Monday, September 30, 2013

10 NYC Commercial Districts to Get Wired

Today, NYC's Mayor Bloomberg announced that free Wi-Fi is coming to 10 commercial corridors throughout New York City.

The corridors (and the organizations who will implement and oversee the Wi-Fi programs) were selected through the Wireless Corridor Challenge, led by the New York City Economic Development Corporation. The selected organizations are the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Alliance for Downtown New York, Brooklyn Academy of Music, GOWEX, and Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership.

Starting in December of 2013, here are the district's where you'll be able to access the free Wi-Fi:
Brooklyn: the Fulton Street corridor, BAM Cultural District, Brownsville, and Downtown Brooklyn
Manhattan: Flatiron District, Water Street Corridor, East River waterfront in Lower Manhattan, the 125th Street corridor in Harlem and on Roosevelt Island
Queens: Long Island City
Staten Island: St. George commercial district
The Bronx: Fordham Road

Today also marks the launch of WiredNYC, a rating system for the broadband connectivity of office buildings. Click here for the press release.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Landlords find ways to help independent tenants succeed

Great piece on how developers and landlords are trying to help independent retailers. Although focused on shopping center owners, these tips are useful for commercial district managers. Be sure to check out the video link at the bottom of this post as well. For original article please click here. SCT Newswire


Landlords are always on the lookout for independent retailers who show both passion and commitment. But the next Gaps and J. Crews of the world need to be just as careful about the landlords they choose to work with, said experts at SCT Live’s “Independent Chains Need a Hand” event, in Atlanta last week.

If the landlord is laser-focused on rent and seems uninterested in the prospective tenant’s business model or target customer, it is a huge red flag, said Christopher M. Conlan, executive vice president and COO of Acadia Realty Trust. “You have to know if the landlord is too rent-driven,” he said. “It is incumbent upon tenants to do this investigation.”

And that’s because in today’s post-recession environment, the landlord might well need to go the extra mile to support the retailer in a variety of ways, said Lyle E.T. Darnall, managing director of the Southeast for Columbia, S.C.-based Edens. Darnall described how his firm works extensively with newcomer tenants to help them find signage vendors, say, or design and merchandise their storefronts. “You’ve got to make sure the space is right for them,” he said. “They lack build-out expertise.”

Why not simply stick with the low-risk credit and universal brand-recognition of national chains? These retailers are critical, of course, but locally owned shops can help the center forge deeper connections with shoppers, said Andrea Kenney, vice president of retail agency leasing at Jones Lang LaSalle. “Each property has its own personality, and independents understand that personality,” she said. “They’re a recognizable face in the community.”

The panel included entrepreneurs Cici Coffee, founder of Natural Body Spa (nine locations in Atlanta and 14 in the Southeast); Amanda Hair of Bob Steele Salon (three salons in metro Atlanta), and Kathryn Poe, owner of the Mary Mojo Boutique in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. They each described challenges and lessons learned as independent retailers. An English major in college with no formal business experience, Poe recalled starting out in 2006 with a boutique space that was both too large and too expensive. “I didn’t even know you could negotiate the lease,” she said, laughing.

Coffee emphasized the importance of looking beyond the demographic data on the page to truly understand the psychographics of prospective sites. Noting the stiff competition of the discounters, Hair described how her salon now focuses exclusively on products not sold by the likes of Walmart or Target. All the experts on the panel emphasized the importance of personalized service in today’s marketplace. “There’s no substitute for unique customer service,” Conlan said, “and independent retailers are the best at it.”

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Professional Development Opportunity: "Identifying and Attracting the Appropriate Retailers and Developers"

I am very excited to be partnering with the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) to offer an advanced retail leasing training at the upcoming International Downtown Association World Congress in New York (Oct. 6 - 9). The session is nearly sold out so be sure to register if you haven't already. Pre-Conference sessions are available to conference attendees and can be added your conference package when you register. Advance registration for the conference is closed, but you can register on-site. For more information click here.

Here is a session description. Hope to see you there!


Identifying and Attracting the Appropriate Retailers and Developers
Date: Sunday, October 6
Location: Marriott Marquis, Jolson Room, 9th Floor, 1535 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
Time: 9:00 a.m. –12:00 p.m.

