How can shopping centers be repositioned to compete in today’s retail market that has shifted so strongly to e-commerce? What businesses can best replace declining department stores in order to ensure the shopping centers will thrive? Those questions were discussed in the session Darwin’s Retail: Survival of the Fittest at the ULI Fall Meeting in Chicago.
As the session description noted, “Convenience store, couture boutique, gastropub, the mall and retail.com all have one thing in common; quality of the consumer’s experience. Cultural and technological changes are reshaping the definition of that quality and are accelerating the natural selection of winners and losers.” Panelists debated ways to replace forgone department stores as anchor tenants of these shopping centers, including restaurants, food trucks, smaller-scale retail, and mixing of uses to include new residential units. Compelling consumers away from shopping on the Internet to brick-and-mortar stores—especially in walkable shopping centers—is good for small businesses, good for local economies, and good for physical activity of shoppers.
Lev Gershman, Senior Portfolio Analyst and Asset Manager with GE Capital Real Estate, moderated the panel of retail experts:
Nick A. Egelanian, President of SiteWorks Retail Real Estate Services, discussed the importance of lower cost retailers, such as Target and Walmart, for adequate cost-of-living in certain communities.
Randall Hiatt, President of hospitality consulting company Fessel International, talked about the thriving restaurant business within shopping centers, noting that the popularity of cable cooking shows has led to a new surge of chefs more accessible to developers than the former top tier of celebrity chefs.
P. Eric Hohmann, Senior Managing Director at Madison Marquette, also talked about food truck popularity, commenting that the food truck business is attracting a large number of entrepreneurs.
Morgan Dene Oliver, Chief Executive Officer of Oliver McMillan, is focusing on smaller-scale retailers in his projects to revive shopping center business.
For a full write-up of this session, read the Urban Land article here.