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Viva Las Vegas

BY Katherine Boccaccio

With buzz phrases like “omnichannel” and “customer disruption” dominating the retail conversation, landlords and tenants attending RECon 2014 in Las Vegas last May made it their mission to ensure that brick-and-mortar remains relevant. ­

Even the recent spate of store closures — RadioShack and Coldwater Creek, most notably — did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the 32,000 attendees of the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual event May 18-20 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

In fact, talk of store shutterings was supplanted by news of robust opening plans among the specialty set such as Athleta and Zumiez, as well as bigger-box growth by Lowe’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Shopping center owners had their own good news to share. “Our sales are at an all-time high, running $471 per square foot across the portfolio at the end of the quarter,” said Michael Glimcher, CEO of Glimcher Realty Trust, Columbus, Ohio. “We think the best properties are only going to get better.”

Andy Graiser, co-CEO and co-president of A&G Realty Partners, Melville, New York, sees positive momentum in the A and B-plus malls. “Developers are focused on turning ‘A’ malls into ‘A-plus’ malls,” he said. “And they are putting a lot of money behind it.”

But let’s face it. Not all the news coming out of RECon 2014 was rosy, particularly on the retailer bankruptcy front. “We think there will be more bankruptcies down the road,” Graiser predicted. “The apparel industry hasn’t fully shaken out yet.”

Stay tuned, said Graiser.

The one sector that has everyone singing, however, is outlets. Outlet centers are dominating new development, and retailers are sharpening their outlet focus. RECon 2014 had a full menu of outlet centers on display, and the interest from retailers appeared high.

Overheard in the Aisles

“We want people to know that sustainability is something we take very seriously.”

— Eric Davidson, Regency Centers

“Markets to watch? Washington, D.C., is limited only by a lack of real estate; New York City is on fire, and Boston is warm.”

— Jonathan Lapat, Strategic Retail Advisors

“The lingering talk about a recession has been let go. People are feeling that we have turned the corner.”

— Ralph Conti, RaCo Real Estate Advisors

“We are all hearing more about new development, but the reality is that it will take time. People are more encouraged, but where’s the beef?” — Stephen Coslik, The Woodmont Co.

Food Talk

“Food is fashion. There is lots of interest in restaurants.”

— Faith Hope Consolo, Douglas Elliman Real Estate

“People are craving a different food experience in centers. We are looking at how we integrate food here and there as opposed to in a food court.”

— Jane Lisy, Forest City Enterprises

“We are really focused on food, from fast casual to fine dining.”

— Dan Sheridan, The Irvine Co.

On Point

Three hot projects displayed at RECon all make a good point — in their names. Celebration Pointe, Steelpointe Harbor and South Point Shopping Center are set to point shoppers their way.

Celebration Pointe broke ground in April in Gainesville, Florida, and will feature 300,000 sq. ft. of retail, along with food uses, residential, hotel and office. Just before RECon, the developer — Atlanta-based RaCo Real Estate Advisors — announced that Bass Pro Shops will anchor the project. Leasing is being handled by Avison Young, Toronto.

New England’s Steelpointe Harbor is a 2.8 million-sq.-ft. waterfront mixed-use project in Bridgeport, Connecticut, bordered by the Long Island Sound to the east and Interstate 95 to the west. The 50-plus-acre site will include an active “deepwater” marina; Phase I is slated to open late 2015 and Phase II in 2016. Bass Pro Shops has also given the anchor nod to this project.

South Point Shopping Center is a 700,000-sq.-ft. super-regional power center located just off Interstate 75 in McDonough, Georgia. Phase II is currently under development and slated to open in late 2015 or early 2016.

Hot Project

Speaking of outlet fever, The Woodmont Co. is debuting Outlets at Alliance-Fort Worth (Texas), and it’s expected to be a big win for the company and for the market. Located on I-35W, The Outlets will benefit from the retail halo of a top-producing Cabela’s that draws 3.5 million shoppers annually, putting that store in a solid No. 2 position in the chain.

Ask Stephen Coslik, Woodmont chairman, what’s so special about Outlets at Alliance-Fort Worth, and he ticks it off: “No. 1, it’s in Texas. No. 2, it’s in Fort Worth. And No. 3, it’s in the epicenter of growth with 700 million people in the trade area.”

