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Retail Excellence + Market Research: EDENS’ CEO on The Weekly Take



EDENS’ CEO Jodie W. McLean recently sat down with CBRE’s Global Client Strategist and Senior Economic Advisor, Spencer Levy, to discuss our company’s community-minded approach to researching and understanding markets, people and retail placemaking.

The interview for CBRE’s “The Weekly Take” was recorded from inside La Cosecha at Union Market District in Washington, DC. Below is an excerpt (edited for print):

SL: What’s fascinating about this location is its resemblance to many other areas outside the central business districts of various cities. These areas share a common ‘live, work, play’ characteristic and feature numerous older buildings undergoing adaptive reuse. Examples of such areas include Midtown in Atlanta, Fulton Market in Chicago, and Wynwood in Miami, among others. Given these similarities, do you envision this as the future of urban retail?. I go right down the list. But do you see that as the future of urban retail?

Retail excellence cannot be achieved from behind a computer…it requires boots on the ground.

Jodie W. McLean CEO, EDENS

JWM:  I do see a broader perspective than just retail. I consider how people want to live their lives. You may have heard about the concept of the ‘15-minute city’. However, we’ve always focused more on a ‘17-minute trade time’. This stems from our deep history in retail and understanding what drives it. The truth is, Spencer, we have about 17 minutes to get you from your seat to our front door. That’s the window we have, and it’s been consistent for as long as I’ve been in this business and in almost every market we operate in.

You don’t consciously think, ‘Oh, it’s going to be 19 minutes, I’m not going.’ That’s not how our brains work. It’s more of an emotional reaction. This understanding drives every decision we make, including location design. We strive for convenience – a place where you can easily come in and get out, but also a place where you want to spend time.

SL: And let’s talk now outside of the urban areas where I think the majority of EDENS’ product is. Tell us about that product. What is an optimal product? Just a general description of what you have and how you try to pick locations.

JWM: Our location selection process is data-driven. We analyze a broad range of data, including GDP, population growth, cost of living, education, job availability, and existing retail per capita. We rank the Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and focus on the top 25. Our operations are driven by where we can excel.

In our line of work, it would be challenging to have a single asset in a place like Minneapolis because it requires building a team. Retail excellence cannot be achieved from behind a computer in Washington, D.C. It requires boots on the ground. Once we identify the right markets, we need to understand the right submarkets, intersections, and even the right quadrant of the intersection. Much of retail is driven by emotional decisions that may not seem rational. Understanding traffic patterns, which side street you’re on, and whether people will be making right or left turns is crucial.

One constant in my retail experience is that 80% of all retail decisions are still made by women, regardless of who’s at the cash register. Sometimes a man shows up with a ‘honeydew’ list or to make reservations based on a recommendation, likely from a woman. Therefore, understanding the needs of our female customers is essential in our design process.

SL: There are other big issues out there. ESG, of course, being towards the top of the list. Jodie, big picture, how is EDENS approaching ESG or other big picture issues?

JWM: ESG is integral to our identity, with stewardship being one of our core values. Our overarching goal is to achieve carbon neutrality. We’ve already achieved this in all the common areas under our control. We’re now working towards extending this to all our locations, including those controlled by our retail partners. We see a clear path to achieving this goal.

For us, ESG also encompasses diversity and equity. We excel at managing what we measure, which enables us to make sound long-term decisions. By setting quantitative goals, we ensure that our decisions are intentional. Ultimately, what matters most to me is that these principles are deeply ingrained in our culture.”

To listen to the full podcast, visit The Weekly Take.