Thursday, July 21, 2011

July Commentary: The Boston ICSC & The Decline of the Document

Here’s a question for you: what is a document? What, in these digital days, constitutes that item we refer to as a document: a letter, a brochure, a contract, a lease exhibit, a newsletter? For example, this newsletter: you received it, and are likely reading it, online. When I started at KeyPoint Partners, this newsletter was largely faxed or mailed. It was designed and laid out according to the traditional parameters of printed pages. Now it’s entirely digital; we print a few hard copies to display in our lobby, but the printed version is modified from the digital version, not vice versa. This is an important difference: we’re no longer delivering a printed piece that has been modified so it can be read online; we’re delivering an online piece that could, if necessary, be printed.

I mention all this because The International Council of Shopping Centers New England Idea Exchange & Deal Making was held this month at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. We were of course an exhibitor at the show, one of several ICSC events in which we participate. It was a successful show. by the way. The energy was high and the mood positive. Our booth was quite active, with many solid inquiries about investment sales as well as leasing.

Our market aerial portfolio:
documents delivered digitally
As Marketing Manager, it falls to me to determine how we present ourselves at these shows, and for years this meant the coordination of a large amount of paper. Picture me, and others like me, coordinating the printing of 30 to 50 copies of each leasing brochure for a portfolio of between 80 and 90 properties, and making sure they get to New York or Las Vegas. Now picture show attendees picking up one or two copies of each brochure, and then moving on to the next booth with bulging briefcases.

Our industry has for a long time functioned largely through the exchange of a veritable stream of documents. But really what we are doing is exchanging “parcels of information”, so to speak. That’s what a document is: a parcel of information organized for clear, easy consumption. We brought no leasing brochures to the show this year, but we distributed a lot of information. With all the activity at our booth, although we communicated a great deal to a great many people, we handed out essentially no documents.

Why would we? Our leasing “brochures” are instantly accessed through a phone, our detailed market aerial portfolio can be thoroughly toured via tablet, and complete corporate information including our entire portfolio of listings can be handed to you on a USB drive. These tools have made the task of coordinating “parcels of information” for a trade show exponentially easier – and infinitely more complex.

Of course there will always be “old school”. Many exhibitors are still “paper based, and we’re all still creating documents that look like traditional documents, even if they never physically exist. And there is no digital substitute for a phone call from a broker, or a face to face meeting between a property manager and a client. But the way information is exchanged before and after that call or meeting is profoundly different. What we’re moving toward is not a different way of doing the same thing – it’s doing a different thing entirely. When a document is no longer a document, it can be anything; it can take whatever form you like, and be as long it needs to be.
Our ICSC tradeshow booth graphic: traditional tools of the trade and powerful innovations of the digital age
I was working with one of our brokers recently on a property brochure. We went back and forth about what the “cover” should look like and how much information should be on it, how the ‘center spread” should be laid out, all of the usual issues. We were beating our heads against the limitations of the 4-page, 11” x 17” layout we had used as the basis for the document - until I stopped him and asked him how he intended to distribute the piece. If the primary distribution was going to be online, then we wouldn’t be bound by the format. We could have as many pages as we needed, and they could be different sizes and shapes. We could modify the vehicle to communicate what we needed, rather than fitting what we needed to communicate into an existing vehicle. This may seem like an obvious observation, a “d’uh” moment, but at the time it felt relevatory.

This was all in my head as we updated the large pop-up graphic display we use in our tradeshow booth. The concept is an enlarged image of a busy desktop, on which a variety of elements illustrate the breadth and depth of the many services we provide, our ever-widening business territory, and the types and quality of properties and tenants we deal with. If I say so myself, it’s a fairly striking image, especially when viewed at full size, under the lights of an exhibition venue. The image is a mix of old school elements and new school technology, information organized into recognizable documents, but able to become information simply organized. That’s where we all are right now, still defined by the old, poised on the edge of the paperless new.

