REAL ESTATE

PREIT strategy brings new retailers to Virginia mall

BY Michael Fickes

Philadelphia — Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust has executed leases with Retail Group of America to bring three international brands F&F, Flormar and SuiteBlanco to the Patrick Henry Mall in Newport News, Virginia. The transactions illustrate PREIT’s strategy for improving portfolio performance by seeking out emerging, first-to-market options.

With the Retail Group of America agreement, PREIT continues to bring international brands to its locations across the Mid-Atlantic region. Other examples: PREIT is introducing one of the first Uniqlo stores into the Philadelphia market at Willow Grove Park. In 2013, Dynamite, a women’s ready-to-wear concept from Canada, opened one of its first U.S. stores at PREIT’s Cherry Hill Mall. In 2012, three Australian Cotton On stores opened in PREIT malls.

F&F, a fast fashion concept featuring men’s, women’s and children’s assortments, will occupy approximately 7,500 sq. ft. at the Patrick Henry Mall. Flormar, an affordable cosmetics concept, will occupy approximately 800 sq. ft. Spanish brand SuiteBlanco, inspired by the high-end runway fashions, will occupy approximately 3,000 sq. ft. featuring a variety of trendy clothing and accessories for young men and women.

PREIT and Retail Group of America are working on a number of other potential store openings at other PREIT properties.

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REAL ESTATE

The Numbers Game

BY Jeff Green

Believe it or not (and I can barely believe it myself), the critical back-to-school period at the end of summer is right around the corner. While back-to-school is always big for retailers, this year’s period could be an especially important one, as 2014 has been underwhelming so far.

As I started to consider the issue, what I stumbled upon may have brought up a more interesting question: What numbers would define a strong back-to-school season? I got to thinking about the big picture in terms of retail sales, and about just how confusing — and perhaps even misleading — so many of the numbers can be.

The first problem is just that: there are so many numbers coming from so many different sources. If you’ve kept up with this column over the years, you know that the retail figures that come in after the holidays can vary dramatically depending on what entity is doing the reporting, what methodology they are using to collect and compile their data, exactly what information is being gathered and reported, and a variety of other variables. This happens throughout the year, and sometimes these variations can be dramatic: a 1% or 2% difference might not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but what might look like a rounding error can easily translate into billions of dollars and widely different decisions for chain store expansion or contraction.

Think about when you hear retail numbers reported on the news. Are certain store categories excluded from those numbers? Do you know if those numbers include online sales? The reality is that some do and some do not. The U.S. Census Bureau figures do include a category for online sales, but other metrics (such as the popular and respected figures put out by ShopperTrak) do not. There are a number of metrics out there that just focus on year-over-year same store sales — comp store increases or decreases that deal exclusively with brick-and-mortar retail. At a time when the industry is changing so quickly, and when we have been talking about the growing influence of online and mobile sales for so long now, we need to be measuring the impact of these growing channels on the broader retail landscape.

Unfortunately, it’s only going to get more complicated. What is going to happen as more online vendors move into brick-and-mortar space (Piperlime is a good example)? How will we accurately measure their success without factoring in their much more substantial online performance? Today, the true health of a retailer is less about same-store sales and more about the conclusions drawn from a much more complex and nuanced picture: the sum of all of its distribution points — including Internet, mobile, catalog, and in-store.

In addition to changing the kinds of numbers we gather and becoming more sophisticated and consistent in the way we report that information, we also need to be smarter and more cautious about how we interpret the numbers. At times, the same numbers can be presented as a big positive in one news story and a disappointment in another. Both industry insiders and casual observers should think hard about the context and about who is doing the reporting and the interpreting. What are their motivations? So much impacts interpretation, including you, the reader — and your own perceptions, preconceptions and biases.

This is confusing stuff to sort through. If I have trouble, as a guy who does this for a living, how is the average journalist or financial analyst supposed to figure it out? And, now that it seems as if more retail entities are being run by real estate or financial industry experts instead of retailers, that issue becomes even more pressing.

I’d love to get your feedback on this, but, for myself, I think it’s well past time the industry starts thinking a little more carefully and critically about how to account for these variables — and about how to come up with a more accurate, consistent and sophisticated framework for reporting sales numbers. Until such time, anyone who wants an accurate apples-to-apples picture of what’s going on in the industry is going to have to be very careful to account for content, context and complexity before drawing any substantive conclusions. What sources do you follow for industry numbers? What tips would you share for making the most of the available data? Let’s keep the conversation going: Email me at [email protected], or leave a comment below.


Click here for past columns by Jeff Green.

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News

The Last Step — Accepting Payment

BY Dan Berthiaume

The store is generally considered to represent the “last mile” of the retail supply chain. In recent years, retailers have focused on making this final, crucial step as easy and convenient for customers as possible. The emergence of leading-edge digital technologies has allowed retailers even further opportunity to turn paying for goods into a fast, seamless process.

Following are a few examples of how retailers are reinventing how products are checked out and payments are processed.

Panera’s New Payment

Platform Panera Bread has unveiled a series of integrated technologies to enhance its customer experience. Key elements of the new “Panera 2.0” initiative, now live in 14 of the chain’s locations and slated to be deployed in nearly all locations during the next 36 months, include an ordering option called Rapid Pick-Up that enables customers to place a remote online/mobile up to five days in advance, and pick up their food at a pre-determined time without waiting in line.

Eat-in customers can place an online/ mobile order from anywhere within the restaurant and have the meal delivered directly to their table. The fast-casual chain is also rolling out “fast lane” kiosks, equipped with iPads, with a goal of reducing wait times.

Customers can save customizations, past orders and favorites at kiosks and through online or mobile app ordering, and link them to their MyPanera loyalty or credit card. Panera’s new digital ordering processes are enabled by an online ordering Web function on its website and a mobile app that will allow customers to store their purchase history and credit card information for future use.

Tesco Speeds Up Scanning

British grocery giant Tesco is seeking to improve the customer checkout experience by piloting a new, high-speed retail checkout solution from NCR Corp. at its Tesco Extra 24-hour store in Lincoln, U.K. The solution uses imaging technology from Datalogic that automatically finds the bar code on any side of the product without the need to orient the item on the conveyor belt. It is capable of scanning up to 60 items per minute.

The Tesco Extra store has deployed four units. Each unit allows three shoppers to pack and pay at the same time. The solution allows customers to decide how they wish to use it and proceed at their own pace.

Customers can complete their shopping transaction using cash or payment cards, as well as scan their Tesco Clubcard or utilize coupons.

Tim Hortons’ Offers Mobile Payments

Tim Hortons has expanded its TimmyMe iOS app to include support for Passbook. Customers can add their prepaid Tim card to Passbook, which they can then scan to pay in-store or at the drive-through in participating locations. The TimmyMe app also offers a store finder and nutritional data.

Domino’s Pizza Accepts Google Wallet Payments

Domino’s Pizza is integrating Google Wallet with its Android ordering app. Domino’s customers who have an Android device can now pay for their online orders using Google’s digital wallet.

Domino’s customers can place an online order using the Android ordering app and pay by selecting the “Buy with Google” button at checkout..

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