What does it take to get your community on a retailer's radar? What do retailers, both big and small, want to see before making investment decisions? This pre-conference workshop presents valuable information on how to assess the needs and desires of retailers and how to approach them; what consumer demographics should be highlighted; and what incentives and subsidies are likely to sweeten the deal and get them to sign on. Case studies will be presented of successful municipal retail attraction programs that have sparked investment at both the downtown and neighborhood levels.

You’ll also learn how to work collaboratively with your property owners and brokerage community to improve retail mix; what amenities help make your community more attractive to retailers, such as access, parking, lighting, safety, highway and road access, and retail competition; and practical tools and tips for getting the most out of retail trade shows and identifying regional or independent retailers that might be harder to find.

Attendees will each receive a complimentary ICSC textbook to accompany the course material: Retail Development Through Public-Private Partnerships, by David G. Wallace.

Larisa Ortiz, Principal, Larisa Ortiz Associates
Cynthia Stewart, Director, Community Relations, ICSC

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Latino Marketing: Deconstructing the Myths of the Latino Customer

The “Hispanic” or “Latino” market is all the rage these days. But even as retailers attempt to unpack what it means to successfully market to Latino customers, I continue to see misinformation and gross generalizations being spread. Let's take a peek at some of the more interesting lessons from those who have learned the hard way...

Torta versus sandwich
I just finished reading a retail trade magazine. In it, a “Hispanic” market specialist says that sandwich retailers overlook the Hispanic market because they think that Latinos don’t eat sandwiches. He said that this was a mistake. In fact, Latinos DO eat sandwiches...“they just call them tortas.” Well, as a Puerto Rican raised in New York, I took some umbrage to that. I have NEVER called a sandwich a "torta". In Puerto Rico, you go to the local baker and ask for a “sanwich de jamon, huevo y queso” or a ham, egg and cheese sandwich. Yes, Puerto Rico sandwiches are "sanwiches”. The suggestion to call sandwiches "tortas" might work in Phoenix, but not in Puerto Rican or Dominican sections of New York City. With 47% of the Hispanic population living in California or Texas (and most of those are Mexican or Central American), I can see how it’s easy to over generalize. But in markets like Chicago and New York where there are significant Caribbean communities, retailers stand to lose a lot by failing to make the distinction.
Salsa versus Bachata
In one recent community where I did some work the Business Improvement District wanted to target the local Latino immigrant population by offering open air salsa dancing in a downtown plaza. Attendance was quite low among their target audience and they didn't understand why. As a result, the event was never repeated. The assumption that the BID made was that the Latino consumer didn't attend events like these, so why bother? After our team conducted a number of merchant interviews, including one with the owners of a local Salvadoran restaurant, it became clear what the problem was. The owner mentioned something that should have been quite obvious at the outset. Most of the local immigrants were Central American, and Central Americans aren't typically into salsa. Woops. 

First generation versus second generation
-          There is a big difference between foreign born and U.S. born Hispanics. According to the National Council of La Raza, 62.7% of all Latinos are native-born Americans, and 74% are American citizens. Marketing to these U.S born Hispanics requires a different set of tactics…ones that go beyond (and maybe even don’t include) bilingual packaging. As the children of immigrant Latinos grow up speaking English as their primary language, other kinds of marketing tools will be required. Recently, our firm conducted survey work in a small city with a large Latino population. The City was sensitive to the political climate and insisted that we make a survey available in Spanish. We noted that the survey was an online survey - as a result most survey respondents would likely be second generation and therefore likely to take the survey in English anyway. In the end, they survey was created, distributed and translated at significant cost to the client – and we only got four Spanish language responses. This is not to suggest it wasn't a good political move...I think it was...but it wasn't the best use of limited resources for this particular community. 

Baseball versus soccer
Growing up Puerto Rican, I was never exposed to soccer, but baseball, that was a different story. My family grew up following the Yankee’s every pitch (and they still do!).  But in my current neighborhood in Jackson Heights, Queens, alternatively known as Little Colombia, the sport of choice is soccer, despite the fact that Mets stadium is literally within walking distance. In one community our firm recently worked in, a local sporting goods store wanted to attract the growing immigrant clientele and started selling soccer jerseys – but did so without checking which regional teams were the most popular. Woops again.

The point here is that you can’t over generalize the “Latino” market. If you have a strong immigrant market, you must first ask yourself, where are they from? Central America? South America? The Caribbean? And then you have to ask whether most of them first or second generation. By answering those two questions, you will find yourself ahead of the game and in a better position to meet the needs of your district's customers.