This is always a favorite topic of mine. Where is She shopping and what does She want? Prior to joining Weingarten Realty, I was a buyer at Foley’s Department Store, which is now Macy’s, and I currently serve on the board of a women’s apparel retail chain, Francesca’s. So you could say, and I do say, I still have retail running through my veins. Fortunately for Weingarten Realty, She wants to fulfill her errands in one easy stop in our bricks and most likely cannot fill those errands with clicks.
In comparing the years, we’ve seen a noticeable pickup in the frugal fashion category. The frugal fashion activity increase is a direct result of strong performance and strong open to buys from TJ Maxx and their associated brands, Ross, Nordstrom Rack, Famous Footwear, Carter’s and many other value leaders. We have close to 80 stores with TJX Companies and Ross and they both are very dependent on bricks and mortar for their shopping patterns.
While in New York in December for the ICSC National Conference, I had the pleasure of meeting with representatives of the “Frugal Fashion” category. They could not have emphasized more the importance of the bricks platform while cautiously entering into ecommerce. In fact, they highlighted that they’ve increased their open to buys to anywhere from 50 to 130 stores for next year. One of the value retailers with a large pickup in PTB is Home Goods. They reported 10% higher same-store sales in Q3 and as a result, are looking to expand the chain by 50+ stores in ’14. The TJX Company is moving into e-commerce; TJ Maxx is the only brand with an e-commerce site now; they plan to use this site to learn from and then in the future evaluate e-commerce sites for the other brands.
My last meeting at the conference was with a great retailer, Ascena Retail Group. The brands under the Ascena Retail Group umbrella include Dressbarn, Maurices, Justice, Lane Bryant and Catherines. Justice is a very successful girls and tweens concept. The Justice president decided that he wanted to explore utilizing the Justice platform to test selling boys apparel to moms shopping at Justice. Instead of investing first in the bricks, he premiered the concept, “Brothers”, on the Justice e-commerce site. It performed well, and now the investment is being made in the brick and finding huge success. This is a great example of leveraging the omni-channel by testing first on e-commerce and then moving to the bricks.
There has been some conversation regarding beauty products moving to e-commerce. While meeting with several Ulta executives, we learned that their main focus will remain on the customers’ in-store experience. Beauty retailers from Ulta to Sephora and even Sally Beauty are finding that their customers want to test the products and see the color before making a purchase.
Fast Bites/Family Dining
As a landlord, we love having cafes and restaurants in our shopping centers and the draw that they pull. She can’t dine in with her family or eat a salad on the run on the Internet. Whether She is grabbing a salad at Corner Bakery, taking the kids to Chic-fil-A, or treating the family at Buffalo Wild Wings, we are finding that food is still a very important component to our overall tenant mix. Starbucks is now open to buy 400 stores and growing in the United States. With Starbucks’ recent acquisition of Teavana, we will certainly benefit from their aggressive growth plans of growing the chain to over one thousand stores across the US with many of the locations in shopping centers versus malls.
We are finding that She is taking her family to the bricks for the clicks. Verizon stores are expanding rapidly and Best Buy is even reporting healthier sales on the tech side of their business. Weingarten Realty signed one of the first Best Buy Mobile stores in Florida this year, and we have found that the service provided by all of the mobile device carriers is of great value to the customer.
HomeGoods, Bed Bath & Beyond, Pier 1, and many of the specialty home retailers are finding that in the past few quarters (thru Q3) they’ve had especially strong comp sales due to a high level of activity with home remodels, home purchases, millennials moving out of their parents’ homes and certainly the multi-family boom.
The supermarket activity is at a new high level for niche groceries. Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Whole Foods and Fresh Market are all benefiting from the fact that She is shopping multiple brands and stores while enjoying the bricks and mortar experience. Over 40% of female shoppers are shopping multiple brands to fulfill their grocery needs, and millennials are shopping both traditional and niche as a habit.
We’ve learned from these trends that we are Internet resistant. Weingarten Realty is heavily vested in retailers that depend on our shopping centers. From healthy living to fast bites to supermarket shops, She needs to be present in our shopping centers. This is the power of our platform – mostly bricks and very few clicks.