Who’s Helping Who

In General, Retail Thoughts on August 6, 2010 at 11:47 am

In one of my first posts on this blog (link) I referenced a popular retail real estate magazine, Retail Traffic, and touched on my belief that its writers were missing the mark a bit in analyzing 2009 by ignoring the exciting growth of small, local, owner-operated business (restaurants especially) during the recession — The article was dramatically titled “2009: The Most Difficult Year in Retail Real Estate History.” Now, a half-year later, Retail Traffic is finally starting to pay proper attention to small locals, which I think is because institutional Landlords and mall developers are too. Here are two recent headlines, both from July 20th:

“Local Restaurants Can Be A Point of Distinction for Mall” & “Landlords Can Help Small Restaurants Find Success.”

Great stuff, right? Here’s the one thing that really bothers me about the second headline though…  is it really the Landlords that “can help” the small restaurants? Let’s be honest here, many of the mall LLs that are now looking to locals are doing so because they have to – Quiznos, Cold Stone Creamery, Circuit City, etc. have been shuttering and LLs need to fill dark spaces.  The examples of chain closing and LLs looking to replace with locals are abundant here in Boston Metro (Crema Cafe replaced Au Bon Pain on Brattle St. in Harvard Sq; BerryLine replaced Robecks at the Trilogy Blding near Fenway; Blue State Coffee is moving into a space that Cold Stone abandoned on BU’s West Campus; etc.).

Unlike Retail Traffic, I think it’s primarily the small restaurants that are helping Landlords find success, not the opposite.  Well, actually, it’s a mutually beneficial process.  Ah yes, mutual benefit… (read more)

I stand by what I wrote back in early January: “Small, local, owner-operated retailers are more relevant in 2010 than they were in years prior.  To me, this is a great thing.  For urban retail, this is a great thing.  This is a theme that will be at the heart of CityRetail’s growth this year.”

I sincerely hope that this market reality, which I agree is somewhat spurred by the recession (much innovation / change of business norms comes as result of economic downturn and system failure) continues to develop not out of necessity but out of a desire by Landlords to develop more socially responsible and sustainable retail clusters.  I can promise that CityRetail will never lose sight of the above sentiments.

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