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Brick-and-mortar is here to stay

The internet has changed forever the way people shop. That's a well-agreed upon assertion.

It has cut into sales at physical retail locations due to ease of use and competitive pricing.

Top retail center developers and retail executives are all too aware of the ways that the internet has redrawn their playing fields, but all are equally convinced that brick and mortar centers fill human needs that the digital experience can’t begin to address.

Below are some of their thoughts on the matter:


Brick-and-mortar — Stephen Lebovitz of CBL Properties

Stephen Lebovitz
president and CEO of CBL Properties

Some of my most vivid childhood memories revolve around the mall business. Spending time with my grandfather, one of our industry’s true pioneers who built Chattanooga’s first regional shopping center, Eastgate, in 1962. Driving around a cornfield in Chattanooga where we built the second mall in the market, Northgate, in 1974. Exploring markets throughout the South with my dad, while I learned to drive and he scouted sites.  Countless groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings.

Our malls are about shopping, but also about so much more because of the role they play in their communities. We always partner with local charities for the grand opening and still do today for special events throughout the year.  We’ve held thousands of events at our malls over the years — art displays, vintage car shows, food festivals and celebrity appearances. Our malls are still the largest employer and taxpayer in most cities or towns where we operate. We offer experiences for young and old — Santa photos, movie debuts, and trick or treating. Even with all the changes in retail real estate, our malls continue to be the epicenter of our communities.


Brick-and-mortar — Todd Caruso of CBRE

Todd Caruso
senior managing director of retail advisory for CBRE

I grew up in Hinsdale, Ill., a town of 14,000 people with a classic downtown. It included everything from a barber shop to men’s and women’s boutiques. There was not a store that didn’t accept a family charge. It continues to thrive today as a vibrant suburban village. ... So many metropolitan areas today seek to replicate the authentic nature of the village format, but don’t realize that there are certain ingredients that make for success.


Brick-and-mortar — Steve Grimes of RPAI

Steve Grimes
president and CEO of RPAI

Brick-and-mortar has always been a staple in retail. As an example, Marshall Field’s, the department store in our great city of Chicago, was founded in the 1800s and burned in the Great Chicago Fire, only to be rebuilt bigger and better. Marshall Field’s was the go-to department store in the days of old where boomers took up window shopping as a pastime, followed by tea and Frango mints in the historic gathering place, the Walnut Room. Today, our modern consumer continues to demand experience when visiting bricks and mortar but is far more focused on convenience and a diverse product offering because of the current day digital marketplace and the advent of social media. The common theme here is experience, and the best brick-and-mortar will remain a staple as long as it can adapt to the ever-changing demands of our consumer.


Brick-and-mortar — Robert Thompson of Punch Bowl Social

Robert Thompson 
founder and CEO of Punch Bowl Social

Years ago, people would gather around in parlors, drinking punch together. They gathered together in a communal setting. They had conversations with each other in person. At Punch Bowl Social, we create gathering spaces — and signature punches — for people to connect together in a highly social environment. Everything we create is about the experience. Last year we introduced social virtual reality. It was the first update to our gaming program in five years and we set out to make this often singular experience a social one. This resonates with millennials, who prefer to do things rather than buy things.


Brick-and-mortar — Spencer Bomar of Avison Young

Spencer Bomar
principal for Avison Young

As the story goes, almost three-quarters of a century ago, a man was driving from New York to Florida and ran out of gas just outside of Atlanta. He thought to himself, what a great place for a service station. Many years later, in 1959, that service station was turned into an open-air mall. Today, it is one of the most iconic malls in the country; everyone in our industry is familiar with Atlanta’s Buckhead area, and certainly everyone knows of Lenox Mall. And it all started from a service station.


Brick-and-mortar — Anne Mastin of Steiner + Associates

Anne Mastin
executive VP of leasing for Steiner + Associates

If designed, developed, and activated correctly, a town center has the potential to change the physical and social dynamics of a community. From food and wine festivals to parades and farmers markets to educational exhibits and concerts and movies in the park, the memories created in a town center like our Easton Town Center in Columbus have the ability to leave a lasting impact for generations.


Brick-and-mortar — David Hinkle of The Outlet Resource Group

David Hinkle
principle of The Outlet Resource Group

People hunger for interaction and the consumer marketplace has always been part of that. Starbucks has mastered the ability to create a gathering place that is as much about the socialization as the co

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