The mixed-use environment is here to stay. Naysayers need only look as far as this year’s ICSC Western Dealmaking Conference, held Oct. 8 to 10 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, to know that this is true.
“At both ICSC Western Conference and RECon, it was obvious that the industry has become a melting pot of disciplines,” says attendee Vicky Hammond, vice president of client services at Coreland Companies. “There were hotel and residential developers in attendance who were looking to make connections on the retail front.”
The diverse mix of uses and tenants could also be seen at the traditional Retailer Runway showcase, where food and service-based providers like MOD Pizza and Xpontential Fitness — owner of Club Pilates, CycleBar, Pure Barre, Yoga Six and more — took the stage to outline their expansion plans out West.
“The Retail Runway lineup was chock-full of new healthcare, service and education uses,” Hammond continues. “We are all operating in a mixed-use environment now and ICSC offered a great platform to tap into the local retail expertise.”
Customer Service is Key
Mark Nobler, Chief Business Development Officer at AEI Consultants, appreciated this year’s focus on customer service, as he believes convenience will be another key trend to keeping consumers in shopping centers.
“Along with continued discussion of the blurring of the lines between retail, industrial and medical office, we also heard a lot about convenience,” he notes. “One panelist mentioned that the days of ‘waiting in line’ are limited because any retailer who wants to exist for the long-term will figure out a way to eliminate waiting from the consumer experience.”
Digital wallet systems like Apple Pay are one way to expedite retail transactions. A few retailers, including Nordstrom Rack, have opened multiple mobile checkout points throughout their stores. These kiosks utilize touchscreen tablets and credit card readers like Square for straight purchases that don’t involve returns or exchanges. These stations can significantly diminish wait times for the traditional cashiers at the front of the store where lines have been known to wrap all the way to the shoe department.
From left, Vicky Hammond, vice president of client services at Coreland Companies; and Mark Nobler, chief business development officer at AEI Consultants.
Then there’s Amazon, which is attempting to do away with lines altogether. The online retail behemoth opened its first public Amazon Go convenience store in Seattle this past January. The grab-and-go concept utilizes cameras, censors and a new app customers must download before entering the store. The app allows Amazon to track where you are, what products you pick up and which ones you walk out with. There are no lines, and there are no cashiers. The app automatically deducts your total bill from a pre-authorized credit or debit card.
Nobler believes technology will play an ever-increasing role in the retail environment as shopping center owners and tenants must not only provide excellent customer service — which starts with convenience — but unique experiences that consumers just can’t find on their screens.
“A lot of conversations [at the conference] centered around the role of voice in retail in the years ahead,” he explains. “We also heard how technology may provide some of those voices as our industry continues to enhance the customer experience and grab our attention based on our proximity to a location."
— By Nellie Day, contributing writer. This article is part of the Retail Insight newsletter by Shopping Center Business, which includes a brief series of articles and videos surrounding some of the retail industry’s biggest gatherings, including ICSC Western Conference & Dealmaking. Some of the articles and the videos in the publication are created in conjunction with our content partners, which sponsor the newsletter. Click here to subscribe and to see archived newsletters.