The ICSC Blog

September 17, 2014

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ICSC Retailer of the Week: Central Perk

This week’s Retailer of the Week is Central Perk. Yes you heard that right, the famous fictional coffee shop from the ever-popular sitcom “Friends” is real and now open in Manhattan SoHo neighborhood. This iteration of the shop is a pop-up shop brought to you by Warner Bros and Eight O’Clock Coffee to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the show.

People lined up as early as 6am to get their chance to sit on the big orange couch that Monica, Chandler, Ross, Rachael, Joey and Phoebe once sat on. Free coffee was served and patrons had the chance to purchase memorabilia including shirts, mugs, and of course coffee. A large TV hangs on the walls where you can watch old episodes and every Friday night there will be live performances, including everyone’s favorite “Smelly Cat.”

The store will only be open until October 18th, so don’t miss out on your chance to relive some of the good times the old gang had.

September 16, 2014

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Three Things for National Developers to Consider When Moving to a Local Market

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By: Jill Krupp de Uribe, Neoscape

Across the nation, the retail market is being driven by tenants demanding Class A space, which is in short supply almost everywhere, while the growth of e-commerce, especially in apparel, consumer electronics and office supplies, is slowing construction of brick-and-mortar stores. And yet mixed-use real estate developments have never been more popular because of the proven success that can arise out of combining housing, retail and office space.

For national developers, it may be tempting to take a cookie-cutter approach when it comes to building mixed-use in various markets across the country. But, as with politics, it’s all local. There are, however, ways to maximize success. Here are three items that should always be evaluated.

  • Find the need: This may seem obvious, but sometimes lasting perceptions of a particular city or region can die hard, making it easy to overlook opportunities. For example, according to Cassidy Turley’s State of Commercial Real Estate Development Across the U.S. Fall 2014, Baltimore’s population is steadily increasing for the first time in 60 years.
  • Tailor the amenities: Tastes can vary by zip code. In New York City, developers are going to extremes to find ways to differentiate their projects, especially when it comes to residential mixed-use, from wine cellars and indoor play spaces for kids, to rock climbing walls. In Boston, playing up a commercial building’s location, especially in an emerging district (such as the Seaport), can be considered a unique amenity. For example, the new and highly anticipated Assembly Square mixed-use development in Somerville just got its own MBTA station on the Orange Line. Athletic company New Balance is building a new headquarters called Boston Landing, a mixed-use development that will include its own commuter rail stop.
  • Make the marketing shine: The amount of saturation in cities like New York means developers need to leverage more marketing strategies than they do in Boston or Orlando or smaller markets. Marketing materials that help you stand out include: a strong brand identity, website, apps, films, print collateral, advertising, and even a marketing center. Especially for busy executives and tech-savvy young professionals, an iPad app can be the most effective way to show the layout of the future development. It’s all about having a comprehensive and cohesive campaign, giving people various touch points to interact with the story before the shovel even goes into the ground to build the development. Evaluate how it would be best to get peoples’ attention in your new city.

While following national trends in commercial real estate is essential, what works in one city doesn’t always work in another.

Jill Krupp de Uribe is creative director at Neoscape.

September 15, 2014

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Teach Them to Tweet, Creative Brand Advocates for a Lifetime


A special ICSC webinar, Wednesday, September 18


Your company is ready to go social, but are your coworkers? A socially engaged and knowledgeable workforce can accelerate brand advocacy and enhance departmental objectives. While Altimeter Group reports that 62% of companies do not have an internal social media training program in place, only 43% identified this as a top social priority in 2014.

In this complimentary ICSC webinar featuring Michael Blondé, Education Business Development Manager at Hootsuite, attendees will learn:

  • How social media can enhance top departmental and company-wide goals
  • How to engage your workforce on social for exponential impact and growth
  • Relevant company examples and case studies of social success
  • Hootsuite’s six-step model to becoming a social business

In 45 minutes, you’ll gain industry insights and knowledge on how to integrate and scale social media across your organization, and significantly contribute to your company’s bottom line.

Time zone difference? Schedule conflict? Don’t worry! All registrants will receive a link to the webinar recording within 24 hours after the event, which you can watch at your convenience if you are unable to attend the live presentation.

Presenter: Michael Blondé, Business Development Manager, Education, Hootsuite
Michael Blondé is tasked with creating education rooted initiatives at Hootsuite, in order to support professionals, businesses and large enterprises in their digital transformation by addressing today’ growing digital skills gap. Most recently, he led the launch of the Advanced Social Media Strategy certification, a partnership with one of North America’s premier Communication Schools–Newhouse at Syracuse University.

