For growth, follow privately funded college housing

America’s major universities and colleges increasingly look to private real estate developers to provide student housing, and that’s good news for retailers looking to expand, says an investment expert involved in the trend.

“Privately owned, non-university-affiliated housing is spreading phenomenally. Our investment vehicles for these projects are flying off the shelf,” said Jeff Holzman, managing director of iintoo, a social investment network that lets individual investors become partners in real estate deals.

Holzman claims that in three years investing in college housing projects, his company has never lost a dollar and that it’s the No. 1 investment category among iintoo members.

Retailers — especially digitally savvy ones — can also benefit by locating stores in or near these developments that offer predictable economic environments largely immune to macroeconomic trends.

[caption id="attachment_471678" align="alignright" width="250"] Jeff Holzman[/caption]

“There’s so much opportunity for retail around this,” Holzman said. “The reality is that parents are paying for what those students are buying, and it’s a transient population with consistent needs. They come to town, they need to open bank accounts, find a place to get their bikes repaired, a place to buy computers and accessories, a place to hang out.”

Holzman warns that the college scene is not for retailers that are looking for longevity and repeat business over time.

“It’s a place for smart, progressive brands that know how to connect to customers digitally. Retailers that have found a place in the ‘shared economy’ work well here,” Holzman said. “It helps if you’re a retailer whose business is based on immediate gratification.”

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