REAL ESTATE

Survey: Signs point to positive year for retailers

BY Marianne Wilson

Retail tenants in the Northeast are feeling positive about store prospects for 2018.

That’s according to real estate services firm Levin Management Corp.’s 2018 Retail Sentiment Survey in which 68.1% of survey respondents indicated they are feeling optimistic about 2018 store performance.

“A relatively strong economy, historically low unemployment and growing consumer confidence set the stage for ongoing improvement for retail in 2018,” said LMC President Matthew K. Harding. “Kiplinger anticipates in-store sales will grow 2.4% in 2018, the strongest advancement since 2014. With no foreseeable major changes on the horizon, we, too, anticipate another year of continued momentum.”

LMC also asked tenants whether their companies anticipate opening additional stores in 2018 and 30.4% answered in the affirmative.

“We continue to hear about planned store closings, yet this is an important reminder that retail is an industry of constant evolution,” Harding said. “As some concepts reach their end, others expand and thrive. It is encouraging to see so many of our survey respondents fitting into the latter category.”

LMC asked its retail tenants whether low unemployment has brought noticeable change to the hiring climate. More than one quarter (28.2%) of survey participants indicated they have observed some shifts. Of those respondents, 63.3% are seeing fewer qualified job candidates in their pools of applicants. Additionally, 53.3% reported demand for higher starting salaries, with 20% indicating demand for more employee incentives.

Still, the ability to prosper in today’s increasingly digital and mobile world requires retailers to embrace shifting strategies. Nearly half (49.6%) of LMC’s 2018 Outlook survey respondents indicated they have adapted their business model in response to the growth of ecommerce. The most popular changes involve heightened focus on technology and service.

Of those survey participants whose companies have made changes, 54.3% have increased their use of technology-centered marketing tools in-store, while 56.3% have upped technology-centered marketing to reach customers outside the store.

Other strategic shifts embraced by more than half of those that have made changes include increased training and focus on customer service (58.9%), and added in-store services and incentives (51.0%).

“Our survey indicates retailers are using multiple avenues to distinguish themselves and win business,” noted Melissa Sievwright, LMC’s vice president of marketing. “It has become clear they are leveraging technology to get consumers’ attention and enrich the in-store shopping experience. There are elements of touch, feel and interaction in a physical store than cannot be duplicated online. The emphasis on training and service reflects that our tenants understand what is important to their customers today.”

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REAL ESTATE

Cracker Barrel expands into new territory

BY Marianne Wilson

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is opening its first California location.

The chain makes its Golden State debut on Feb. 5, in Victorville (in San Bernardino County.) The new location features Cracker Barrel’s signature format, which combines a restaurant serving home-style cooking with an old country-styled retail store that sells a diverse range of goods. It comes as the company has been expanding into new markets.

Cracker Barrel will open a second California location, in Sacramento, later this year, a spokesperson told Chain Store Age. It plans to open four additional stores in the state during the next two years.

“In the last two years, Cracker Barrel has been expanding out West, including opening our first stores in the Las Vegas and Portland areas, and we look forward to bringing our unique version of Southern hospitality and charm to Victorville and the state of California,” said Cracker Barrel senior VP, restaurant & retail operations Nick Flanagan.

The design of each Cracker Barrel location is customized with authentic artifacts, memorabilia and signage that ties into the area. The Victorville store celebrates the history and culture of the locale through decorative walls that pay homage to the famous Route 66, the area’s contributions to the film industry and to California’s Gold Rush era.

Founded in 1969 in Lebanon, Tenn., Cracker Barrel and its affiliates operates 649 company-owned Cracker Barrel Old Country Store locations in 45 states and owns the fast-casual Holler and Dash restaurants.

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Second phase announced for big Oahu mall

BY Al Urbanski

A blessing of the grounds will kick off construction of the second phase of Ka Makana Ali‘i in West Oahu, though as one of the largest regional malls to be constructed the U.S. in the past five years, the ground is already hallowed in real estate circles.

The Grove at Ka Makana Ali‘i, according to owners DeBartolo Development, will serve as a gathering place in the fast-growing community, which is expected to complete the building of 80,000 new homes by 2025.

Such growth inspired DeBartolo to construct the 1.4 million-sq.-ft. enclosed mall that opened there in 2016. The Grove will add 109,000 sq. ft. of restaurants and services, among them Foodland Farms, Hawaii Pacific Health, and PetSmart, said Rich Hartline, VP of development for DeBartolo.

“Having a locally owned grocery store and innovative clinic within the Center will position Ka Makana Ali‘i as a premiere destination for the Ewa and Kapolei neighborhoods,” said DeBartolo development VP Rich Hartline.

The mall houses 125 tenants, including H&M, Victoria’s Secret, Old Navy, Sephora, Applebee’s, and California Pizza Kitchen.

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