Where will we all be the next time we re-design our booth?

Chris Cardoni, Marketing Manager
CCardoni@KeyPointPartners.com



Come see our tradeshow booth at the ICSC New York National Conference & Deal Making in December.

Industry News: National

June same-store sales for the ICSC’s index of major retailers rose by 6.9%. Several factors apparently contributed to the unexpectedly strong sales performance in June, according to the ICSC, such as favorable weather and some increased discounting after a weak May. Slightly higher apparel, food and other commodity prices also may be lifting reported sales. All retailer segments showed gains, with Wholesale Clubs leading at 13.1% and Luxury Stores gaining 9.7. Other segments ran as follows: Department Stores 6.2%, Discounters 4.6%, Apparel 5.5%, and Drugstores 4.0%. Among individual retailers, Gap gained 1.0% and Limited gained 12.8%; Costco was up 14.0% and BJs gained 7.3%. Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus gained 7.9% and 12.5% respectively; Target grew by 4.5% and TJX by 5.0%. Macy’s gained 6.7%, Kohl's rose 7.5%; Walgreens was up 4.8%, and Rite Aid rose 1.8%.

Industry News: Accelerating

Bugaboo Creek Steak House is under new ownership by Capitol BC Restaurants LLC, and open for business at 12 locations in Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York…Private equity firms Leonard Green & Partners and CVC Capital Partners entered into an agreement to purchase BJ’s Wholesale Clubs for $2.8 billion…Ross Stores opened its 1,000th Dress for Less store in North Pleasant Hill, CA…Microsoft plans to open 75 freestanding stores within the next 2 to 3 years. Microsoft has 11 stores across the country…Popeyes has opened its 2,000th restaurant...Yum! Brands has acquired restaurant chain Little Sheep, with 700 locations in China and a few in the US. Yum hopes to build the Little Sheep hot-pot concept into a global brand alongside KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Yum has 38,000 outlets worldwide.

Industry News: Decelerating

Deb Shops announced that it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and sell the women's clothing retailer to its lenders. The company said its 300-plus stores won't be affected by the filing. Under the agreement, a group of Deb Shops' senior lenders, led by Ableco Finance LLC, will acquire the company's assets through a bankruptcy auction. The deal, if it receives court approval, is expected to close in September...Borders Group is seeking court approval to liquidate its 399 stores after it failed to receive any bids that would keep the chain in operation and canceled an auction process. Liquidation sales could start within days. Borders had been seeking a new white knight bidder after a $215 million bid dissolved late last week. Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group will liquidate the chain under terms of the agreement.

