The ICSC Blog

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.


July 30, 2014
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Q&A with MOCIAL Speaker Becky Bui

Becky Bui_03-2014Tell us about yourself.
I’m originally from Owasso, Oklahoma, but have lived in Austin for 15 years. I love everything about this city: the people, the food, the music, and the laid-back culture. I studied advertising at the University of Texas and then returned to UT in 2006 to get my MBA. I have an amazing husband, Ben, a beautiful 10 month old daughter named Berkeley, and two rescue dogs named Jordy and Gabe. In addition to spending time with my family, I love to practice yoga, travel, cheer on the Longhorns (much to the display of my OU-loving family), visit wineries and breweries, and try out new restaurants (especially Sunday brunches!)

What are your favorite apps to use?
I love any app that makes my life easier! Uber makes transportation a breeze, especially if I find myself facing a long cab line or trying to hail a taxi in a snowstorm. Evernote is great for keeping my notes organized and accessible across devices. I love being able to capture notes when they pop in my head, which is normally when I’m nowhere near my desk.  I do all of my expense reports through an app my company uses called Concur, which I like to joke has been a life-changer. It’s just crazy to think that a few years ago I had to save receipts, tape them to an piece of paper, make a copy, and staple them together before submitting…and now I can simply take a photo on my phone and hit submit. Retailers don’t like to hear this one, but I really do enjoy the Amazon app. Amazon had done an amazing job of making shopping so incredibly easy with barcode scanning and one-click purchasing. I can’t talk about apps without mentioning Facebook, of course, since it’s the first, last and most frequent app that I check each day!

With society’s increasing dependence on technology, what changes in marketing strategies has it made in last few years? 
Great question. The first is that people are omnichannel.
People are consuming more media than ever. In fact, 79% of smartphone users keep their phones with them for all but two hours of their waking day. (Source: IDC Always Connected Report, US, March 2013) The more businesses shift their marketing resources and activities to reflect people’s behavior,  the better results they’re seeing. Importantly, as people increasingly connect on mobile devices throughout their day, they expect seamlessness experiences—seamlessness across their devices (mobile versus desktop) and seamlessness with their experiences in-store and online. Add Facebook’s massive reach and targeting capabilities to that dynamic and personalizing these experiences not only makes for more effective marketing, but it enhances that customer’s experience with your business. Personalizing experiences for shoppers—with perfectly timed and tailored messages—and having a presence on all of the devices they use throughout their day is critical to every stage of the purchase funnel. Because people spend more time on Facebook than any other platform, reaching all of the people who matter to your business has never been easier or more effective. Second, merchandising. Most people don’t know what they want, which gives retailers tremendous opportunity to inspire ideas through merchandising. But as people spend more time on mobile, discovery becomes increasingly difficult for marketers and shoppers alike. With people checking Facebook an average of 14x per day, retailers can use the visual canvas of News Feed to showcase products in-stream with ad units that are optimized to drive sales. Third, return on investment is key to the story. The path to purchase has become increasingly complex, particularly as people discover, research, and shop for products across channels and devices. Because Facebook’s data is based on people’s real identities—not user names, proxies  or email addresses—advertisers can not only personalize and time what their customer sees, but they can accurately measure and optimize performance across channels. With Facebook’s complete measurement solution, you can close the loop between ad spend and conversion, no matter where it happened — in-store, online or in mobile app.

What have been the benefits of incorporating digital marketing and mobile apps into your corporation? 
The major benefit is that our clients and the 1B+ people who use Facebook around the world have better experiences. Because we are a mobile-first company businesses can leverage Facebook to reach people where they are spending their time. This is critical as people increasingly shop, share, and conduct business on their smartphones. For context, 1 in 5 minutes spent on mobile devices in the US is spent on a Facebook or Instagram. This provides businesses with an incredible opportunity to get their messages in front of the people they care about.

What do you hope participants will gain by attending your MOCIAL session? 
I hope to give participants confidence in embracing the digital transformation rather than feeling overwhelmed by it.  I’d like participants to walk away feeling excited about the opportunity to use Facebook to connect with all the people they care about, across the devices, and feel good about how other retailers are already doing it so they can put Facebook to work for their business right away.

