Business and friendship grow stronger when we support industry education, collaboration, networking and connection.
— By Deborah Kravitz —
The second year of the Ancillary Retail Expo conference is approaching, coming soon to New Orleans. Aside from eating beignets and drinking your way down Bourbon Street, you may wonder why you should attend — and support — this new conference.
When I entered specialty leasing/business development more than 30 years ago from a career in retail management and buying, I was stunned by how welcoming my colleagues were on every level. Not just welcoming, but willing to share information, their experiences and their hard-earned knowledge with me, a newbie. Shopping centers were different in that way from retail, a highly competitive and sometimes secretive business, where sharing valuable information was unlikely.
I remember trying to learn my new profession by going from mall to mall, across the United States, and meeting with specialty leasing managers and directors. They willingly and openly took me on tours of their malls, explained their programs, offered tips and information that helped me grow my company’s specialty leasing programs. Of the many stories I tell, the ones that involved directly ‘lifting’ other program’s merchant manuals, rules and regulations, visual merchandising criteria get surprised responses. But truth be told, I did not steal those documents to copy, they were given to me freely.
All of this camaraderie was even more apparent at the Specialty Retail Conferences (SRC) put on annually by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) for many, many years across the U.S. It was a chance for shopping center specialty leasing staff to meet, socialize, network and, in some cases, make lifelong friends. We also did deals! Lots of deals! When Specialty Retail Entrepreneur Expo (SPREE) launched, for a few short years we had a chance to do this twice a year, and add in more retailers, and more formal education in our field. Neither of these conferences are still in existence. Into that enormous breach, came both Ancillary Retail magazine and the Ancillary Retail Expo, our conference.
[Editor’s note: Ancillary Retail is a sister publication to Shopping Center Business and is also published by France Media Inc. Ancillary Retail Expo is produced by the magazine staff and InterFace Conference Group, which is a division of France Media Inc.]
When I say “our” conference, it might imply that I have ownership. I do not. However I am “taking ownership,” as I think everyone in specialty leasing, business development, kiosk leasing, sponsorship, advertising, and partnership marketing in the shopping center industry MUST do. This Expo is the only gathering where we can come together — shopping center professionals, retailers doing short-term leasing, potential business development partners — and extend our very unique “welcome.” It is a conference just for us, those who do this special type of leasing and deal making every day, and those of us who must plan for a future in retail that will change.
It is a chance to meet old friends in the industry, in person, and exchange handshakes and hugs. It is a chance to welcome and introduce those new to our world to this business. People who work in ancillary retail sometimes mention feeling a bit like a second-class citizen in the overall shopping center community. Being at the Ancillary Retail Expo is a chance for us to come together and, by sharing our experiences, be able to go back to our developers or retail owners with a stronger voice.
This year, the Ancillary Retail Expo has an educational sessions package that is exemplary and includes seminars for business development of every kind — from producing events and sponsorships, to brand pop-ups, to sponsorship trends, to design workshop, to media trends and what’s next in automated retail. And of course, please don’t miss my session with Shannon Quilty on International Commercialisation (the combination of specialty leasing, sponsorship, partnership marketing, brand activations) showcasing ideas from Kuala Lampur to Dubai to the U.K. All of these sessions, curated and conducted by some of the most experienced, and most cutting-edge thinkers and planners, are some of the best reasons to come to New Orleans.
And the best reason to come to this February’s Ancillary Retail Expo is to solidify our place in the shopping center world. I tell people that our industry is like the design within the icing on a cake. The shopping center (or any shopping locale) is the cake. Sometimes made of the same ingredients each time, similar stores and marketing plans. The icing on the cake may be the overall design of the center — is it indoors or outdoors? Does it have a special way of presenting itself? But the true excitement that adds not just revenue but interest and experience to a consumer is what we do. We add the greetings, the flowers, the extra flair, the uniqueness to the experience. When we share what we do with each other, our designs just get better and better, and stronger and stronger.
— Deborah S. Kravitz, CRX, CLS is a principal in the retail real estate consulting firms of Provenzano Resources, Inc. and Pro Retail, Inc. (PRI). She is also an international speaker/teacher on pop-up retail and leasing in retail management, visual merchandising, leasing, product development and retail training. In addition, Kravitz is a founding member of Ancillary Retail’s editorial board and she is presenting at the 2020 Ancillary Retail Expo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.