GlobeSt.com EXCLUSIVELY chats with Kent Elliott, principal of RETS Associates and Mark Selman, president of Brixton Capital, on shifting shopping patterns, hiring decisions and more.
As we emerge from the pandemic, retail developers are largely focused on repurposing malls to accommodate shifts in consumer shopping patterns. This focus is requiring these developers to hire the right teams for their repositioning efforts.
Brixton Capital recently purchased several malls in quaternary markets throughout the country and is in the process of hiring a vice president of development to lead the repositioning of these retail properties.
GlobeSt.com exclusively sat down with Kent Elliott, principal with RETS Associates, which is leading the candidate search for Brixton Capital, and Mark Selman, president of Brixton Capital, to discuss retail sector development trends and how they are affecting developers’ hiring decisions.
GlobeSt.com: What trends are you noticing in the retail development sector that are affecting hiring decisions?
Kent Elliott: Redevelopment has become more prevalent as capital flows back into the retail sector after the pandemic. However, redeveloping malls into other operating assets is a very costly, complex, and lengthy endeavor, which requires developers to hire executives with a very specialized set of skills. Finding the right candidate can be quite daunting. This is why working with a firm like RETS, which has 20 years of experience recruiting for the commercial real estate industry, is so important and can streamline the process for these development firms.
Mark Selman: As tenants continue to re-evaluate their space needs due to omni-channeling or moving away from certain markets, retail owners may have fewer options for the same boxes. Developers need to hire executives who understand the opportunities and limitations for re-use of retail space including local regulations, lease requirements and restraints, and the costs involved, and can speak to tenants in a way that keeps all of the stakeholders happy. They need to have a comprehensive understanding of what can be done in the space and how to accomplish it.
GlobeSt.com: How has COVID-19 impacted retail development hiring?
Mark Selman: While the pandemic strongly impacted hiring in the retail sector, grocery-anchored and power-center developments with tenants that provided goods and services for daily needs were the least impacted. There has been steady hiring and movement in these categories throughout the pandemic.
The areas that were impacted the most were malls and small-tenant retail centers. There are a number of players moving out of the mall category, which is bringing a lot of talent to the market, and there is solid demand to convert these properties to other uses such as multifamily housing, which is creating opportunities for mall owners in primary markets or strong secondary markets to complete these redevelopments. These owners want to be sure they can create something successful – they just need experienced development teams to help them accomplish it.
Kent Elliott: COVID-19 exacerbated a trend that was already underway in the retail sector – a trend away from mall development and toward redevelopment of older malls into higher and better uses. While hiring in the retail development sector was initially on pause as everyone navigated their way through the pandemic, it is now in full swing as we emerge from this crisis and see new hope for these mall properties.
GlobeSt.com: What types of jobs are in need of filling now, and why?
Mark Selman: Candidates for development must possess a wide array of skill sets and experiences, including design, construction, costs, tenant relationships and understanding what the market and tenants want. It’s hard to find all of those skill sets in one candidate, which is why we partner with a recruiting firm like RETS, which has a strong track record and deep expertise in this market, to help us hone in on the right candidates.
We are also seeing a strong need for project managers for the development of free-standing fast-food restaurants as the demand for takeout and drive-through service has increased during COVID-19, as well as multifamily development, for which demand continues to outstrip supply in some markets. An interesting point to note is that project managers with experience in one property type can often transfer that experience to other property types. All asset class development requires dealing with cities, residents, codes and regulations, and other commonalities, so the skill sets are easily transferable.
There’s a specific call today to be able to transfer high-level attractive drawings and conceptual plans into actionable redevelopment that makes sense. What’s in demand now is an executive who can actually conceive a plan, defend the basis for the plan, and execute it in terms of bringing in capital and delivering the final product. It’s really important to find executives who can very quickly evaluate and determine if a project can be truly redeveloped in this market.
Kent Elliott: It’s very likely that the number of malls throughout the country will be reduced dramatically in the near future as many of them are converted to other uses and others are turned inside out with exterior store entrances and re-tenanted. These processes can take up to seven years and require a complex master plan to execute. While we have found quite a few candidates that are interested in these positions, not many have experience doing it – and there’s a need for that. There’s a tremendous demand for candidates who know how to fix struggling malls and turn them into thriving operating assets that generate solid income for their owners.