Moderator: Jesse Tron, Manager, Communications & Media Relations, ICSC
Jesse Tron has been with ICSC for 6 years and handles communications and public relations. He is also in charge of the association’s brand management, recently completing their first-ever branding manual and implementation process. Jesse believes that good PR is built on the principals of content creation, storytelling and successful brand building — all of which he is busy implementing into ICSC’s latest push for greater industry awareness.

September 3, 2014

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Check out ICSC Retailer of the Week, Potatopia

If you like potatoes, then you will love this retail concept – a fast casual restaurant with an entirely potato-based menu! Potatopia has something for every potato lover. In addition to traditional fries, Potatopia offers mashed, smashed, baked, sweet, and many other kinds of potatoes. This serves as the base of the meal, with meats, vegetables, cheeses, and sauces added in to balance out the dish. Potatopia is committed to communicating with customers through social media, and encourages customers to also engage by creative drawings on the blank Potato sheets that allow them to represent themselves as a potato.

CEO and Founder Allen Dikker says that Potatopia does well when positioned near dessert shops like Hagan Daas that complement the salty potato dishes. It can operate well in small spaces, and is flexible with the amount of square feet in its stores. Potatopia has locations in the West Village of New York City, the Menlo Park Mall in Edison, NJ, and the newest location in the Staten Island Mall. The fun, delicious concept will be expanding further this fall with franchises opening in the Newport Centre Mall, the Roosevelt Field Mall, and elsewhere. For more information about Potatopia, check out the official website.

August 27, 2014

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Good Things Happening with Expanding Retailer Wafels & Dinges

In 2007, the King of Belgium heard that the waffle situation in America was dire. Pancake batter was being used to make waffles, and they were being paired with completely inauthentic toppings. In order to improve the situation and ensure that Americans would be exposed to authentic Belgian waffles, he appointed Thomas DeGeest and Rossanna Figuera as the Special Envoy for Wafels and the Ambassador of Good Things, respectively, under the Belgian Ministry of Culinary Affairs, Department of Wafels. (Or so DeGeest and Figuera tell us.)

Since the first waffle truck in 2007, DeGeest and Figuera have gone on to open five mobile kiosks, a flagship café, and another food truck. In addition to sweet and savory waffles and toppings, Wafels and Dinges also serves ice cream, coffee, shakes, and more. They are looking to continue expanding in select locations across the United States. For more information about Wafels and Dinges, check out the official website.

August 20, 2014

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Learn More About Expanding Retailer Luke’s Lobster

Anyone who has experienced a fresh lobster meal understands how special it is, especially when you are on the island of Manhattan instead of an island off the coast of Maine. Luke’s Lobster has helped fill this void for lobster-loving New Yorkers, with locations all over Manhattan and in some other mid-Atlantic states.

Of course, the pinnacle of the menu is the Lobster Roll, which is the most authentic tasting and reasonably priced you will find in the city at only $15 and without lots of celery or avocado as fillers. Other seafood sandwiches like crab and shrimp rolls are favorites as well. All of Luke’s lobster meat comes from Maine, where fishermen abide by strict rules to protect the species from overfishing practices.

The newest location is on E. 43rd St in Midtown East. The next Luke’s Lobster location will be in Park Slope, Brooklyn. For more information about Luke’s locations and menus, check out the official website.

August 13, 2014

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Expanding Retailer Blink Fitness Opens Bryant Park Location

Price and location are two very important factors in choosing which gym to join, and for many people, the top two reasons not to join a gym. Blink Fitness aims to avoid these problems with cheap membership fees and convenient locations. Although there are no group classes or towels, the Equinox-owned gym is conscious of its members’ needs, offering WiFi and plenty of televisions to enhance the Blink experience. Blink Bryant Park opened on Tuesday, July 22nd, marking the chain’s 29th location. For more information, check out Blink’s official website.

August 6, 2014

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Q & A with Alexandra Dunk, Marketing Manager at Boloco


What is the concept of Boloco?
“We are a family of 22 restaurants serving globally inspired burritos, bowls, smoothies, and shakes. Our mission is to positively impact the lives and futures of Our People through bold and inspired food and practices. We believe that we can achieve that impact with a burrito, so we say that even a burrito aspires.”

Describe who your customer is.
“We think (and hope!) that we appeal to everyone. We are committed to offering our guests options, which broadens our appeal. For example, we offer bowls and burritos, we offer different sizes, and every menu item is completely customizable.”

Tell us what you think draws people to your restaurant.
“We hold ourselves to high expectations and we strive to wow our guests with our innovative food, our service, and the atmosphere in our restaurants. We want our restaurants to be somewhere you want to hang out and to be a part of the community.”

