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RECon 2012 left landlords and tenants anticipating what’s to come

BY Katherine Boccaccio

A heat wave washed over Las Vegas just in time for the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual RECon event May 20-23 — and the mood inside the Las Vegas Convention Center was just as elevated.

“I am very bullish on this year’s RECon,” said Andy Graiser, co-president of A&G Realty Partners, Melville, N.Y. “Growth is becoming evident in most all categories, and it’s smart growth.”

The dollar stores are continuing their aggressive expansion, said Graiser, and “we are seeing strategic growth from discounters such as T.J. Maxx, temporary concepts like Spirit Halloween, companies such as Pier 1 Imports, auto supply retailers, c-stores Wawa and Sheetz, and even some of the junior boxes like Bed Bath & Beyond and Target – although not at the rate we’ve seen before.

“Generally, I am bullish on where a lot of the growth is,” he said.

In the shopping-center arena, talk of growth was largely centered around the outlet format. Glimcher Realty Trust unveiled its Outlet Collection > brand at RECon, and announced it would apply the new branding to two of its existing outlet properties — Jersey Gardens, which will become The Outlet Collection — Jersey Gardens, and SuperMall in Auburn, Wash., which will be reformatted into a purely outlet center and renamed The Outlet Collection — Seattle.

Renovations at the New Jersey property (located near Newark, N.J., and New York City) are slated to begin this summer, and Seattle will launch Phase 1 construction this fall. “The Outlet Collection better reflects the upscale tenants at these properties and opens up new options for value-priced retailers looking to grow in the next 12 to 24 months,” said Michael Glimcher, CEO, Columbus, Ohio-based Glimcher.

Redevelopments were also fully on display at RECon 2012, and it wasn’t just the large or glamorous projects that were garnering attention. Levin Management Corp., North Plainfield, N.J., was showcasing its Hamilton (N.J.) Plaza redevelopment, anchored by a newly expanded ShopRite supermarket and featuring a façade renovation, new signage, a revamped circulation pattern to optimize traffic flow, as well as the addition of an endcap and two pad sites. “It’s been a good first half of the year for us in terms of leasing,” said Matt Harding, CEO. Levin is in lease discussions for the new 10,000-sq.-ft. endcap location at Hamilton Plaza.

While the overall mood at RECon 2012 was certainly positive, there is room for improvement.

“I think the amount of booth vacancies was telling,” said Jason Baker, X Team International partner and co-founder/principal of Baker Katz. That temperance applies to his home base of Houston, as well. “I only saw one new site plan [at RECon] of any real scale for the Houston market,” Baker said. “I think that really speaks to the appetite for deals from larger retailers. I do think new development will happen in Houston, but it seems to be moving at a much slower pace than I would have expected.”

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BTS outlook bodes well for Walmart

BY CSA STAFF

Early indications are it will be a solid year for Back-to-School sales and that’s good news for Walmart. The company typically enjoys healthy seasonal sales, but this year it will be facing more challenging sales comparisons during the back half of the year as it begins lapping prior year same store sales increases. Click here.

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Web-based cameras keep Walmart’s sustainability projects on track

BY Marianne Wilson

Sustainability is a top priority for Walmart, and energy efficiency is central to its efforts. One of the chain’s three primary long-term objectives is to use 100% renewable energy. Walmart is actively working to meet that goal with projects that employ a wide range of technologies, from solar power to fuel cells, in development across the country.

“We have a large number of retail-store and distribution-center projects, often needing to be monitored simultaneously,” said Marty Gilbert, director of renewable-power and energy-efficiency projects, Walmart, Bentonville, Ark.

To monitor its multiple renewable-power and energy-efficiency projects and help them stay on track, Walmart uses Web-enabled construction cameras on the job sites. The cameras, from Atlanta-based OxBlue Corp., give Walmart’s teams 24/7 virtual job-site access. The teams are able to monitor projects moment by moment simply by accessing a Web-enabled construction camera interface from their desktops and mobile devices.

Gilbert’s department manages up to 40 projects in a month, and monitoring capabilities — whether remotely or in person — are critical for every project milestone. The sustainability initiatives overseen by the chain’s energy team often involve highly technical installations with compressed time frames.

“Solar panel installation projects, for example, take place on a roof over 10 to 20 days,” Gilbert said.

The OxBlue camera system is cellular-based, which is important, according to company president > Chandler McCormack, because > construction sites often do not have good Internet connections.

“Because we don’t have to worry about an Internet connection, our cameras can be deployed anywhere on the job site,” he explained. “This allows the camera to deliver the best-quality image from the best location and angle.”

Walmart also uses OxBlue’s monitoring platform. The supplier hosts all the components of the platform, including hardware, data transmission and storage. Walmart users can retrieve archived images or view up-to-date time-lapse videos of a project. All the images are archived and managed in the off-site data center.

“We provide the software interface for all the devices a team member is likely to use, from iPads and other mobile devices to desktop computers,” Chandler said. “We take care of all the logistics and technology, and provide whatever interface they need.”

Detailed images: The OxBlue camera systems provide the flexible viewing capabilities required for effective project management because they are designed specifically for construction sites, according to McCormack. They take very high-resolution images and provide close-up shots that allow for detailed inspection of solar equipment installations and other projects. Broader views are used to confirm environmental and safety compliance, and monitor workflow.

“Because I can zoom in and out, I can see details immediately,” Walmart’s Gilbert said.

Gilbert said he encourages Walmart’s external contractors to access the cameras.

“Archived and real-time camera images enhance team communication and training, both internally and with suppliers,” he added. “You can always struggle to walk someone blindly through a Gantt (a tool for planning and scheduling projects) chart. But when you can show them photos at the same time, the understanding is better and the learning curve is shorter.”

In another advantage, the cameras eliminate the need for the various members of the project team to travel together to the site.

“Seeing it on the screen is an efficient and effective management of time,” Gilbert explained. “You get back the time that would be spent out of the office. Plus, it saves money. Eliminating the need for just three trips can justify the price.”

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