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A message from the chairman: Reasons for Retailers to be Optimistic

March 5, 2019

The dust has settled from the recent, all-important holiday sales period, and the results reveal encouraging trends for brick-and-mortar retail for 2019.

Fourth quarter shoppers were looking for convenience, value and experience, and they took advantage of omni-channel options. Retailers offering online and offline shopping opportunities, updated stores and perceived value benefitted from a holiday season which topped $850 million in sales, a 4.5 percent increase over last year’s holiday period.

Retailers enjoyed an increase in high-ticket items such as jewelry and appliances as 177 million people visited shopping centers in November and December. Meanwhile, 93 percent of shoppers purchased from retailers with a physical presence, according to ICSC data.

Click-and-collect increased by 50 percent during the holidays, according to Adobe Analytics. While a growing convenience for shoppers, the service is making a significant impact on in-store sales. More than 80 percent of customers buy additional items while picking up their online purchases. Most physical retailers are capitalizing on this rising trend by providing click-and-collect services along with direct-ship services to both local stores and homes.

Physical store operators are also benefitting from the variety of uses entering the shopping center platform.  Almost 50 percent of customers who visited a shopping center during the holidays took advantage of non-retail offerings – food & beverage, entertainment, fitness and education experiences.

Recent studies on shopping trends point to a successful year in retail for 2019, particularly for bricks-and-mortar. Retail sales for the year are expected to increase between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent to more than $3.8 trillion, according to the National Retail Federation.  Unemployment is expected to drop to 3.5 percent, down from 4 percent, according to the NRF.  Consumer confidence also remains high.

Meanwhile, customers expect the 2019 retail experience to become more personal, more customized and more convenient. Rising technologies will improve the service side of retail, and in-store and digital investments will help create more frictionless shopping for consumers.

The balance between convenience and experience will continue to impact our customers. Commodity items are easily fulfilled online while the ability to see and touch items can best be achieved in physical stores. Customers also recognize the shipping cost and time impact of online service, so they will opt for a store experience when they need or want an item immediately or on promotion.

While our industry continues to transform, the convergence of the multiple shopping channels is evidence that customers seek many options to fulfill their purchases.  This bodes well for retailers who prioritize both the in-store experience and online capabilities … and creates a reason for optimism about the future of retail!

Valerie Richardson, CRX, CLS

ICSC Past Chairman, Vice President - Real Estate, The Container Store, Coppell, TX, United States

Valerie Richardson, CRX, CLS, has over 35 years of experience in retail real estate, working for brands such as Trammell Crow Company, Ann Taylor, Barnes & Noble and most recently, The Container Store, where she has led the real estate team for 19 years. An active industry participant and advocate, Ms. Richardson was elected Chairman of ICSC for the 2018-2019 term, after having served on the Board of Trustees since 2004. She was the first ICSC Chairman to come to the post from an active retail company.

In her role at The Container Store, Ms. Richardson is responsible for site evaluation and lease negotiation, along with the coordination of store design and construction for the brand’s nationwide expansion program. She currently serves on ICSC’s Executive Board, its Nominating and Governance and Executive Compensation Committees and, until 2018, on the Board of the ICSC Foundation. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Kimco Realty Corp and served as a trustee at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center. Ms. Richardson earned an M.B.A. in Real Estate from the University of North Texas and a B.S. in Education from Texas State University. She resides in Dallas, Texas, is married, and has two children and one grandchild.

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