companies handled their allotted space. I saw quite a few “closed” booths, meaning booths that had physical barriers to entry and some with gate keepers behind big desks. Booths should be open in my opinion. Think of a playground for adults. They can come in and see what you are doing. Host a Happy hour in the booth. Nothing says welcome to our booth like a Goose and soda. Expo’s Curran added “a welcoming environment keeps attendees there and talking. Making connections are key, so having someone want to stay at your booth longer gives a chance to build a relationship. Make your booth about an experience not just a product or service.”
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  13. Don’t go deep the first night. This was in the original post but worth elaboration.  I saw a lot of hurt people on Tuesday morning. My advice is to take it easy for the first night (or two if you’re staying longer) and stay hydrated. When you do eventually hit the strip, know your limits and stay within them. Some of my best relationships have been made with people I get a little “loose” with, but it’s a fine line. Remember this is a company function and any inappropriate behavior can hurt your standing within the firm. Whether you realize it or not.
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  15. Go to the parties. I missed the Chainsmokers but got front row to Nelly (Thanks Colliers International!). A confession, I forgot who Nelly was, I was thinking Nelly Furtado so when “Nelly” (rapper from circa 1998) hit the stage I was a tad disappointed. However, once Nelly started the show I got into the mood and found myself singing my own version of his song: 

     

      If you want to go and list your deals with me
      We’ll stick em on da CREXi real EZ.
      Oh why do we do it this way? (Hey, we don’t cost no money!)
      If you want to go ahead and get on CREXi
      Put on a Triple Net or a storage Facilit-E.
      Oh how do we do it this way? (Hey, we don’t cost no money!)

     

    You had to be there!


Paul Cohen

Paul Cohen, CREXi Convenient TechnologyPaul Cohen is a Regional Director with CREXi based in the firm’s Miami office and focused on business development in the southeast. Prior to joining CREXi, Cohen was a Managing Director specializing in investment sales and equity raises at Cohen Financial, a national debt and equity advisor. Prior to Cohen Financial, Paul owned and operated his own independent real estate firm following a 12-year tenure at CBRE where Cohen was a Senior Vice President and led the Private Client Group in Miami-Dade County with a specialty in office and industrial investment sales.  Email Paul

 

Side Street vs Main Street

Posted: May 17, 2017  by Eli Randel, Director of Business Development and Paul Cohen, Regional Director of Business Development


SIDE STREET vs MAIN STREET

Who will win the battle for retailers?

 

Traditionally in retail, traffic counts and signalized corners are the most coveted locations for retailers and therefore generally the most expensive. While I don’t expect this to change for some uses like gas stations which are dependent on ingress and egress, the theory has been posed by my Colleague, Paul Cohen, that with the advent of mobile apps such as Yelp and virtual signage via-digital word of mouth, retailers will shift from Main Street to the Side-street to incur lower occupancy costs and increase their margins?

 

The argument for “yes” (by Paul Cohen): Of course they will! Most people under the age of forty (and me) use apps like Yelp to determine where to find many “retail tenants.” No longer is it a function of simply driving down the street and looking for a “name yo know” but rather a selection based upon peer review in search of that special experience. For example, I was in a small town called Sylva in Western North Carolina last month and wanted to get a coffee and check my emails. I found this great bookstore in a converted house two blocks off the main drag. I would have ended up at a Waffle House otherwise. People instinctively know that the best restaurants, coffee shops, barbers, and massage parlors (don’t judge me) are not on Main Street anymore. The reason why brand stores exist is primarily so that the customer knows they are getting a good quality of service wherever they happen to be. Especially when traveling; you are more likely to visit the Panera Bread off the Interstate rather than risk Big AL’s BBQ. It could be great or it could be a short cut to the urgent care (which doesn’t need to be on main street either). Now armed with a mobile phone, the weary traveler can quickly find that awesome BBQ joint (or food truck) that was previously hidden down some side alley only know to a few locals.

