Shopping Center Business

MAY 2015

Shopping Center Business is the leading monthly business magazine for the retail real estate industry.

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240 • SHOPPING CENTER BUSINESS • MAY 2015 SCB: What do you feel that retail prop- erties offer large events that other venues can't? Gillespie: We offer a unique environ- ment with brand awareness, built-in traffic, onsite staff, amenities/services/retailers/ restaurants, a sense of place, a robust so- cial media platform and community who looks to us to create and deliver new experiences. SCB: How do you draw on the strengths of your properties to create events? Gillespie: That gets back to understand- ing our value, our assets and our brand and partnering with those who can and will benefit by aligning their brands with ours. We also listen to our community, both physically and online, inviting them to contribute ideas and weigh in on every- thing from events to retail offerings. SCB: How do you involve retailers in large-scale events? Gillespie: We've incorporated many conversion tactics from 'show your tick- et, race number or wristband and save' at participating shops and restaurants for attendees of Cirque du Soleil, tennis, festivals, and walks and runs, to utilizing our restaurants to cater VIP suites during the BB&T Atlanta Open and the 'Skate Shack' during ice skating. We also use events as a driver for public relations and social content and find ways to weave our retail messages into the content. SCB: How do you get retailers involved in hosting their own events? How do you promote their events? Gillespie: Quarterly, we share upcom- ing events and programs along with lists and idea starters for low-cost or no-cost ways to participate then follow up week- ly, sharing the retailers who've come on board as participants for various events to add credibility and a little friendly compe- tition. We meet with our retailers regularly to understand their goals and their plans for achieving them, see what challenges or concerns they have with realizing suc- cess and collaborate on ways we can as- sist them in hosting events or incorporate them in ours. When a retailer trusts you will manage their brand with the same lev- el of care that they do, they are more likely to step out of their boxes. We encourage our tenants to think of our common areas and gathering spaces as opportunities to engage with our guests and create expe- riences. Their success is our success so they are our top priority. As for promot- ing their events, our community managers amplify retailers' events and content on our websites, through e-blasts and across all of our digital properties. We also or- ganize influencer programs and blogger events to highlight new and key retailers and introduce new concepts or products. SCB: How do you measure the effective- ness of your events? Gillespie: It depends on the strategy. We track the impact of events on participating retailers and categories we anticipate will benefit most. On occasion we incorporate elevated VIP experiences into our events and invite leasing prospects so they can see the impact of events and the environ- ment we create firsthand. We track social interaction, PR sentiment and media hits. We observe our guests and relish in happy faces. We recently spotted a tweet that said, 'Avalon is quickly becoming my third place…' That's success. SCB: What advice would you give to retail and mixed-use properties that have little or no budget for events? Gillespie: Find community partners or sponsors who will benefit by what you can offer and provide the space for them to activate. Work with retailers to expand be- yond their lease lines and offer programs in the common areas or gathering places, like cooking demos, yoga classes, DIY classes and makeovers or face painting courtesy of cosmetic retailers. Our Tot Spot program at Atlantic Station draws 50 to 100 caregivers with kids every Tuesday morning from 10 a.m. to noon and our start-up expense on that program was less than $500 for signage and lawn games. We promote kids' meals, and children's stores. Yoga in the Park draws 60 to 80 yogis each week with minimal costs of sig- nage and a staff person to run music. Our fitness retailers participate and help pro- mote. There are creative ways to activate and energize spaces by utilizing onsite and community resources that align with your property goals. The key is to be more than just another place to go, become the place to be — a hub of activity delivering memo- rable experiences for all. At the holidays, for example, our team looked for creative ways to transform Avalon into something magical filled with delights and surprises — a winter wonderland — from nightly snow shows, a dazzling holiday tree, thousands of twinkling lights, an eclectic, whimsical 'Santhropologie' Workshop, the Rocke- feller Center-sized ice rink and Avalon's Holiday Express train, designed to whisk children from one experience to the next; the stage was set for an immersive experi- ence. At St. Patrick's Day, during 'Luck of Avalon,' we set the stage for a great cel- ebration drawing 10,000-plus and added a pub crawl that included both retailers and restaurants — the crawl had 27 stops. SCB Incorporating retailers into events — and promoting retailers' events — has been part of North American Properties' success. Pictured is Avalon in Alpharetta, Georgia.

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