Sep 26

4 Things Retailers Can Do to Prepare for Holiday Shoppers

With a competitive shopping season just a couple of months away, brokers and e-commerce executives share their tips for small businesses looking to stand out.

Even though we’re only at the tail end of summer, retailers have already spent months gearing up for holiday shopping season.

And due to a tornado of factors – including inflation, supply-chain woes and consumer spending habits that changed during COVID-19 lockdowns – retailers are looking ahead to a shopping season that promises to be even more challenging than usual.

It’s critical to prepare for the holiday season, because Black Friday and the weeks beyond can make or break a brick-and-mortar store, says Richard Rizika, partner and co-founder of Beta Agency, a commercial real estate agency based in greater Los Angeles. Rizika was also a vice chair in the retail services group at CBRE, one of the world’s largest commercial real estate investment firms.

“Many of the merchants haven’t made money this year, and are counting on that push through the holiday season to produce the profits,” Rizika says. “If things fall flat, or you miss the merchandise or the consumer just doesn’t show up, it can be tragic.”

Thankfully, there are things business owners can do to set themselves apart amid a shopping environment that’s even more cutthroat than usual.

1. Get the word out about holiday sales early

Gone are the days of consumers idly wandering the neighborhood or the mall and popping into stores. Today’s consumers are doing far more research before stepping foot into a store than they ever have, says Sean Turner, co-founder and chief technology officer of Swiftly, an e-commerce technology company.

“I think the biggest thing is being able to get the word out to consumers effectively to celebrate the savings and deals that they have,” Turner says. “Consumers have gotten a lot more planful.”

It’s a smart strategy for retailers to advertise their upcoming holiday sales as much as possible: through in-store signs, yes, but mostly through their websites and social media presence. Those are the platforms customers are checking before they choose whether to visit a store, expecially if they’re planning to spend more than they typically do on nonessential items.

“Show them great savings and deals to drive that trip,” Turner says.

2. Better yet, launch sales earlier than your competitors

Sure, you can get customers excited about your upcoming sales. You could also roll out those sales earlier than your competitors, and even before the holiday season unofficially kicks off with Black Friday (Nov. 25 this year).

“Don’t be afraid if you’re a retailer and a good operator to make those deals available earlier than you have in the past,” says Jason Baker, principal at Baker Katz, a Houston-based retail brogerage.

Even if you can’t roll out your landmark sales before the holiday season, consider offering smaller sales now to entice shoppers into your store. If they aren’t familiar with your brand, those sales could bring customers back to complete their holiday shopping with you in a couple of months.

“Retail’s an early-bird game,” Turner says. “The first place you see the deal and you decide to buy it – guess what? That’s a product you’re not buying at another retailer.”

3. Have a top-notch website

If your store doesn’t already have a website, it’s too late to make that happen before this year’s holiday season, Baker says. If you have one, make sure it’s at least fully operational, user-friendly and completely up to date on your current inventory and availability. It’s a good time to polish your social media presence as well.

Retailers can optimize their website for heavy holiday traffic by “clearly marking which merchandise is out of stock or unavailable and sharing delivery options up front,” says Peter Messana, CEO of Searchspring, an e-commerce software company.

Of course, these improvements aren’t needed just for the holiday season. Roughly 17.2% of all retail sales happen online, excluding cars and restaurant purchases, according to CBRE. And around 80% of shoppers first search for a store’s website before visiting the brick-and-mortar storefront, according to a 2021 survey conducted by Visual Objects, a creative design directory.

The best retailers, Rizika says, are “not only engaging while they are open – they’re engaging while they are closed.”

“Talk to the consumer and sell to the consumer while your doors are closed, through your ability to engage with them online whether that’s with a great website or social media,” Rizika says.

4. Create an inviting place that’s more fun than online shopping

No longer is it enough for brick-and-mortar storefronts to showcase top-notch products and services. Today’s businesses need to make the store a destination that’s even better than the conveniences of online shopping.

“To use the store as a competitive advantage to me is something that the small business has to learn how to do,” Rizika says.

These improvements don’t have to be huge. If you’re in a temperate climate that allows year-round patio seating, consider setting up a couple of chairs or tables outside your store if that’s permitted. Maximize your store’s natural lighting. Set up some pretty, place-making plants around the store. Heck, see if there’s room for a comfy couch or some stylish chairs at the front of the store.

The point is, think about small ways to activate the space.

“Owners thinking about their places as brands, and trying to connect their brand with the consumer, is something you’re seeing great retailers have done for a long time, and more and more retailers are starting to recognize that trend,” Rizika says. “All these things that have become more and more important to us as consumers.”

by Cara Smith, NerdWallet

Read the Full Original Article Here

Sep 9

5Qs for Jason Baker about retail expansion in Houston

Houston is big and getting bigger, says one of the top retail real estate brokers in the market.

Retailers looking to expand in the Lone Star State think Dallas first. The rampant corporate and residential expansion in the northern suburbs marks a big red “X” on the spot. But Jason Baker, a principal in the Baker Katz brokerage that focuses on tenant representation in Houston, thinks that his town rivals it. “Houston is now a must for retailers,” he says. We asked him to tell us why H-Town deserves a big red “X” of its own.

Houston’s a hot market in a very hot state for retail expansion. How much new retail space is under construction here?

So many retailers are looking to Houston for their next location, but supply chain backlogs and inflationary pressures on building materials have made it really challenging for them to actually develop. We are encouraged by the pipeline of site plans, but very little is coming out of the ground right now.

Are fewer spaces becoming available as current tenants hold onto their spots?

After the COVID-influenced lull, retailers started to expand, and spaces that had been sitting on the market for years are now all leased. I do anticipate that we’ll get space back from retailers who were struggling before the pandemic. They did really well during the past two years, but have now returned to financial distress. Bed Bath & Beyond is one example that comes to mind. A lot of grocers that had come into the market have been closing, so many of those spaces are being backfilled. We have a client with a 40,000-sq.-ft. requirement that’s taken some of those spaces.

Lots of retail tenants are introducing smaller footprints. You see that happening in Houston?

We are absolutely seeing retailers downsize their retail spaces in Houston, however, smaller spaces were being considered well before the pandemic. For stores like Best Buy and PetSmart, it’s more about the optimization per square foot versus having outdates store formats that are unnecessarily large. You see retailers taking half the space they’d normally take as they work out an equilibrium between online presence and physical presence.

What are some of the brands expanding in the Houston metro?

Brands within almost every category of food continue to aggressively grow across Houston — from drive-thru-only and fast-casual concepts to full-service operators. Fitness, too, seems to be a growing segment again. EOS Fitness out of San Dieng is leading the way with new health clubs across Dallas and Houston. Burlington, Ulta, Five Below, and Dick’s Sporting Goods are popping up on a handful of site plans too.

Tell us the three best reasons retail, service, and food & beverage brands should be doing business in Houston.

We’re a city of 7.5 million and on course to get to 10 or 11 million. We’re a big city with great access. The Grand Parkway project is almost finished and, at 180 miles, it will be the largest loop around any city in the United States. Most new construction is happening along the Parkway. Houston is a flagship market now. It’s always been big, but now it’s getting bigger.

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