Shopping Center Managers – How to Reposition and Improve a Retail Shopping Center

Any shopping centre today can be a challenging asset from a performance perspective.  There are many challenges to track, balance, and manage.  The skills of the property manager and or leasing manager applied to the task will be critical to asset performance.

Fees for services

It should also be said that the fees to manage any retail property are also usually higher than the fees charged within industrial or office property management.  The skills of the people deployed on the property will reflect on the asset outcomes, so you must employ the right people for the task.

People Costs

Good quality people with the retail experience will cost more from a salary perspective.  The property outgoings should (subject to local retail leasing laws and regulations) be structured through the leases for management fees and staff salary recovery.

Taking on a new property?

If you are taking on the management of a shopping centre from a previous owner or previous property manager, there are many things to look at immediately and specifically.  Getting things under control quickly should be a priority with a retail asset.  You can use a checklist for that process.  Here are 4 specific ideas to help you get started:

  1. Arrears – Let’s start at the money or rental end of property performance. Understand where the rental arrears are and why they are happening.  Separate strategies will be required to get those things controlled.
  2. Vacancies – What and where are the vacancies now in the property and how are they impacting customer and tenant outcomes? Look at filling the vacancies quickly even if you must do short term rentals at lower base rents.
  3. Tenants and tenant mix – Assess the tenants in the property for current issues and volatility. A weak tenant mix will drag down property performance.  Talk to the tenants and ask about customer sales and customer requirements.  It is very likely that the tenants will know what is needed in a retail property to resolve shop placement and mix problems.
  4. Income and expenditureReview the cash flow results for the property over the last 12 months. You will see the timing factors from high cost issues such as rates and taxes, as well as capital expense items.  Then look at current rental levels, vacancy factors, and upcoming rent reviews.  From these things you can create a budget for the property.  The object here is for you to comprehensively control the money coming into the property and flowing out to the various stakeholders.  You can then shape the financial factors of the property in a controlled way into the future.

These 4 factors will lead to greater property understanding and control.  When you can see what is happening in the retail property or shopping center, you have something that you can base your future strategies around.

You can get more tips about Shopping Center Management and Leasing in our eCourse right here.

How to Set up a Customer Service Desk in a Retail Shopping Center

As part of the property management strategy for any sizeable retail shopping centre, you can and should develop a customer service station function and service within the property.  I say ‘sizeable’ because you need plenty of tenants in the tenant mix to pay for the customer service strategy.  The cost for operating a service desk can be quite reasonable.

So what’s the idea here with a customer service station in a shopping centre?  Try some of these:

  • It will help customers find what they want
  • It will help control problems and challenges with customers
  • You can use it as a marketing point for competitions and sale campaigns

The station should be located where it will be of the greatest use to the customers within the property and in the common area.  There are many benefits to be had by all with an effective customer service point.

It should be noted that the customer service station is a cost factor for the property that should be allowed for in building operational costs and be potentially funded from property marketing.  There will be salaries to account for and costs associated with the operations of the customer service desk.

Set the Rules

So here are some rules to the process of establishing a customer service station and operations point within any medium to large retail shopping centre:

  1. Integrate security services into the customer service location. There will be many ongoing security issues evolving from both customers and tenants.  There will also be specific factors to consider such as lost children, lost goods, injury, risk management, and personal safety.  The evacuation of the property may involve the people in the customer service or operations desk.  So the desk or customer service point will have a number of roles to fill.
  2. The people manning the service desk will need to be suitably trained and skilled with risk management and injury issues. They may also need to be trained in crowd control, customer service, first aid and safety matters.  The insurance company carrying the risk for the property will have significant interest in risk management controls and safety registers all of which will normally happen from or in conjunction with the service desk and the personnel manning it.
  3. Understand the property and common safety responses and possible risk events. Look at how customers move through the property and into the tenancies.  Special considerations will be needed when it comes to access points, car parking, common areas, and amenities.  How will customers find the customer service desk and or communicate with it in an emergency?  There should be a crisis management plan active that allows for the movement of customers, the activities of tenants, and the management personnel on site.  It is quite likely that the customer service point will be involved in that process.
  4. Lost and found services should be controlled at the customer desk. Registers of lost and found goods should be kept.  In larger shopping centres the amount of lost and found goods on a daily basis is quite high.
  5. The help desk can also guide people in the right direction when it comes to finding tenancies and the common amenities. In large shopping centres that can be a valuable service. A map of the property including all shops should be available at the desk for handing to customers as they seek to find certain tenancies and certain tenancy types.
  6. Some shopping centres incorporate gift wrapping services at the customer service points. When the seasonal sales are active, the strategy works quite well in supporting customers.
  7. Have a place at the service desk where people can lodge applications for casual employment at the shopping centre and with the tenancies.
  8. Gift certificates can be issued from the service desk. Competitions can also be promoted from that location with competition applications being lodged and collected at that point.
  9. Public announcements could occur from the service desk.
  10. A mail drop off point or parcel delivery service can be incorporated into the customer counter.
  11. A directory board should be in close proximity to the service desk. There should be a map of the property incorporated into the directory board layout.
  12. Wireless Internet Services can be made available in close proximity to the service desk. That then is a service for some customers.
  13. Wheelchairs, child prams, and motorised mobility chairs could be hired from the customer service desk.

So the idea here is that the customer service desk is a convenience factor, a communication point, and customer service in many different ways.

Understand the costs of the operations desk or customer service point and the services to be offered.  Build those costs into the marketing budget for the property.  The marketing costs should also be structured and costed into the tenancy leases as a contribution from all tenants across the property.

Tenants and customers will benefit from the establishment of a customer service desk in a shopping centre.

You can get more tips about Shopping Center Management and Leasing in our ‘Snapshot’ eCourse right here.