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Unlocking retail center success

Unlocking retail center success August 17, 2023

Chris Maling featured in the “How Did They Do It? Real Estate” podcast

In a recent episode of the How Did They Do It? Real Estate podcast, Avison Young Principal Chris Maling provides insights into the state of the retail market and his team's strategic approach. Chris and his colleagues have been finding success in today’s turbulent landscape by employing goal-oriented, data-driven, and community-centric methods to their transactions.

Reflecting on the current state of commercial real estate (CRE), Chris highlights an encouraging revival of the retail sector. He notes, "Retail had a resurgence, a very positive resurgence, in open-air strip centers…we have a tremendous amount of tenant demand looking for space." As such, Chris and his team have found that retail properties with a high-vacancy factor are an optimal opportunity area. He explains: "Our clients are saying, look, I want to sell my shopping center but I have 40% vacancy. So, we will then lease up the property with the commitment that, if we move the needle, we will then get the investment sale." This offers the property owners an assurance that their assets can be stabilized and provides the Avison Young team an opportunity to deliver significant returns, beyond just leasing up the vacancies.

Three critical elements

So how does one find tenants, fruitfully lease spaces, and satisfy client wishes? Chris breaks the answer down into three major pieces: identifying goals, leveraging data, and communicating with the community.

  1. Maling’s business blueprint begins with narrowing down a client’s needs and finding their “why.” By distinguishing the clients’ objectives, every investment decision made thereafter can be made in service of those objectives. He explains, “We talk to them about what’s their goal? Is it for estate planning purposes? For their kids? Instead of buying just one property, should we buy two or three? Also making considerations based on what the client is interested in.” For example, if they are a gearhead looking to fill a vacancy, AutoZone or O’Reilly’s make great tenants, and the client might enjoy doing business with them more than a clothing store, perhaps.

  2. A second piece of the transaction puzzle is data. Harnessing the power of data analytics allows his team to make informed recommendations to owners. Real estate advisors have access to a huge amount of data these days, and when used wisely, this data allows brokers to identify tenants that will do well with the community and cater to the unique needs of the property.

  3. Finally, a successful strategy must extend beyond the numbers. An essential, and often overlooked, piece of the CRE puzzle is engaging with the community. The AY team makes a point to listen and align their tactics with the visions of people within the community to yield positive outcomes. Chris states, “We engage the community because we want them to have, in essence, some ownership… You have to understand and take the extra step to really engage and listen, and find out what the community wants.”

Listen to the full podcast to hear examples and innovative ways to create value, cultivate thriving communities, and succeed in even the most challenging environments.