NRF keynote: Traditional mall is dead

New York -- In a hugely attended address kicking off the National Retail Federation’s 2014 “Big Show” at Javits Center in New York City, shopping center developer Rick Caruso challenged attendees – most of them retailers from the technology side of their companies – to remember the “human” side of retail.

“We are all a part of the rebirth of brick-and-mortar retail,” said Caruso, founder and CEO of the privately held Caruso Affiliated, which owns and operates two shopping centers in the top 15 in the world in sales per square foot (The Grove in Los Angeles and The Americana at Brand in Glendale, Calif.). “We need to focus on what is, and always has been, most essential to retail success: creating a magical and memorable experience.”

Caruso, in the Big Show opening keynote, “Reimagining Main Street — How Brick and Mortar Retail Will Thrive in the 21st Century,” predicted the demise of the typical 1970s shopping mall, saying that it has “outlived its usefulness.” He said he foresees a continuing return to street-front retail, to mixed-use projects that incorporate residential components, and to centers and stores that create an emotional and personal connection.
Caruso was quick to point out that today’s digital explosion does not mean death for brick-and-mortar. Face-to-face interactions with brands, the social aspect of shopping and the physical presence of retail goods, he said, will continue to fill basic human needs and drive people to brick-and-mortar establishments.

Caruso’s address was followed by a panel discussion around how brick-and-mortar retail will thrive in the 21st century. Moderated by CNBC Power Lunch co-host Sue Herrera, the panel featured Nordstrom president Blake Nordstrom, founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes Candace Nelson, fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff, along with Caruso.

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