Girls, Girls, Girls

The ever-hot Scottsdale Quarter now has more girl power than ever. The iconic American Girl will open its newest experiential retail store at Glimcher’s open-air lifestyle center in Phoenix.

The 12,000-sq.-ft. American Girl store is slated to open in late summer 2015 and will be located within a new 180,000-sq.-ft. expansion of the property.

Tech Notes

News released from the floor of RECon: JLL Retail expects BLE and NFC technologies to top the charts of consumer engagement tools in 2014.

“In a world of technological advancements that can lead to a serious case of consumer information overload, two mobile technologies are emerging as the front-runners in the race to successful shopper engagement: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), also known as Beacons, and Near-field communications (NFC),” said JLL Retail, based in Atlanta.

Tune in to CSA-TV

CSA senior editor Katherine Boccaccio and editor-in-chief Marianne Wilson talked retail and real estate with industry insiders at RECon 2014. Check out the video interviews at chainstoreage.com/community.

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Fixture Solution Combines Maximum Space with Versatility

BY CSA STAFF

When it comes to display merchandise solutions, most retailers are looking for more space and versatility. Uniweb has dedicated itself to providing both since making its debut in 1970. Company president Cindy Davidson discussed general trends in fixturing and what sets Uniweb, which prides itself as a made-in-America manufacturer, apart from the competition.

What trends are you seeing in merchandising methods in the general retail space, and, more specifically, in the drug store/pharmacy arena?

While not altogether a new idea, we have noticed that within general retail environments, the “store within a store” concept is becoming more intricate and inspiring, with stand-out color tones and flooring designed to attract the customer’s eye and entice customer spending. But while some “store within a store” presentations are effective, others fall short of the mark. Successful merchants research and cater to their customers’ aesthetic desires in the overall product presentation.

Secondly, drug store merchandisers seem to be reclaiming control of product presentation (e.g., the cosmetics department). We think this is a positive development as retailers are generally more in tune with the customer base than the product manufacturers, especially in the diversity of regions in the country.

What are retailers’ biggest needs/requirements when it comes to merchandising display systems?

Retailers are looking for display systems that elevate today’s shopping environments, and also provide flexibility in adapting to a vast range of display possibilities and trends. A standard endcap display, for example, now can be illuminated with LED lighting and “boutiqued” for unlimited merchandising sets, without replacing the fixture. Similarly, enhancing current gondola runs with uniquely and efficiently crafted panels will accentuate products and attract customers’ attention, therefore increasing sales.

How is Uniweb positioned in the marketplace, and how does it differentiate itself from other fixture manufacturers?

Uniweb provides build-to-suit custom products. We don’t compete with standard gondola manufacturers; we complement and accentuate them. Many times, retailers already have the base gondola run and are understandably reluctant to start from scratch. We get it! We sell our retrofit systems where we can provide a significant return on investment in product sales. This includes cosmetic units, seasonal displays, endcaps, high-density peg sets and areas that require substantial support for weight loads.

The Uniweb horizontal channel allows merchandisers the freedom to display products in such a way as to utilize all display space. The retailer can merchandise product straight across the seams. Our product is designed for transparency, never detracting from the product display, which allows it to highlight the merchandise, and not put the spotlight on the fixture.

In addition to our core retail fixtures, we have the manufacturing capabilities to create unique products in runs from one piece up to tens of thousands of pieces, and we also have a full millwork facility in house.

Can Uniweb tailor a system to meet a retailer’s exact needs?

We thrive on design, taking on display challenges, solving problems and finding the optimal way to fulfill the customers’ objectives. So, the answer is absolutely, we can meet the retailer’s specific needs.

What is the scope of services?

We have a highly experienced and traveled sales team, creative design and engineering group and professional production team, along with a state-of-the-industry production facility that is capable of working with metal and wood. We offer installation services as well as shipment consolidation.

How has Uniweb reacted to environmental concerns?

Manufacturing in the State of California has necessitated our progressive attitude toward sustainability and green initiatives. We’ve enacted a minimum of 30 different initiatives working with our local municipalities, and water and energy providers to stay ahead of the curve regarding these processes. Cal-OSHA has presented Uniweb with its Golden Gate award for safety.

