Brian Morrissey
REAL ESTATE

Morrissey named CFO at Cullinan

BY Al Urbanski

Cullinan Properties, a noted developer of mixed-use projects, has named Brian Morrissey as its chief financial officer.

The former senior VP of Merchandise Mart Properties, a division of Vornado, joins the Peoria-based Cullinan from CA Ventures, a real estate investment and holding company he served as chief accounting officer.

Morrissey replaces Michael Norbutas, who will enter semi-retirement and remain active at Cullinan on a part-time basis.

“[Morrissey’s] contributions are going to play a major role as Cullinan continues its tremendous growth,” said CEO Christopher West.

From offices in Peoria, Chicago, and St. Louis, Cullinan operates a real estate business that develops, owns, and manages mixed-use, retail, multi-family residential, office, medical, and government properties.

Cullinan’s Streets of St. Charles project in Missouri was named one of the Top 10 Retail Center Experiences of 2018 by Chain Store Age.

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Deborah Butler on localization

BY Deborah Butler

When my father first started in the retail business in 1939 — which at that time meant a farm-fresh produce stand — localization was simply understanding the needs of the community, filling a market gap and providing the absolute best customer experience possible. Thinking outside the box, Dad provided curbside service that operated like an old-fashioned drive-in where the customer never had to leave the car. Plus, they stayed open seven days a week — unheard of in 1939!

Our development has grown from that curbside market to the largest super-regional shopping center in North Central Florida, encompassing nearly 300 acres and 2 million sq. ft. of retail, dining, and entertainment in Gainesville, Florida. Those eight decades of growth have seen many ups and downs, trends, fads and evolutions, but we’ve always kept central the concept of localization.

Since joining the family business in 1980, I’ve been on both the retail and the development side, and now that we are building the first true mixed-use Town Center in North-Central Florida, here are the strategies we’ve identified from the most successful brands in the country, as well as our own development efforts to assure relevance now and in the future.

From the outside-in. Some think details come last; we think of details in strict lock step with the entire process. Our approach is to visualize the moment our consumer enters the parking lot. First detail: “Sense of Place.” Butler Town Center at Stengel Field — the name alone evokes intrigue and pays homage to its 1940s roots. A State Historic Site, the Butler property once existed as a grass airfield and military air base. Weaving the Stengel Air Field story into the fabric of the shopping center experience led to the creation of specific paver patterns, vintage-style signage, fountains that spray in a propeller motion — even biplane finials to top our stop signs. That’s the kind of detail that brings substance to the brand identity.

Embrace technology. Because our location right off interstate I-75 is a gateway to the University of Florida, a leading research university with a nationally ranked hospital system, we embraced technology from the get-go. UF recruits students, professors, researchers, and physicians from all over the world and we used technology to understand the consumer patterns and help our stores retail “smarter not harder.” For example, our Lilly Pulitzer boutique store, Pink Narcissus, stocks Lilly styles and colors based on inventory tracking tailored to this market. Gator orange and blue fly out the door in a market that drives five million annual visitors to university-related events. They showcase their lines via Facebook Live runway-style “events” on their social media channel and connect on a hyper-personal level with their audience.

Understand your extended market. Gainesville is the economic hub of a 14-county region and, with six state and national parks in one county, is a world-renowned travel destination for nature enthusiasts. The managers of Dick’s Sporting Goods in Butler North understand that their kayak and hiking section needs to be more diverse and extensive than a store located in south Florida. Our location on I-75 is a natural stopping point for many travelers, and our development plays to extended “stay-time.” With 50 diverse dining options and 3.5 miles of walking trails with required retention ponds, there’s plenty of reason for visitors, their kids, and even their pets to stick around. Adding murals crafted in partnership with local artists creates a cultural experience for all.

Retailer-developer collaboration. As a developer, we carefully package our property’s brand story in a cohesive, compelling manner, providing information to engage and inspire new stores in the design phase. This year we opened the region’s first Whole Foods Market and, during the build process, their talented designers fell in love with the historical aeronautical element of the property. Working directly with our in-house marketing team, Whole Foods designed its café around the theme. The vintage furniture and black-and-white photography timeline that adorns the wall of the café made Whole Foods seem like a member of the community from day one.

Retail real estate is truly an evolutionary process, and while our history proves the concept of localization isn’t a new one, today’s innovation and methodology has had to be more compelling, more tailored, and more development-pervasive to fit the experience-seeking, tech savvy customer of today.

Deborah Butler is president of Butler Enterprises, based in Gainesville, Fla.

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Brandon Famous on international retail expansion

BY Brandon Famous

Modern, forward-thinking retailers now are taking a more focused approach to international expansion, guided by analytics, to grow their store base along with their online operations. They’re equipped with more information about their customer base from multiple sources, and they’re finding a wider range of opportunities for store sites.

Granted, factors such as the trajectory of regional economies, capital flows, and geopolitical events still have significant influence on international expansion. But data now has taken its place among those leading influencers. It is an integral part of retailers’ efforts to determine their ideal balance of effective online operations and stores in the right locations.

A game-changer in this regard — for both international and domestic expansion — is data analytics, specifically massive mobile data. This essentially is mobile-phone tracking, often on an anonymous basis. Monitoring the movement of mobile phones can help a retailer or retail-center owner gain insights such as the average demographics of people visiting a specific location in a specific timeframe, where they spent most of their time in a center, and from where they arrived at the center.

This type of data is invaluable for retailers and retail landlords alike in making multiple critical decisions, including determining a given store or center’s trade area and clientele; where to open, close or remodel stores; how to position the merchandise and retailer mix; which customers to market to and where and when to set a store’s operation hours, among other considerations.

Retailers and others then cross-reference demographic data to massive mobile data by determining the census tracts from which most phones visiting their property are coming. That data then can be combined with what retailers know about their customers’ online purchasing habits to create a more thorough picture of the retailer’s clientele.

Massive mobile data brings substantial value in domestic retail expansion, and even more so in international expansion into countries where the service is available. Foreign retailers expanding into the U.S. now have a data-focused tool to help them study markets and locations that likely are entirely new to them. And many already are familiar with the concept. European companies were early adopters of massive mobile data.

Equipped with such a data analytics tool, modern retailers also have the advantage of knowing that they might not necessarily need to spend heavily to open a huge flagship store for branding purposes. The growth of e-commerce and social media now has allowed retailers to do much of their brand building online. They still need stores to allow customers to sample the product and experience the brand, but perhaps not as many stores or stores not as large as in the past.

Several international retailers entering New York City have opted to open small flagships in trendy submarkets such as SoHo. Gentle Monster, the South Korean retailer of fashion eyewear, opened its first United States store in SoHo in 2016. Among many others debuting in the U.S. with small stores in New York submarkets are British premium apparel brand Sunspel, Hong Kong jeweler Ame Gallery, Japanese furniture store Kamarq, and premium clothier Eleventy.

Another option increasingly available for expanding retailers are larger spaces vacated by struggling retailers such as Sears Holdings Corp. and defunct chains such as Sports Authority. In some cases, these spaces will allow international retailers to crack previously inaccessible markets due to high costs.

Such big-box locations also will be scouted by expanding entertainment uses such as Smaaash USA, the dining hall and gaming center concept founded by Indian entrepreneur Shripal Morakhia. That’s also the case for Round 1 Entertainment Inc., the Japanese bowling-and-amusement operator.

Overall, this supports an optimistic outlook for international retail expansion, albeit at a slightly slower but more efficient pace than in years past.

Brandon Famous is chairman of CBRE’s Global Retail Occupier Executive Committee.

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