ICSC 2022: Shop, Dine, Work and Play Converge

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Retail real estate isn’t going anywhere, but after a global pandemic and the unprecedented growth of the e-commerce industry, it’s time to reassess how brick-and-mortar shopping and food services work best in the built environment.

At the International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas this week, analysts and experts broke down the convergence and placemaking of shop, dine, work and play in a post-COVID era. 

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Anjee Solanki, national director of retail services and practice groups for Colliers, moderated a panel discussion with Naveen Jaggi, president of retail advisory brokerage services, leasing and capital markets for the Americas at JLL; Craig Robinson, chief growth officer for flex operator Industrious; and Adam Williamowsky, director of restaurants for CBRE.

“You don’t typically think of play and work at the same time, but what you’ve seen in retail for many years we’re seeing with the office side, which is: If you want people to come back into a physical space, there has to be an experience,” Robinson said. “We’re thinking about how you program things that are experiential, and things that are going to bring people back into your space. … You need some sense about, Why am I going to leave my home and be in this space unless there is a compelling reason? And that’s all about experience.”

Williamowsky said modern tech advancements are enhancing and improving “dwell time” measurements — which track how long customers spend focused in a particular space — and allowing for more interaction with friends and colleagues.

“With dwell time, it’s not necessarily changed things on the full-service side, but, certainly, in the fast casual and mobile ordering, it has certainly been compressed,” Williamowsky said. 

Jaggi said restaurants and food services are showing strong recoveries. He explained that before the pandemic, for every $100 a household spent at the grocery store, they would spend $153 dining out. At the height of the pandemic, that effectively dropped to $0 spent eating out as restaurants closed for COVID protocols. 

“As of the last six months, we’re at about $120 of eating out for every $100 spent at the grocery store,” he said. “We haven’t reached the 2019 numbers in terms of eating out. But that’s the direction we’re going. So if you’re thinking about how food factors into a project, just know we are back to eating out. … It’s going to get to the point where it’s $155 to $160 (for every $100 spent at the grocery store) within 12 months.”

Gregory Cornfield can be reached at gcornfield@commercialobserver.com.