Partnership and Perspective
Going the extra mile can be a difference-maker with tenants, especially during challenging times
In commercial real estate, properties are commonly referred to as “assets,” with portfolios measured in square feet and dollar signs. However, retail environments are only as good as their tenant mix—and treating tenants like the assets they are is what separates the best owners and operators from the pack. Supporting tenants by building productive and mutually beneficial relationships—and effectively leveraging resources on their behalf—is a recipe for sustained success for all parties.
But there is support and there is support. Pro forma help or doing the bare minimum is unlikely to move the needle, either in terms of relationship building or in making a long-term difference in performance. Going the extra mile can be a difference-maker. Positioning retail tenants for success is an investment that can yield meaningful and sustainable dividends.
Here’s how to make that happen:
One of the best ways to build relationships and help tenants address issues is to reach out. NewMark Merrill conducts in-person monthly site visits with every one of our tenants at every one of our properties, and the first question we ask is how can we help. This is not only the best way to answer their questions and help resolve any maintenance or management issues the tenant may be experiencing, but has the added benefit of showing our tenants that we are committed to their wellbeing—and that we’re available to help them thrive.
Sometimes merchant support means bringing all your resources to bear on a problem. When a small food court in one of our projects was struggling coming out the pandemic, we sat down together and brainstormed ways to help support those merchants. The result was a multifaceted program that included new signage, social media support, and a digital promotional program: a monthly e-newsletter dedicated to the food court that went out to 20,000+ customers. The result is that four locally owned merchants who were experiencing hardship in the wake of a historic pandemic were able to find their footing and move forward successfully.
Take it outside
The outdoor seating options that became so important during COVID weren’t always easy to implement. Not all restaurants had an operational model or floor plan conducive to outdoor service—and not all tenants that needed alternate accommodations were restaurants! NewMark Merrill has engaged both marketing and management teams to help restaurants, nail salons, and other tenants by designing and implementing outdoor service areas that work well and look great. That’s not always easy, but a combination of paint, plants, umbrellas, and outdoor furniture can go a long way toward making a space. Not only are some tenants still using these attractive and functional outdoor spaces as indoor spaces reopened, but some are working so well that they are exploring ways to make their outdoor facilities a permanent part of their footprint.
Creative and engaging options are a great way to make your retail centers more experiential—and support tenants at the same time. NewMark Merrill has used festival-style events to animate a center and make the visitor experience special with themes and details that set apart events at our centers from the typical. Setting up booths or tents/canopies for merchants is a great way to get them involved and maximize the impact of the event. Along those same lines, we’ve also utilized community art programs to great effect, creating connections between different properties and selecting artists with a passion for the surrounding community to create a more inviting and visually dynamic environment at our centers.
Connect with the community
Charitable giving and community-focused programs are another way to build the kind of strong and enduring connections with local residents and organizations that uplift others and engage our merchants with those doing good in our communities. NewMark Merrill has a long list of programs designed to do just that, including our Wave of Kindness initiative that shows appreciation for local heroes. Developed in response to the overwhelming demands during the pandemic, Wave of Kindness provides free meals and random acts of kindness to benefit teachers, seniors, first responders, food banks, and members of the community experiencing food insecurities and homelessness.
We are always looking at sales and at traffic through our technology platforms, but sharing tech resources with tenants is also a great way to add value. For example, Merchant Centric is a great program we invest in that pools all online reviews and provides trends and timely updates. By sharing that information with tenants, we can help them get a feel for what’s working—and what isn’t—and can assist them in figuring out how to best address concerning trends or issues before they become a bigger problem.
Dollars and sense
Sometimes going the extra mile means recognizing that a little flexibility can go a long way. The terms of a lease are black and white, but owners and operators who are reasonable and fair and willing to make exceptions for extreme circumstances can reap the long-term benefits of loyal and profitable tenants. COVID flexibility and support has helped many tenants stay afloat during the pandemic, and NewMark Merrill is also a leader in helping smaller tenants secure loans and financing they might have otherwise struggled to qualify for.
Be a partner
Above all else, make sure you don’t make the landlord and tenant relationship adversarial. Tenant success is our success—and resolving to be a true tenant partner is consistent with the recognition that a rising tide lifts all boats. The time, energy, and resources it takes to replace a tenant is time-consuming and expensive. It’s almost always preferable to keep a tenant and help them flourish. NewMark Merrill prioritizes merchant support not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because the ROI is substantial. Those investments pay dividends that show up in the metrics—and in the bottom line—but they also deliver less metric-driven, but no less important benefits like stronger relationships, healthier centers, and merchants who value your support.
The Buzz @ Anaheim Town Square
Community engagement is one of the highest priorities for NewMark Merrill. Finding ways for our projects to solidify their status as genuine community assets is one of the most effective and important ways for us to not only help our tenants flourish, but uplift communities in the process.
In that spirit, a recent event with Anaheim’s Innovative Mentoring Experience (AIME) was an inspiring way for us to further that mission. AIME is committed to “partner[ing] with businesses and community organizations to provide students in the Anaheim Union High School District with career mentoring, and internship experiences that will enhance their college, career, and life-readiness skills, as well as build lasting connections within the community.”
The AIME event on April 20th was an opportunity for more than 30 students from Anaheim High School and Oxford Academy to do just that. The students got professional advice from a dozen senior members of the NewMark Merrill executive team on career marketing, retail technology, acquisition and development, community outreach, and entrepreneurship. They also got the chance to go on a guided property tour, learn more about what it takes to develop and operate retail centers, and apply that knowledge in a simulated challenge and student presentation. Not only was the AIME event a rousing success, but plans are already underway for an expanded program next year.