5Qs for John Crossman on community involvement
When you meet John Crossman and learn that his father was a civil rights leader who helped integrate churches in Central Florida in the Sixties, you are not surprised. The warm smile and calming voice of the CEO of Crossman & Company seemed more fitting for the pulpit than the trade show booth where we met him at the ICSC’s Florida show. And when we probed about his management of the several hundred Southeast properties owned by his company, we learned that community involvement was one of his core values. We asked him to dig deeper on the topic of developers and community.
Developers work closely with municipal authorities to bring retail centers of value to communities. How deep a commitment should developers make to communities in which they build?
My short answer is very deep, as deep as you can. I once talked to a pastor of a church and asked what was the key to his success. He told me it was to “pierce the local culture.” The same is true in retail development. You’ve got to connect to the local culture. Think about the public school system in a community. Think about how a small investment like $500 goes a considerable way. I would tell developers to look at investing in schools.
Many town residents have a negative attitude toward developers, feeling they and their investors are simply motivated by self-interest. Are they wrong?
It depends. Like everything else in life, there’s good and bad in every occupation. Some developers are doing wonderful things to make their communities better, so I would tell municipalities to do a better job in attracting developers and retailers that have their best interests in mind. Do your homework with RFPs. Some developers want to be involved in communities for a long time to come. Some want to sell when the paint dries.
Give me a favorite example of how Crossman operates as a corporate citizen in one of its markets.
We have made a big investment in college students across the country who are interested in careers in real estate. We offer scholarships through our many properties and we also do it through the ICSC foundation. Real estate education not very prevalent in colleges across the country, but I think we’re known for it in Florida. I don’t think there’s anybody else doing it, and we’d love for other developers to join with us. The first time we endowed a scholarship, we hoped our competitors would do the same. We would love nothing better than to finish in last place in this pursuit.
Your father, the Reverend Kenneth C. Crossman, was a civil rights activist. Does his influence color the way you and Crossman & Company do business?
Absolutely. The first real estate scholarships we awarded were at Florida A&M and Bethune Cookman, both black colleges. We got involved with education because it was a legacy issue with our dad and we wanted to continue to do some bridge-building. We see some very talented students come out of our communities and go to work on Wall Street and don’t know our industry exists. We try to connect them to real estate, because even if they become CEO of a company, real estate is going to be connected to their job in some way.
If you could use one word to advise fellow developers on how to act in their communities, what would it be?
Love. If I had two, I’d add listen. One of the most common things you hear people say is that you have to learn tolerance. But, to me, tolerating is putting up with something — a baby crying on an airplane, for instance. What I prefer to say is love is the thing to learn. I’m inspired by my faith. Love your neighbors. Embrace the local communities surrounding your developments. One of the best developments I know is The Villages north of Orlando. They have a great Christmas tree lighting ceremony, they put up a big Menorah, they celebrate Oktober Fest. If it’s something that’s important to residents, they don’t tolerate it, they embrace it.
The fountains of retail sales
Shopping center owners are working hard to set their centers apart to drive sales with restaurants, entertainment venues, and public parks, but they still have to invest in calling attention to all of these new amenities. One effective way to do this is to incorporate thoughtfully designed water features.
Be it a single large-scale fountain or an interactive show set to lights and music, water entertainment features provide a natural focal point within a landscape retail environment. These fountains are “wow” factors that draw guests in and increase foot traffic with lengths of stay. A study conducted by Macerich found that shoppers spent an average of $25 more per visit at centers with interactive water features.
At The Point in El Segundo, California, we designed the landscape to incorporate a large circular fountain with a fire pit at its center, surrounded by a variety of outdoor seating areas for guests to gather and enjoy surrounding eateries or retailers. There is also a long, rectangular water feature encompassing five large planters that acts as a natural wall against the patio of a neighboring restaurant allowing views of the passersby.
Because of this highly activated area, shoppers continue to flock to The Point and retailers are willing to pay a premium for space in the center. Such demand allows center owners to curate a unique mix of tenants that guarantees tenants abundant traffic for years to come. The Point is one of the top retail destinations in its market and attracts thousands of people each day.
Water features also gives center operators a medium that can be activated both day and at night.
At The Village at Meridian in Meridian, Idaho, Lifescapes and Outside the Lines created a landscape design that features two sizable fountains within its European-style retail space. One water feature is a large lake-like fountain with a low waterfall bubbling over rock formations that serves as a gathering place for busy shoppers to meet, socialize and linger. At night, shoppers are drawn to the other fountain to witness dancing water streams set to music.
The simple fact is that, as e-commerce sales continue to rise, retail center owners have a need to integrate more experiential factors into their centers. Today, more and more of them are beginning to realize that water features are fountains of opportunity.
Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs is president and CFO of Lifescapes International, a landscape architectural firm whose clients include Caruso, Triple Five, and Federal Realty Investment Trust. She can be reached at [email protected].
Consumer holiday spending to climb 4.5%; promotions will be key
A new holiday forecast offers more good news for retailers.
Shoppers will spend $807 billion on holiday gifts and other item this year, an increase of 4.5% over last year, with $685 billion spent on gifts and other items and $122 billion on food and beverage, according to a survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers.
According to ICSC, 84% of shoppers will visit a mall or shopping center throughout the holidays, and retailers who embrace omnichannel will benefit the greatest. Of the 40% of consumers who will use click-and-collect, 82% expect to spend additional money at that store.
“Our annual Holiday Shopping Intentions Survey findings demonstrate that consumers remain confident in the economy,” said Tom McGee, president and CEO, ICSC. “Shoppers want a combination of convenience and experience, and the retailers with the best omnichannel strategy are poised for success this holiday season.”
According to the survey, the average consumer plans to spend $706.40 this holiday season, with $522.00 allotted for gifts. Overall, 92% of U.S. consumers plan to purchase holiday gifts and other holiday items. Over half (54%) plan to spend more this year than last year, with more than one quarter (28%) pointing to a change in job status or income as a factor in their increased spend.
Approximately one in four consumers are planning to buy big-ticket items such as household appliances or jewelry. Forty-percent are expected to buy electronics; 64% plan to buy gift cards; 52% plan to buy apparel and footwear; and 49% plan to buy toys and games.
The survey found that promotions will be one of the biggest influences in purchasing at a physical location this year:
• Overall, 74% of holiday shoppers say that promotions play a role in their holiday shopping.
• 63% plan their holiday shopping around specific promotional events/dates such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Super Saturday and/or other big sales.
• 47% state that once they are in a store, the promotions they see influence the holiday purchases they make.
• 20% state they are more influenced by promotions on social media compared with other mediums.
The ICSC survey comes on the heels of the National Retail Federation’s holiday forecast, which expects holiday retail sales in November and December — excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants — to increase between 4.3% and 4.8% over 2017 for a total of $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion.