How to Ensure Your Retail Property Thrives During a Transformation

You can still attract foot traffic and drive sales to your center's merchants while reinventing to respond to changing consumer preferences.
Barbara Garrett

During the turbulent times of the so-called retail apocalypse, adversity greets us with an opportunity to define what’s next for the industry. A chance to strengthen and reinvigorate the disconnect between brick-and-mortar retail and e-commerce to create a flourishing retail landscape across all mediums.

A resurgence of the mixed-use center experience is underway. Key properties in the industry are undergoing transformative facelifts—tenant improvements and complete overhauls to better attract, interact and engage with their daily consumers in innovative ways. The main goals of the centers don’t change, as they are always striving to increase sales and foot traffic and build sustainable density, as well as ensure vibrancy and longevity for years to come.

Atlantic Station in Midtown Atlanta is currently undergoing a transformation that includes a complete revamp of its central gathering space and the addition and renovation of several major restaurants and retailers. Focused on enhancing the human experience, we at Hines are targeting the property’s underutilized space and re-evaluating stale tenants to create a consumer-friendly, retail-friendly and tenant-friendly mixed-use center. Complete property transformations like this, however, pose a new set of bounds to overcome.

It’s important for mixed-use developments to look for unique ways to communicate and delight their guests during a major re-haul. Your ultimate guideposts should be your tenants and consumers. Focus on ways to increase foot traffic, drive sales to your retailers and create a seamless experience void of any haphazard mistakes that would deter visitors from the property. So how can you ensure your property remains above water when undergoing a massive revitalization?

Utilize Interactive Wayfinding

Paving an easily accessible path for your customers to travel from point A to point B is critical in the success and visibility of your center during a major transformation and should be treated as an artform. Wayfinding, like other forms of artistic expression, has an impact on a consumer’s subconscious, impacting their decision making and attitude toward an environment. Appease the digital-driven and social-influenced guest by creating an Instagrammable experience that leads customers in the right direction and encourages social sharing but speaks true to your brand. Utilize mixed-medium signage, including plants, iron, steel or wood to grab the attention of your consumer. Be wary of the color and tone used in your signage. Note that cool colors have calming effects, while warmer tones evoke a sense of energy. 

At Atlantic Station, we took this a step further by creating an entire campaign around the transformation of our central gathering place called, “Transformation Takes Root,” designing colorful barriers and wayfinding that could also serve as a great Instagrammable backdrop, an experiential moment visitors can’t find from their couch.

Provide Attentive Customer Service

 While not every property has one, your concierge is your property’s gatekeeper. They add a personality and sense of familiarity to your property and will be your first line of defense during a transformation. Properly prepare your concierge team to mitigate any potential disasters that could occur with the wellbeing of your customers. If your property doesn’t have a designated concierge team, equip your front-line property employees with the details of what’s happening, as well as the conversation and social skills needed to provide high-level customer service. Utilize your property’s social media pages as an extended voice of your concierge. As a direct channel of communication with your visitors, having a solid social media strategy in place that continues to create buzz around the property, communicates wayfinding effectively and answers customers questions about major construction updates is critical in surviving a major transformation.

Activate Your Property

 Throughout a renovation, your property needs to work overtime to provide impactful and revenue-driving experiences for your visitors, and short-term activations can be key. Meaningful experiential events alongside your regular programming can draw crowds and leave a lasting impression on your visitors. Find new ways to continue various programming through construction interruptions and make sure your visitors have the opportunity to live, work, play, explore and share with their networks. For example, Atlantic Station’s annual holiday festivities were previously hosted in the property’s now-closed central park. Thousands of visitors had come to know and love the holiday celebrations that were held in the same location each year. In order to execute our holiday events full scale, we moved the activations to a different location on property, allowing us to provide the same holiday traditions our visitors look forward to year after year. We accomplished this through increased marketing by our team, including targeted social media, and impressionable wayfinding to direct holiday visitors in the right direction.

Undergoing a renovation shouldn’t take away from the liveliness and buzz of your property. Communicating with guests and providing easy remedies to consumer-facing construction complications and frustrations will ensure your guests understand that their best interest is a top priority for your development.

Barbara Garrett is general manager of Hines Atlantic Station in Atlanta.