Driving increased foot traffic is an ongoing challenge for shopping center owners and tenants. Beth Azor offered to contribute a guest post to our blog with some successful tactics and strategies she has used at her shopping centers and seen around the industry for driving foot traffic. Beth is the founder of Azor Advisory Services and speaks on retail leasing nationwide. Read on for her ideas.

Shopping center owners know tenant sales volumes are the key to success for their centers. If tenants are doing well, they are driving traffic to the center and helping fellow tenants that are newly opened or have a slow business. This in turn makes leasing easier.

So how can tenants drive more traffic to their businesses and the centers they’re located in, and how can shopping center owners help? The following are a few ideas that I’ve seen succeed in my own shopping centers and around the country.

1. Host events for charity organizations. Shopping center owners have something charity organizations need -- a venue for their events. I’ve seen thousands of customers show up for “American Idol”-style events, children’s costume events for Halloween, and food and wine festivals. Also consider back-to-school events, relay run events, and dog walks. Shopping center owners can work with their restaurant tenants to feature their food and drinks at the event. Tenants can also get involved on the planning committee or provide their store as the venue for the event as well. Plan these events on days and nights when traffic is slower to strengthen the weak times.

2. Host events for Chambers of Commerce and civic organizations. These groups usually have monthly breakfast events and business-after-hours events that can be hosted at a shopping center or tenant location. Shopping center owners can organize a business-after-hours event that gives attendees a reason to visit each tenant in the center, such as a scavenger hunt. I saw a patio store host a buffet-style Chamber of Commerce breakfast that brought 80 local business owners in his store at 7:30 a.m.

3. Split your efforts to increase signage and street visibility. Signage is of course a crucial way to increase street visibility and drive traffic. One approach many shopping center owners often overlook is renting the advertising on bus benches bordering the property. These benches are usually located on major roads. Shopping center owners can offer a rotation schedule to their tenants so that each business has a turn to display their signage. Or, shopping center owners can rent or buy billboards located near their centers, and split the costs with multiple tenants.

4. Provide places to congregate. We have many tutoring centers and dance and karate studios as tenants in our shopping centers. Parents, who are prospective customers for other tenants, often sit in their cars while waiting for the children to finish their classes. When I saw this, I went to the nearby home improvement store and bought ten $100 benches and placed them along one of our strip centers. This encouraged parents to get out of their cars and sit amongst the center, giving them a good view of other storefronts that attract them to come inside.

5. Orchestrate a “cash mob.” Cash mob events prompt customers via a social media push to shop a certain retailer en masse on a particular day. They can provide a much needed injection of sales activity for tenants, and help engage their followers and fans on their businesses’ social networks. Shopping center owners can also orchestrate cash mob events that scale the concept to include all tenants in their center.

6. Reserve the best parking for customers. Shopping center owners and tenants should strive to keep the most convenient parking areas open to customers, while designating other areas for employees. Painting “one-hour parking” on parking bumpers can also help with turnover, as well as signage.

7. Keep the property well-protected. Shopping center owners and tenants should be astute managers, paying attention to news and events happening at or by the property that could cause problems for customers, traffic, and sales. For instance, shopping center owners that have a property located adjacent to a large mall should hire security to protect the parking lot on major shopping days, such as Black Friday. If owners and/or tenants hear that a group of high schoolers has a plan to skip class and meet at the shopping center to cause mischief, owners must implement a plan to protect tenants, their parking, and the property.

In the end, tenants will garner the most sales if they have a phenomenal product and excellent service. At the same time, shopping center owners will have the most successful centers by leasing to high-quality tenants that have well-thought-out businesses, significant capital, and experience to execute. By partnering together, however, tenants and shopping center owners can multiply their results and drive more foot traffic overall.

Beth Azor

Beth Azor has been in the commercial real estate industry since 1986. She founded Azor Advisory Services in 2004 to invest in her own properties and provide consulting and training to South Florida commercial real estate companies. She is the former President of Terranova and is a frequent speaker at ICSC events.

  • CATEGORY: General
  • DATE: Monday, June 18, 2012