 

The argument for “no” (by Eli Randel): Yes, the basic concept makes sense and will apply for some retailers, but not in a significant way. Retail remains dependent on foot and vehicle traffic counts and even though word of mouth can be spread more efficiently with the internet, LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION is still a driving force in retail and real estate in general. Perhaps naively, I assume the smartest retailers have contemplated this strategy yet they still are choosing main corridors for their brick-and-mortar locations. The reason? Visibility, convenience, and access. The side street has become more viable for certain uses, but those are limited. Retailers which brand on main corridors and provide the best customer access will outperform less visible outlets and will continue to outsell sell-side street locations and while net profits might be slightly lower given higher occupancy costs, revenue will remain higher at main locations and any difference can be absorbed as a pseudo-marketing and branding expense. As online sales continue to erode brick-and-mortar sales, retailers may reduce store footprints, but will increasingly view stores as branding and marketing vehicles maintaining the need for visibility. Stores will change by becoming exchange centers and showrooms for online inventory and brands, but will still want to be in the best and most visible locations. In terms of digital signage, nothing replicates the real thing and a hungry driver on a main road is still a valuable entity that is harder to capture in an off-the-beaten-path location.       

 

Paul Cohen: Ahh, I can see where you went wrong. You’re looking at this from the point of view of the national retailer who needs visibility because they are selling brand as a way to suggest consistent experience. Walgreens and Starbucks and fast food franchises will always be on Main. I conceded that point already. I am coming at this from the local tenant perspective. These “Mum & Pop” retailers who have built a strong customer base will happily move to the side street for a fifty percent reduction in rent and will still outperform the main street counterparts as long as they have a high customer rating. Yelp is free while Main Street is expensive. Anyway, there doesn’t have to be a significant shift to the side street to have an impact. There is approximately 5 Billion square feet of traditional retail (excluding regional mall and power centers) in the US and if 20% of the tenants are local and if 20% of them moved to the side street that’s 200 Million SF of new retail. The opportunity is for the developer who can find lower cost real estate on the side street and repurpose it for these local retail tenants. For example, a warehouse or an office building a block or two off main could be redesigned and marketed to attract the local retailers. I’ll agree that they lose visibility but in many cases the location can be more convenient and accessible. There is a significant arbitrage between main street and side street and, in many of the top MSA’s across the country, it’s being overlooked.

 

Eli Randel: Well what are we talking about here? We’re talking about ICSC RECON; a destination event that usually attracts more national tenants. You raise a valid point that in small towns across the nation, Al’s BBQ might represent half the restaurant landscape, but as that town eventually grows and traffic counts and/or incomes increase, the nationals will penetrate the market and will roll out their Main Street strategies. Anecdotally you can name a couple concepts that work on the side street but for every great hidden gem in town, there seem to be dozens struggling to get by because no one knows they exist. Perhaps they aren’t utilizing digital signage properly, but maybe that is part of the argument. Can digital signage replicate the real thing? Perhaps I’m mistaking the familiar for the universal (one of my father’s favorite sayings: “don’t mistake the familiar with the universal”), but I personally don’t see it (yet?). Do I go to some side street stores and restaurants? Yes and I enjoy it. But do I see many of them or their neighbors go out of business? It sure feels that way. The extraordinary can become a destination and thrive on the side street, but the extraordinary are just that: outside of the ordinary. Last, I would argue that the different between main roads and side-streets in rural markets can be minor and parking, traffic, and access are not major issues.  

 

Paul Cohen: The reason why these stores go out of business is that they do not provide excellence.  We all know that the off the beaten path store is the gem and it’s what people want.  Particularly in “Hipster” districts which tend to be all side street and no main street.  I don’t think that anyone is saying that all retailers will move to the side street. That would be very Yogi Berra (“nobody rents on main street anymore because it too expensive”).  ICSC attracts National Tenants because they benefit from the efficiency of meeting hundreds of owners and operators over a couple of days. I agree that most Nationals will stick to Main Street but some will develop side street strategies.  I don’t think this will happen in rural markets where the town has one strip and vacancy but as towns grow and rents increase on Main Street then, obviously, tenants start looking for options. Investors should snap up those secondary locations with a view to reposition them as Main Street booms.  A percentage of local tenants have and will continue to move to the side street so retail developers should look to take advantage of this trend. In years past it was suicide to move your business away from foot traffic. Now it could almost be a positive.  Not only are you paying less rent with improved access but you’re sending the message that you’re a hidden gem. Will it move the needle drastically on the traditional retail market? Maybe only five percent but locally an enterprising developer could relocate 30K SF of tenants from the main strip into a side street center by offering lower rents and free parking. I would not be surprised if national retailers have not already developed a strategy to take advantage of this trend.  Maybe they already have, we just can’t seen them! 