Is the increasing number of online shoppers a concern to you? 
While the vast majority of retails sales still happen in store, the shift to online shopping is something we’re going to see more of. This can be very good for our industry. As I mentioned earlier, the notion of people expecting seamlessness across their devices and in their experiences is an important one because it highlights the needs to be omnichannel in a now-omnichannel world. I firmly believe that all retailers—brick-and-mortar only, web-only, or multichannel—have the opportunity to influence customers who are shopping online. Often times, online shopping just means a person is discovering new brands and products when consuming other content. Brands that can ensure their products are a part of that experience will continue to influence the consumer purchase path, regardless of where the final transaction takes place.

July 30, 2014
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Check Out Retailer of the Week, The Organic Pharmacy

Most people associate organic products with food, but The Organic Pharmacy makes handmade, luxurious, organic products available in every department of body care from makeup to skincare to supplements and more. The London-based brand is dedicated to bringing the best quality product to clients and curing ailments from the inside out with organic ingredients and homeopathic professionals assessing customers’ needs.

The Organic Pharmacy opened its first New York location at the end of June. Founder Margo Marrone says the next step in expanding is a flagship store in Hong Kong. While The Organic Pharmacy is all over Europe and expanding in North America, this will be the first Organic Pharmacy store in Asia. “We usually look for other luxury skin care brands and fashion brands that have a similar customer profile and who will attract additional footfall,” Margo says of the brand’s preferred retailer adjacencies. For more information about The Organic Pharmacy, check out the official website.

July 29, 2014
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ICSC CEO Updates the Next Generation of the Shopping Center Industry

By Veronica Polanco

Michael Kercheval, CEO of ICSC provided young industry professionals with an update on where the future of the retail real estate industry is headed and the secret as to why it’s still a thriving, creative sector in business at the 2014 ICSC Next Generation Conference in Philadelphia. He pointed out that there are several misconceptions regarding the industry lately that have been presented in the media.

However, the narrative is changing.

Currently, 94% of retail sales occur in store. This past year, retailers announced 2,000 store openings while occupancy rates have been steadily rising and base rents have seen an increase in 2013. Demand for shopping center space has been vastly outpacing supply and even online retailers have been opening up their own brick-and-mortar stores, proving that consumers still value the in-store shopping experience.

The second misunderstanding is that the industry is irrelevant and nonadaptive. Yet retail is constantly changing to accommodate the consumer. Consumer desires and interests are now driven by a multi-channel, nonlinear process as customers use mobile devices, social media and internet research to keep up with trends in the industry. Retailers have been using technology to facilitate sales by adapting trends like in-store pickup, mobile self-checkout, “web rooming” and guide shops. While it’s true that e-commerce sales are growing, the in-store shopping experience offers what online cannot.

What’s next in the future of retail is up to the next generation. Kercheval encouraged future leaders to use the changing times as an opportunity for creativity. The retail industry has always reacted and adopted and the rise in technology won’t be an exception.

July 28, 2014
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Learning from a Pro at ICSC Next Gen Conf


By Elana Krasner


Regency Centers is one of the largest owners of shopping centers across the country, and is also leading the way in grocery-anchored assets, a huge trend throughout the industry–that has helped reinvent and revitalize the typical shopping center. To help educate future industry leaders, Alan Roth, Senior Vice President and Senior Marketing Officer, Regency Centers, presented a case study of Kings Park Shopping Center in Washington, D.C., at ICSC’s annual Next Generation Conference in Philadelphia.


King’s Park Shopping Center faced a challenge in a highly competitive marketplace as its grocery store, which anchors the property, was undersized, outdated, and quickly approaching an option notice date.  In order for the center to thrive in an area that was saturated with other grocers like Whole Foods and Safeway, Regency considered its options; was an expansion feasible? Studies showed that 50-60,000 sq. ft. is the ‘sweet spot’ for most grocery stores, and the Giant at Kings Park was only 28,000. By taking a look at the lease terms and provisions, exclusion terms, and recapture clauses, Regency was able to determine whether or not an expansion would help bring life back into the shopping center. *Spoiler Alert* Giant is currently closed while the store is undergoing a renovation that will significantly increase the store size, and better serve the 125,000 residents in the center’s direct trade area.


Roth noted that there were several key things in play here; first and foremost was thinking about the property strategically. What was happening in the direct trade area? Taking a look at other properties, Roth noted that there was direct competition just down the road from Kings Park. He also noted that a major expansion may take a bite out of the other tenants’ space, so it’s important for an owner or landlord to also control the adjacent shop space.


While each shopping center varies in its nuances and needs, the take away from the Kings Park Shopping Center expansion was that it took an eye for the big picture, from competition to market size, to really determine if an expansion is feasible, and more than that, worth it.