We pride ourselves on being environmentally responsible. Our powder-coating process emits no VOCs, our manufacturing process creates no hazardous waste, and our panels contain up to 30% recycled steel and are recyclable. Plus, our products are portable. They can move with you.

Has technology impacted the way display systems are manufactured?

Most definitely! The more we automate and integrate lasers into our manufacturing process, the more intricate and imaginative we can be with designs, while increasing capabilities and speeding up our product-to-customer delivery times. We recently added another laser to our process along with a state-of-the-industry material-handling tower that auto-loads the lasers. This allows us to run “lights out” — or 24/7.

If you could give retailers one piece of advice when they are evaluating fixture systems, what would it be?

Look for long-term benefits and reliability, both in your fixtures as well as the company that manufactures those displays.

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Smashburger Takes Bite Out of Energy

BY Marianne Wilson

Smashburger is getting on the right track when it comes to reducing its energy use. The fast-casual, fast-growing better-burger eatery has deployed a Web-based energy management system that helps it identify energy cost-savings while also providing a consistent level of comfort.

The system, EnTouch 360 from EnTouch Controls, Richardson, Texas, provides extensive support for facility HVAC systems, including synchronizing operation across multiple units, controlling timing between multiple stage systems and reducing system runtime. It monitors facility energy consumption, providing insight into energy usage and power quality, and, through its Web portal, enables 24/7 access to energy system data from remote locations. This allows Smashburger to monitor and track energy performance and change schedules as needed.

“We tested the system in two store locations in Houston so that we could get real-time data,” explained Justin Retzlaff, project manager, Smashburger, Denver, which operates more than 270 locations and expects to expand its unit count by about 30% in 2014. “We chose Houston because the weather is fairly extreme and also because it is home to some of our oldest stores. Those two components make for a good test situation.”

It didn’t take long for EnTouch 360 to prove itself.

“We tested it during the summer and the fall, and the energy savings and overall convenience (of the system) were quite apparent, even after just a couple of months,” Retzlaff said.

Energy bills for the test stores went down significantly, he added.

Based on the positive results, Smashburger decided to implement the EnTouch system in nearly all its corporate-owned stores and include it in the specifications for new locations.

“After we get past the whole corporate implementation, we anticipate offering it up to our franchisees,” Retzlaff added.

Smashburger is using EnTouch primarily to control the HVAC system in its corporate locations, along with energy monitoring.

“It provides visibility of our HVAC equipment operations,” Retzlaff said. “And we have found the system’s Web portal to be extremely convenient. It gives us real-time data on how the HVAC equipment in each location is performing.”

EnTouch’s energy monitors support a wide range of electrical panels and scale to monitor incoming power and critical branch loads.

“The wireless unit is placed inside our electrical panels. It allows us to monitor eight circuits per panel and gives us good visibility of energy use,” Retzlaff explained.

In another important benefit, the energy management system provides Smashburger with a way to ensure a more consistent store temperature, both from a customer and energy-usage standpoint, and the ability to set temperature standards across multiple locations.

“It’s very configurable,” Retzlaff said. “We have a schedule that we maintain, but we also give our stores a moderate amount of flexibility to respond to customer requests. We set the system up to allow the stores three degrees of temperature range from the set level. It alerts to stores that are performing outside the set range.”

EnTouch helped Smashburger set up regional schedules to accommodate different climates and humidity areas.

Ease of use is another benefit. The system, according to Retzlaff, is intuitive. In an unforeseen benefit, he added, EnTouch has become a valuable partner for Smashburger in the area of facilities management. The system provides the chain with insight on potential equipment failures (by detecting increased energy usage for the systems).

“When there is a problem, we’re able to go out to the site with more information than we had prior to the system implementation,” Retzlaff said. “While we value the input from the store level, HVAC operations fall outside their knowledge base and it was hard to get a true assessment of a problem. But with this system, we have a lot of information before we send out a tech.”

Smashburger is in the midst of putting together a comprehensive analysis to determine real-time savings data system wide.

“The system was retrofitted into our stores in fall 2013, so it’s still fairly new,” Retzlaff noted. “But based on the initial results in the test stores, we are feeling very positive.”

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