What are the space criteria for your locations?
“We would look for 2000 to 2400 square feet. And, speaking to our identity, the personality of the space and its place in the community are important as well.”

There are so many different menu items to choose from. Which are most popular and why?
“The Buffalo (spicy buffalo sauce, blue cheese dressing, celery, boloco rice) is definitely a top seller and The Cajun (roasted corn salsa, creole sour cream, black beans, boloco rice) is a guest favorite, but our guests also love the option to “goloco,” or put together their own globally inspired concoctions. Our guests have come up with some pretty inventive creations over the years.”

What role, if any, do customers play in deciding which burrito flavors are created?
“We always take our guests’ feedback into consideration! In the past, there have been flavors that we rolled out as limited time offerings and guests enjoyed them so much that we made them permanent menu items – a great example of this is the Tikka Masala burrito and bowl. We also love to get our guests involved in the menu development process. For example, we held a contest via social media to name our new limited time smoothie, the Tropi-Kale. We have unbelievably creative guests and we want their input!”

What times during the day and which days during the week do you see an increase in customer traffic?
“Lunchtime is always a busy one, especially Monday – Friday when you have working professionals stopping in, but each location has its own busy times depending on where they are located. Our Boston locations are really busy during the school year, particularly the ones near college campuses.”

How are you using technology/social media to enhance the Boloco experience?
“Our mantra is that we’re “always listening,” especially via social media. Guest feedback is so key. Whether a guest emails, tweets, Instagrams, or posts on Yelp or Facebook about their experience at boloco, we respond to any and all feedback. Social media is a great and quick way to know how we’re doing. We really do take our guests’ experiences to heart. We work to make it right with the guest if the situation calls for it, or to give kudos to team members that went above and beyond.”

What’s next for Boloco? Where are you looking to expand?
“What’s next for us? We always have something up our sleeve ;) We have some new menu items in the works with our Director of Culinary, Eric Kinniburgh (aka the Good Food Dude).

As for our next location, we are always taking suggestions. We would love to open more locations in New England and stay close to our roots as a Boston Local Company.”

What other retailer adjacencies do you see next to you?
“Specifically within the burrito space, the easy answer would be Chipotle, Qdoba, & other more mom-and-pop burrito joints. But really, you have a lot of retailers operating within the “fast casual” space, including: Panera, Sweetgreen, Protein Bar, Pret a Manger, and many more.”

For more information about Boloco, check out the official website.

August 4, 2014

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Q&A with MOCIAL Speaker Natanya Anderson

Natanya AndersonTell us about yourself….
I am responsible for social media, email, and other digital communications for the Whole Foods Market brand. Outside of work I am a mom to an active teenager, a food blogger, and a member of several non-profit organizations.

What is your favorite apps to use?
My favorite productivity app is Evernote because I can store any information I need to and access it from any connected device. I keep track of everything from work meeting notes and strategy plans to family to-do lists and blog post drafts. My favorite “just for fun” app is Instagram. I’m one of those people who takes photos of almost everything I eat and I love seeing my friends worlds via imagery.

With society’s increasing dependence on technology, what changes in marketing strategies has it made in last few years?
Technology has given our customers a strong voice and an always-on expectation. They expect to be part of the conversation and to be able to have that conversation with a brand whenever and wherever they would like. This not only changes how we think about communications and cadence but the ways in which we create truly compelling engagements instead of pretty ads and witty copy. We have to focus our energies now on building relationships with customers through technology.

What have been the benefits of incorporating digital marketing and mobile apps into your corporation?
We have access to the voice of our customer in ways we’ve never before experienced. We can ask them questions and get quick, honest (usually brutally honest) responses back. We also have the opportunity to engage with them in 1×1 conversations that non-digital marketing formats don’t typically provide. We can also be with them every single day, even when they aren’t in our stores, so we can be constantly of service to them, building a long-term and differentiated relationship.

In what ways has the digital age revitalized your industry?
The retail experience is becoming technologically enhanced, with digital devices establishing themselves in the store environment. Merchandising can have quick-change digital elements, people can look up pricing and review information before they buy a product in store – not just online. Customers can also share their retail experiences as they happen and create greater community around the retail environment. People shop with mobile devices as part of the experience now and that’s transformational for the customer experience.

How important is consumer engagement? How do you bring attention to your brand through you social media channels/mobile apps?
Consumer engagement is everything to us. If the consumer isn’t engaged the the work we’re doing simply doesn’t matte because it isn’t reaching our customer. We work every day to build relationships in social media so when we have stories to tell our customers are ready to hear them. We differentiate ourselves by focusing on customer lifestyles, desires, and dreams long before we focus on any marketing messaging.

