The third interview in our client reopening series features Jennie Zafft, Manager, Regional Retail Marketing at CBRE.
Q: Are there any practices your properties have implemented during the pandemic that you plan to keep/enhance? (If yes, what are those practices?)
Jennie: Curbside pickup has been very successful and we see this as an amenity that will become part of the normal operations at our centers. We are designating permanent curbside pickup zones at a number of properties. Additionally a laser focus on the customer journey and making adjustments in the common areas to adapt to new and/or heightened consumer preferences (i.e. limit high-touch surfaces, outdoor dining and seating areas, etc).
Q: What differences have you noticed when it comes to openings in different geographic locations?
Jennie: We have closely monitored local and state orders and followed their guidelines for operating and reopening, as well as the CDC’s recommendations for gatherings and dining out. The timelines and operating rules vary dramatically across geographies which makes it a challenge for retailers to adjust, staff and reopen. The shopping experience is more fragmented for our customers and the importance of frequent website updates like hours, how to shop, etc. and overall communication is critical. We have found that the majority of customers are ready to shop but they are doing it based on their individual comfort and preplanning – therefore sharing the various ways retailers are operating is of interest and varies significant from location to location.
Q: As your centers begin to reopen, have you noticed any trends in which safety measures shoppers seem to value most?
Jennie: We conducted a shopper survey and the top safety measures according to the respondents are enhanced cleaning protocols, face coverings and social distancing. Customers are looking for information on Safety Measures so featuring them on the websites and in-center signage is providing comfort as shoppers return.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge for your team?
Jennie: Our centers are community gathering places offering on-site event programming, experiential retail such as escape rooms and theatres, and restaurants. We quickly adapted to restricted operations. We developed virtual events and partnered with our restaurants to accommodate delivery service partnerships and expanded outside seating. One of the biggest challenges is the uncertainty. We have Plan A, Plan B…. all the way to Plan Z!
Q: What has helped your team most during this pandemic (communication tactics, technologies, etc)?
Jennie: We had already been utilizing cloud content management and file sharing as well as virtual video conferencing to connect our teams across the country, so we were able to connect and communicate without missing a beat! These technologies also made it seamless for our teams to work remotely from their homes, rotating with onsite resources and team collaboration.
Q: In your opinion, what does the future of retail look like?
Jennie: We are seeing strong consumer response as our centers reopen—there is a pent-up demand. And retail is always evolving. COVID-19 has been very challenging, but we have seen retailers get creative with how they deliver goods and services. Our teams are doing a great job of making our centers safe and continuing to be relevant to our local communities.