CBM’s Retail Shopping Center Management & Leasing Blog

Retail Real Estate News & Trends in Southern California

By ICSC SCWeek, February 10, 2012

Visa change a boon for shopping centers
Brazilians and Chinese wanting to visit the U.S. will have a much easier time under a presidential order issued in January. “The more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work,” the president said. “It’s that simple.” This is good news for U.S. outlet centers.

Shoppers from Brazil spend some $6 billion annually here (in Florida they outspend British travelers), and the Chinese tourists spend just over $5 billion annually, much of that at discount and outlet stores. But visitors here from those two countries face considerable hurdles trying to obtain visas. The process requires personal interviews at U.S. consular offices, with waits averaging about two months, not to mention hours of waiting in line once the appointment day arrives. Visas for Canada and France are easier to obtain than visas for the U.S. “We’re competing with the rest of the world,” said Rosemary McCormick, president of Shop America Alliance. “The biggest barrier to Chinese visitation right now has nothing to do with currency or desire. It has to do with our visa process.”

Chinese shoppers spend about 50 percent more than the average international traveler, says Ann Ackerman, vice president and marketing director of AWE Talisman. “We market heavily to them,” Ackerman said. “The Chinese have money, and they want to spend. They are very brand-savvy and love upscale brands. This is why they gravitate to outlets.”

Indeed, Chinese consumers are highly motivated to patronize outlet stores, others say. “At U.S. outlet centers Chinese shoppers are seeing items that are almost 80 percent off what they are accustomed to paying for the same brands there,” said Karen Fluharty, a principal of consultant firm Strategy & Style who once lived in Hong Kong.

The U.S. has plans to deploy 100 more consuls to Brazil and China to help ease processing. Other initiatives include expanding an existing program to allow low-risk foreign visitors quicker admission through airport checkpoints and the addition of Taiwan to a list of countries requiring no visa. Four U.S. airports — in Charlotte, N.C.; Denver; Phoenix; and Minneapolis — would be added to the 20 that already have special kiosks for processing such visitors.


Target’s Molly Snyder tells us about 85% of Targets are in buildings and on land the retailer owns. Why go all in? She says ownership allows flexibility and control with design and construction and facilitates re-investment in its stores. It announced its smaller, urban format, CityTarget, with Chicago’s Sullivan Center in February last year (it opens this year). [2:37:44 PM] Amanda Metcalf: Its other urban locations will be rebranded, and other CityTargets will open this year in LA (Westwood Market Place joins Downtown at Figueroa and 7th), Seattle, and San Fran. Recall in January, Target bought leasehold interests in as many as 220 Canadian sites operated by Zellers for $1.8B. Zellers will sublease them for a while, but Target will start opening Canadian stores at these sites (as many as 150 by 2014).

ICSC SCTWeekly, February 3, 2012

Valentine spending to rise 8.5 percent this year
Americans will show love this Valentine’s Day in a big way, according to a National Retail Federation survey of 9,317 consumers. People are prepared to shell out $126.03 each on average, up 8.5 percent from last year’s $116.21 — and the highest in the survey’s 10-year history, according to NRF, which says it is expecting total spending for the holiday to reach $17.6 billion.

Consumers will spend more on their “better halves” than on anyone else — $74.12 on average, on a spouse or significant other, up from $68.98 last year. Respondents said they would spend about $25.25 on their children, parents or other family members, $6.92 on friends and $4.52 on their pets. The number of people who said they would buy jewelry was 18.9 percent, up from 17.3 percent last year, and this, too, was the highest in the survey’s history. Others said they will give the gift of choice: 13.3 percent will buy gift cards, up from 12.6 percent last year. Additionally, 50.5 percent said they would buy candy, 36 percent would give flowers, and 35.6 percent plan to treat someone to an evening out.

Though discount stores are expected to see the most traffic, at 37 percent, 33.6 percent of respondents said they do their Valentine’s shopping at department stores, up from 30.5 percent last year. Online retailers will see a nice boost from the love business: 19.3 percent of respondents said they would buy their stuff online, up from 18.1 percent last year. By category, 20.2 percent said they would patronize specialty stores, 17.8 percent said floral shops, 10.6 percent said jewelry stores and 6.6 percent said specialty clothing stores.

“As one of the biggest gift-giving holidays of the year, it’s encouraging that consumers are still exhibiting the desire to spend on discretionary gift items, a strong indication our economy continues to move in the right direction,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay, in a prepared statement. “Anticipating high foot traffic in the coming weeks, retailers have replenished their inventories and will entice eager shoppers with great deals on everything from special menu items at restaurants to clothing to flowers and, of course, chocolates.”

ICSC SCTWeekly February 3, 2012

Restaurant sales to grow a record 3.5 percent in 2012
Despite the U.S. economy’s sluggish recovery, the restaurant industry will see growth this year, according to the National Restaurant Association. Total restaurant industry sales will hit a record high of $632 billion this year, up 3.5 percent over last year, the second straight year sales exceeded $600 billion, the trade group says. 

 Food costs are among the main challenges restaurateurs cite. “Because about one-third of sales in a restaurant go to food and beverage purchases, food prices are a crucial component for operators,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s research and knowledge group. “Last year we saw wholesale food prices post their strongest annual increase in more than three decades. In 2012 we will see continued increases in the cost of some commodities, while price pressures will ease for others.” 

 Operators can succeed if they understand consumer trends, says Riehle. There is substantial pent-up demand for restaurant services, he says, with two out of five consumers saying they are not using restaurants as often as they would like. To translate that demand into sales, Riehle says more restaurants are sourcing their ingredients locally and putting healthier fare on the menu.