What do you hope participants will gain by attending your MOCIAL session?
With so many digital communication opportunities today it can be difficult for businesses to narrow the list to the ones most beneficial to their business and their customers. I hope to provide some actionable advice on how to pick the digital marketing approaches that will really work for a business and remove some of the pressure for every business to participate in every possible opportunity.

Is the increasing number of online shoppers a concern to you?
The proliferation of online shoppers creates an opportunity and a challenge for retailers because we have to be very thoughtful about how we differentiate the in-store experience. We have to listen to our customers more than and ever and tap into the benefits an in-store experience can bring that simply can’t be duplicated by an online experience. This will change the retail landscape and it may be difficult for a while, but the truly innovative and connected retailers will emerge with new and better customer experiences that will serve everyone better. Online shoppers are simply a forcing function for improving the in-store experience.

July 31, 2014

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Q&A with MOCIAL speaker Alan McKeon

McKeon, AlanTell us about yourself….
I’m Alan McKeon, CEO of Alexander Babbage a consumer insights company that works with physical destinations such as shopping centers, sports arenas, the arts and retailers. We help them understand who their customer is, why they come to the shopping center, how to engage the customer and how to drive additional spending and loyalty.

What is your favorite apps to use?
Uber. I travel all the time and find the combination of real-time availability, ease of ordering and ease of payment as a great example of re-thinking a customer experience in the physical world and enhancing it with technology.

With society’s increasing dependence on technology, what changes in marketing strategies has it made in last few years?
Marketing has moved from being a source of potential competitive advantage to being a strategic differentiator and the primary driver of revenue. Almost all store sales growth has been from companies who have identified their core target market and are optimizing all of their experiences around that target. At the high end with growth in Experience (e.g. Nordstrom) or the low end with growth in Value (e.g. TJMaxx) sales growth is accruing to those retailers who are focused on experiences tailored for specific customer targets. As technology makes it easier to target and market to individual customers in a way they want to be spoken to, those who understand and drive customer engagement will continue to be the winners.

What have been the benefits of incorporating digital marketing and mobile apps into your corporation?
We work with senior executives responsible for strategy, marketing, leasing and development. If you had told me five years ago it was possible for them to get more done in their day then I would have laughed – but sure enough they have even more to do today and very little bandwidth to do it. To communicate with them through LinkedIn, Newsle and other tools that keep our thought leadership articles in front of them but at a time that is convenient to them is essential to our success.

In what ways has the digital age revitalized your industry?
The digital age has provided an explosion of data about where the consumer is going and what they are spending money on. This “big data” is both wonderful for providing us data in great detail that we previously could only gather at great cost but at the same time is overwhelming to many clients. What, exactly, do they do as a result of the information? That’s where we come in. The digital age is allowing companies, like ours, who truly understand the what, why and how of consumer behavior to provide customer insights that can drive critical business metrics such as the right traffic, from the right target market with the right retail spending.

How important is consumer engagement? How do you bring attention to your brand through you social media channels/mobile apps?
Customer engagement is critical to our clients. Shopping centers have a choice of providing either basic needs fulfillment or lifestyle enhancement – think of the difference between a basic grocery anchored strip and the same strip center if the grocery store is replaced by a Whole Foods or a farmers market. These retail concepts are based in customer engagement and to be successful shopping centers must understand and engage their customers at a whole new level otherwise their value will be reduced.

What do you hope participants will gain by attending your MOCIAL session?
My session is Social Media – Who’s winning the battle for the shopper’s wallet? We’ll be studying how social media is being harnessed to overcome the omni-channel challenge by looking at social media and consumer insights to understand how to identify, motivate and drive shoppers to a center. What should a centers mix of platforms, content, communications and frequency ideally be? Participants will come away with strategies they can put into place tomorrow to increase their shopper engagement. In my session we’ll be discussing a ski resort operator in the U.S. Is using RFID, mobile apps, game-ification and social media to build guest loyalty and drive frequency at their resorts. The tactics they are using have great implications for shopping centers.

Is the increasing number of online shoppers a concern to you?
Yes and no. Over 80% of shopping center inclined purchases are still made in physical stores – it all comes down to the engagement and experience. In some categories such as books, movies, games the online experience is better than the retail experience. In others such as apparel and shoes, consumers tell us the ease of shopping, selecting and purchasing is so much easier in a physical store than online. We see retail evolving quickly to satisfy basic consumer needs and delivering enhanced experiences that connect with consumers. Entertainment and restaurants – well, clearly those can be engaging experiences that are enhanced by technology but never replaced.