ICSC: Retail is in a State of Flux

ICSC: Retail is in a State of Flux

NEW YORK CITY—“Retail is in a state of total disruption.”

That declaration—made by Marie Driscoll, senior analyst at Fung Business Intelligence Centre—provides an underpinning to a number of thoughts and ideas that emerged from the buzz at ICSC’s national deal making conference, held here earlier this week.

Making the comment while leading the “Omni-shopping: Understanding the new Consumer and their Impact on Shopping Centers,” education session, she added, “We’ve had siloed thinking in terms of where sales are coming from but we can’t be beholden to next quarter’s earnings report. That’s no way to run a business.”

In light of online sales, the value of several previously relied upon metrics were questioned. Noted Driscoll, “Same store sales don’t mean anything now; those old metrics don’t apply anymore. An alternative could be geo-fencing,” a software program feature that uses a global positioning system or radio frequency identification to define geographical boundaries of a region.

Added a session attendee, “It’s getting to a point where we can’t track dollar per square foot so we’re going to have to find another way to demonstrate worth. Maybe there’s a way to quantify how many Instagram posts lead to different sales levels. It’s about a brand experience.”

But others still rely upon some traditional measurements. “Owners want to know if a site has historical success and will they be able to replace its tenant,” Sands Investment Group founderChris Sands told GlobeSt.com. “Cap rates are the only clear metric in terms of determining, ‘If I put a dollar to work, what’s my return on investment?”

In terms of property types, it depends on the investor. Added Sands, “Family office and high net worth individuals are looking for credit tenants, particularly those who meet daily needs like grocery stores and drug stores. They are willing to get a lower yield for such occupiers.”

He continued, “Public REITs and institutional investors are buying movie theaters, gyms or family entertainment concepts at a higher yield to offset their more aggressive acquisitions.”

Meanwhile, while owners determine the best ways to measure and secure returns, the sector will continue to flourish.

“The outlets are on fire, nationwide,” asserted Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of Douglas Elliman Real Estate’sretail group, to GlobeSt.com, “and the department stores are growing dramatically by going into markets they haven’t been in before while more brick-and-mortar stores are coming onto the street to push new concepts.”

Ecommerce needs to be embraced rather than feared, Consolo noted. “Online shopping supports the retailers because a lot of people do research online and still come into the stores. When all is said and done, consumers still are pushing for more retail.”

Even tenant/landlord negotiations are running more smoothly, she said. “We’re able to get better deals now than even six months ago, and I think it’ll improve even more in the first quarter. The landlords are listening.”

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