Industry News: New England

Walmart has proposed a 114,000-square-foot, two-story store on Route 1 North at 770 Broadway in Saugus, MA…Aldi filed plans to build an 18,000 s/f grocery store at the corner of Reynolds Memorial Highway and Pleasant Street, across from Westgate Mall in Brockton, MA. Aldi has 1,000 American stores in 31 states…General Growth Properties has renamed the Natick Collection with its old name: the Natick Mall. It had been called the Natick Mall since opening in 1966 but was renamed when it was renovated and expanded several years ago…Pinkberry will open a store in Linden Square in Wellesley, MA. Pinkberry has more than 100 stores worldwide, including shops in Hingham, Cambridge and on Newbury Street in Boston…Tech Superpowers, a computer retailer and Apple specialist, has opened its new store at Patriot Place in Foxborough, in addition to the company's original headquarters on Boylston Street in Boston, near where the country's biggest Apple store opened in 2008…Burlington Mall announced new editions to its store line-up. Now open is LittleMissMatched, a store specializing in women’s clothing and accessories. Set to open this month is Swim ‘N Sport, a retailer focused on designer swimwear for women. New restaurants include Spike’s Junkyard Dogs and Stack-a-BurgerSalem Five Cents Savings Bank will take over Stoneham Savings Bank, which has been struggling to rebuild its capital after losing millions of dollars in construction loans. Salem Five currently has 22 branches, with another slated to open in Burlington next quarter. Stoneham Savings has six locations, in Stoneham, Burlington, Malden, North Andover and Tewksbury...Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. has picked a 33,000 s/f property on Granite Street in Braintree spot which was vacated by Linens ’N Things for its first Buybuy Baby store in Massachusetts. Bed Bath & Beyond, said the company expects to open the Braintree store this fall. The company has opened seven Buybuy Baby stores so far this year, and currently has 52 stores across 22 states...The operator of Elephant & Castle pubs, including the one in Bostons’s Financial District, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after defaulting on a loan to a unit of General Electric Co. Elephant and Castle Group Inc., whose headquarters is in Boston, continues to operate its restaurants in the US and Canada. At the end of June, the company employed 866 people. Despite cost-cutting and other moves, the company said it has been unable to make debt service payments to GE Canada. Since April, the company has been trying to sell the company or recapitalize it...A Boston developer unveiled plans to turn the 4-acre Government Center Garage site into a 7-building complex of offices, residences, hotels and stores. The plan calls for preserving much of the existing garage but surrounding it with eight- and 45-story office buildings with 1.2 million square feet of space; two hotels, one 28 stories and the other 22, with a total of 600 rooms; three residential buildings hosting 750 apartments and condos and ranging in height from 12 to 38 stories; 50,000 square feet of retail space...Trinity Financial has negotiated purchase agreements with all of the land owners on the site of its proposed redevelopment of a key downtown Brockton, MA block, and are ready to present their concept to the Planning Board at an informational meeting later this month.The two-phase project would turn the downtown block bordered by Main Street, Petronelli Way, Montello and Centre streets into a mixed-use development with 215 apartments, and thousands of square feet of retail and commercial space. Plans call for the renovation of the former Enterprise building into retail and commercial space and the Gardner Building into 42 apartments marketed to artists. It also calls for the construction of a new 71-unit apartment building on top of a city parking lot, and a new 326-space parking garage to replace the lost surface lot.

KeyPoint Partners News

Stephanie Gunn has joined the Property Management Team as a Property Manager in the Burlington, MA office. Stephanie had most recently been with KGI Properties…Julie Qualey has been promoted to Property Manager. Julie has been with KeyPoint Partners since January of 2008 as an Assistant Property Manager in the Burlington, MA office.

June Retail Sales Report


Notes: figures gathered from individual company websites, press releases, and Federal filings. Not all companies report all figures; results not reported will be marked “n/r”. Quarterly results will be updated when available; quarterly figures are shown in italics. Figures from companies not calculated to one decimal point automatically received an ending digit of 0. *Includes Hannaford Bros., Food Lion, Bloom, Bottom Dollar, Harveys, Kash n' Karry and Sweetbay

Other Financial Indicators for June

Commerce Department Monthly Sales
Retail sales rose a modest 0.1 percent last month, the Commerce Department said. That follows a 0.1 percent decrease in May, which was the first decline after 10 straight gains.
Excluding autos, retail sales were flat in June.
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce - commerce.gov
Treasury Yield Curve
Treasury Yields

Treasury Yield Sources: Bloomberg, L.P.; Bondsonline.com;
Wall St. Journal; federalreserve.gov; ustreas.gov
Consumer Confidence Index
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, which had declined in May, decreased again in June. The Index now stands at 58.5 (1985=100), down from 61.7 in May. The Present Situation Index decreased to 37.6 from 39.3. The Expectations Index declined to 72.4 from 76.7 last month.
Source: The Conference Board - www.conference-board.org
Purchasing Managers Index
Manufacturing continued its growth in June as the PMI registered 55.3 percent, an increase of 1.8 percentage points when compared to May's reading of 53.5 percent. A reading above 50 percent indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding; below 50 percent indicates that it is generally contracting.
Source: Institute for Supply Management - Manufacturing Report on Business - www.ism.ws
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