REAL ESTATE

CBL entices digitally native brands with data

BY Al Urbanski

It’s a misconception that digitally native brands looking to expand into physical retail are confining their stores to primary markets and urban environments.

CBL Properties VP of innovation Jim Ward estimates there are 5,000 digital brands poised to enter the brick-and-mortar space and his Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company, which operates more than 60 malls located largely in secondary markets, is in contact with many of them.

“We’re talking to dozens of regional and national players coming from online-only environments that are starting to implement store strategies. Every major developer is pursuing them, so we’re trying to be both progressive and aggressive in what we’re proposing to them,” Ward says.

Aside from the incredibly flexible lease terms all developers are offering, CBL is attempting to gain the inside track with this burgeoning retailers by providing a vital ingredient of their core businesses: data.

“We had an online retailer from Atlanta come in to see us, a fabulous retail concept we don’t have in any of our malls. And when we shared the data we’ve been able to collect about our location — how many pass by her store and who they were—she was very impressed,” Ward said. “The feedback we’re getting is that no other developer is providing the level of data we are.”

CBL has also introduced an incubator program to entice emerging physical brands to test out their locations.

“All digital brands know where their best customers are from the online purchase data they collect, so if they’re concentrated in the top five markets, it’s a challenge for us because we don’t have those markets,” Ward said.

Ward points out, however, that value pricing helped put many digital brands on the map, and that populations in secondary and tertiary markets tend to be price-sensitive.

“If they want to come to Nashville or Madison or Kansas City, I think we’ve got a good shot with the data stack we have to offer,” Ward said.

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