Pre ICSC Retail Forecast and Predictions II

Posted: April 26, 2017  by Eli Randel, Director of Business Development


ICSC TREND PREDICTION II

Urbanization Will Dominate Suburbia In Population Movement Next Cycle

In preparation for ICSC, we are putting together several prediction pieces starting with last week’s opener Pre ICSC Retail Forecast – Part I.

 

Based on anecdotal data, interviews with institutional capital investors, and my personal belief, I predict next cycle will be one in which urbanization pulls many from the suburbs inward. This does not mean suburban real estate will drastically suffer, in fact, the result will create new opportunities and like many trends, when activity flows disproportionately in one direction, space becomes crowded eventually pulling the pendulum back to the less crowded market.

 

Here’s are some reasons why urbanization will occur:

    • Population-growth and tired infrastructure have lengthened commutes. In a survey of thousands of renters, “Proximity to Work” was their #1 locational decision (more than “School Zone” the expected #1). People will need to move closer to job-centers to maintain their proximity to work preferences.

    • Automation will hit suburban markets first forcing job-seekers inward. Corporations don’t intend to pay CBD rents for automated work. Those pseudo-outsourcing activities will be outside of cities forcing skilled workers and job-seekers inward to CBDs.

    • Oversupply in some city-centers will create strong buy and rent opportunities. Thousands of condos and apartments need to be bought or rented and many of those opportunities will emerge in overbuilt downtowns while many suburban markets are still unaffordable for most.

    • At first glance, baby-boomer retirees (of which there will be many) appear to favor more urban lifestyles than traditionally. Life expectancy is longer than ever and retirees – many of whom spent much of their lives in suburbs – like amenity rich cities with stuff to do. Suburban markets will still see retiree inflow, but cities may see unprecedented migration bringing ancillary jobs with them.

    • Generation Y, like their recent predecessor generations, gravitates toward cities. Our nation’s Walden values of the past have faded and the tech generation likes the activity and buzz of the city. It’s also likely Ys will wait as long or longer than millennials to marry and have children. When they do, raising kids in cities will become increasingly common (at least during infancy).

    • Living in cities is easier than ever before: ride-sharing platforms and (slowly) improving public transportation have somewhat eliminated the need for a car; delivery and e-commerce have lightened the need for proximity to grocers and other retailers; work-live-play developments have emerged across the nation keeping people’s lives within a tight radius; and many cities once considered to have “daytime-population-only” downtowns, now have vibrant city centers with social scenes and increased options for living.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR CRE

Pent up institutional and foreign capital, more familiar and comfortable with the stability of major markets, will continue to flow to cities pricing out most entrepreneurial capital investors. Following a corrective period, infill land will trade at astronomical prices and bite sizes exceeding friends-and-family equity buckets. Given overall demographic growth and limited supply resulting from moderate development last cycle, most suburbs will remain healthy from a real estate standpoint with some softening in occupancy and rate growth during a corrective period. If the economy hits a road-bump, suburban office vacancies may spike, as small independent businesses rising with the tide sometimes go back to working from home-offices when their business softens. Cities will eventually sprawl and begin to bleed into nearby suburbs offering buy opportunities for those who can predict and shape the path of movement. Suburban yields may increase as a result of less competition and tough underwriting translating to higher costs of capital, offering premiums for financeable entrepreneurial investors willing to stomach some volatility and actively manage assets.

 

Next week we’ll discuss which cities stand to gain the most, and which may suffer.

 

Comments and feedback are always welcome. Email Eli

 

Schedule a CREXi Demo at ICSC RECon 2017


Eli Randel

Eli Randel, ICSC Forecast

Eli Randel is Director of Business Development based in CREXi’s Miami office. Eli spearheads CREXi’s growth and sales throughout the east coast as well as overseeing the national sales team. Prior to joining CREXi, Eli was director of dispositions for Blackstone’s Invitation Homes. Eli has also held management positions and production roles with Cohen Financial, Auction.com, LNR and CBRE where he began his career spending three years in Investment Sales before leaving to obtain his Master in Business Administration from the University of Florida.