Chief Executive at EastBanc, a multinational real estate development company headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Holiday shopping has started early this year, as government subsidies and deep discounts continue to encourage healthy spending patterns among consumers. However, consumers are still looking for ways to embrace the traditional holiday experience. Main Street shopping districts have the power to fill that void and retail property managers, owners and investors should take advantage of their property’s potential to support retailers’ efforts.
Main Street shopping districts can provide consumers with a destination for festive activities and decorations, safe socializing with family and friends, and a place to find gifts on everyone’s wishlist. Even amid the pandemic, Main Street shopping districts still have the potential to boost morale through festive displays and activations while prioritizing safety through distancing, sanitization and more. These retailers also have the capacity to localize sales and marketing strategies based on trends and behaviors of the consumers in the region.
There are several reasons why shopping brick-and-mortar this holiday season is still a great way for consumers to pick up gifts while enjoying the experiential, customizable elements of physical retail that make brands shine during the holidays. With reports from UPS and FedEx showing potential delays between Thanksgiving and Christmas, brick-and-mortar retailers offer options for purchasing gifts that arrive on time – through BOPIS, curbside pick up and more. There is also the desirability of open-air shopping districts like Boston’s Newbury Street or M Street in Washington D.C.’s Georgetown that offer space to social distance out of doors. Lastly, storefront retailers offer a chance for customers to shop a curated assortment of inventory – which may make the selection process faster and easier than browsing swathes of items online.
With these reasons in mind, retail property managers, owners and investors have an opportunity to make the most out of their properties this holiday season.
Enhance The Outdoor Atmosphere
Focusing on the immediate vicinity within each property is critical and the best way for the landlord to meet the merchant in the middle with ideas without encroaching on the sanctity of their showroom. It also gives the customer one more reason to visit. If you can incorporate an inspirational display to photograph with family and friends, you can also encourage the customer to market your efforts! Where feasible, you can add things like enhanced lighting, hot chocolate or coffee stands, and snowmaking machines – which are typically not prohibitively expensive. You can even add a virtual social-distance-friendly Santa – as crazy as that sounds. If there is room, you can also give your retailers space to collaborate and put their own mark on outdoor enhancements. Partnering together can help support the authenticity and sense of local community your property projects to consumers.
Offer Outdoor Retail Opportunities
Restaurants are making efforts nationwide to create an outdoor dining experience, sometimes with the support of the local bureaucracy and funding from local government. Other forms of retail have every opportunity to do the same, and in some cases may introduce enclosures and outdoor heating with which to market some of their wares. This may not match the corporate Gucci experience, but it can appeal to the consumer. They are likely to see – and appreciate – how each merchant finds a way to adapt and pivot to meet them halfway in these challenging times.
Coordinate Marketing Efforts
If you have a diverse set of retailers you work with, you can help coordinate marketing efforts with them that make your property enticing. It may look like offering coordinated personal shopping experiences to retailers where a limited number of customers can subscribe to get a curated tour of the merchandise. If it works for Apple why can’t everyone else follow suit?
While brick-and-mortar retail has faced a plethora of challenges this year, there is still a nostalgic, festive element to holiday shopping in a physical store, where the customer can experience the lights, sounds, spirit and perhaps the subtle Christmas scents that filter through your festive mask of choice. Property managers, owners and tenants must work together this winter to spread that spirit while maintaining a safe environment in and outside their stores through the use of technology, advanced filtration systems, enforcing safety protocols, and more. With these measures in place, there’s still room for retail property managers, owners and investors to work with brick-and-mortar retailers to make the most of the property. All while offering shoppers the opportunity to get their holiday shopping done in a festive environment close to what they enjoyed in a pre-pandemic world.
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