REAL ESTATE

ICSC: Omnichannel wins, with physical stores at epicenter

BY Marianne Wilson

A just-released holiday survey reinforces the dominance of the omnichannel shopper.

Nearly one-third (32%) of shoppers the past holiday season used the click and collect method – with 69% of these shoppers purchasing additional items in the store when they went to pick up the item and 36% making another purchase in an adjacent store, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers’ Holiday Consumer Purchasing Trends study.

What’s more, 60% of holiday shoppers used their mobile device while shopping in a store to do such things as compare prices, check availability and view reviews/ratings. And 56% of holiday shoppers researched products before they even entered the store.

"Looking back at the holiday season, the major trend that emerged is the prevalence of the omnichannel consumer and the resulting convergence among brick and mortar and digital retail," said Tom McGee, president and CEO of ICSC. "The story of bricks vs. clicks is an old one. The story is now one of a shopper getting the best of both worlds, using online research and capabilities to inform physical purchases.

Brick-and-mortar also fared well in the survey, which reported that 91% of consumers shopped in physical stores during the holiday season. Seeing, touching, and trying on merchandise was cited the number one reason to shop in store (32%), followed by the ability to browse (26%), and the ability to get the item right away (24%).

“The American consumer has sent a clear message that the physical store remains at the epicenter of the shopping experience,” McGee said.

In other survey findings:

• Forty percent of shoppers say they spent more this season than in 2014, with 33% spending the same this season. Only 23% said they spent less than last year.

• Shoppers like the ease of returning and exchanging products in store, with 20% of shoppers electing to shop in-store because of this advantage.

• On average, 62% of holiday shoppers spent on gift cards, with an average spend of $145. Of those that received a gift card, February or later (43%) is the most likely time for them to redeem it, followed by January (39%) and the last week of December (18%).

• Forty-eight percent of holiday shoppers made a purchase in the apparel/footwear and electronics/devices categories this holiday season.

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REAL ESTATE

Wheeler appoints new COO and CFO

BY Melonie Messina

Virginia Beach, Va. — Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trust announced Wilkes Graham will join the company as its CFO, effective Jan. 19. Graham will oversee corporate finance, accounting, investor relations and capital and financing strategies for the Company and will report to CEO and chairman, Jon Wheeler. He will succeed Steven Belote, who will remain with the Company as its COO.

Graham has over 16 years of experience in the real estate and financial services industries. Since 2010 he has worked with Compass Point Research & Trading, an independent, full-service investment firm focused exclusively on the financial services sector, where he served as director of research and as a senior sell-side equity research analyst. As the firm’s real estate analyst, Graham’s primary responsibilities included performing proprietary financial analysis in which he forecasted earnings and predicted the stock performance of over 30 publicly traded REITs, real estate operating companies and homebuilders. As director of research, he managed and oversaw the strategic direction of the firm’s research department. Prior to joining Compass Point, Graham worked as a VP and a senior sell-side analyst focused on the real estate sector at FBR Capital Markets & Co.

“We are delighted that Wilkes has joined us as CFO. We have a long relationship with Wilkes, and he is familiar with our company, our assets, our business model and our target markets,” stated Jon S. Wheeler, chairman and CEO for Wheeler. “We believe his ability to generate value-added analyses and develop financial models will transfer well into his role as CFO. In addition, his experience and knowledge of the real estate and financial services industries will prove invaluable as we advance in our development and continue to execute our business plan and strategic initiatives. We believe that Wilkes is a proven leader in the REIT industry, and we welcome him to the team.”

Wheeler continued: “Furthermore, we are pleased Steven Belote has assumed the role of COO and believe he is the perfect candidate for this position. His solid understanding of our financials and experience in regulatory matters will assist greatly in managing our daily operations, and we are confident that he will continue to play a key role in the company’s growth. He has been integral to our success since joining the company prior to our IPO.”

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Food, food and more food

BY Marianne Wilson

From food trucks to high-end restaurants and everything in between, dining has never been more essential to the shopping center experience.

“E-commerce has made it more important for retail centers to enhance the experience,” said Terry Montesi, CEO, Trademark Property Co. And food works great with retail.”

But it’s not just chain restaurants. Increasingly, shopping centers are getting creative when it comes to integrating food into the shopping experience. Trademark’s upcoming Waterside, a mixed-use development in Fort Worth, Texas, will feature several “micro-restaurants” from local entrepreneurs.

The restaurants, averaging from 500 sq. ft. to 1,000 sq. ft., will be clustered around the center’s central common space, a large area that will feature shade trees, public art, outdoor seating and rest rooms. The set-up is such that the micro-restaurants do not have to go through the expense of build restrooms in their spaces, or even adding seating.

“It’s really a new twist on the indoor food court,” Montesi said. “We’re already thinking about doing something similar in a lot of other places.”

City Point: An enormous food hall is likely to be big draw at City Point, a 1.8 million-sq.-ft. mixed-use development under construction in Brooklyn, New York.

Set to open this year, DeKalb Market Hall will be in the basement level of the 675,000-sq.-ft. retail center. It will house about 40 “unique” food vendors, according to Chris Conlon, executive VP and COO for Acadia Realty Trust.

“We are partnering with Anna Castellani, the owner of Foragers Market (an upscale grocery store with two locations in the city), who is curating the collection,” Conlon added.
As Conlon explains it, DeKalb Market Hall will not be orderly. Instead, it will be noisy and filled with sights and sounds, with lots of individual build-outs.

“This is Brooklyn — you have to deliver a level of authenticity,” he added.

But that’s not all — by any means. City Point has also landed an outpost, complete with an outdoor beer garden, of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, an Austin-based movie theatre/restaurant chain.

“Retailing can’t be retail alone,” Conlon said. “It has to have experiential components, and food is one of them.”

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