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The Washington Post Interviews Jodie W. McLean

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EDENS’ CEO Jodie W. McLean recently sat down with deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Post, Karen Tumulty, to discuss retail recovery and the post-COVID consumer landscape. Below is an excerpt:

KT: So, Jodie, it is hard to think of anything that has—any activity that has been more transformed by the last year-and-a-half that we’ve been living through in this pandemic than shopping. Is retail recovering? Are you seeing it yet?

JWM: Yes, it is absolutely recovering. And I think, more importantly, the core of that is our communities are recovering. At EDENS, we’re all open-air. So, we’re all open-air retail that really finds itself in the heart and the center of community, with a singular purpose, which is to enrich community. Not unlike a lot of our other peers, we get up every day and we think about what will bring people together. And, I think, going through the last 18 months right next to all our retail partners.

MS. TUMULTY: But the trend toward open-air shopping developments was something that started years and years before COVID. Has this accelerated it?

JWM: You know, I think a lot of things are driving that. And yes, the trends had started well before COVID. The trends—and we’re going to see a lot of these trends coming through and coming post-COVID—some will be accelerated. And those trends are open-air for a couple of different reasons.

First and foremost, I think, convenience. We have 17 minutes—that’s all we get in transportation time from sitting in my seat to walking through the front door of where I’m going. Ninety-four percent of all consumers won’t travel further than that for everyday purchases, and 80 percent of all disposable income is being spent within 20 miles of somebody’s home. So, it started first and foremost with convenience.

72 percent of us want to feel attached to our community; yet, going into COVID, only 30 percent of Americans knew our neighbors.

Jodie McLean CEO, EDENS
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But then, as things like this: 72 percent of us want to feel attached to our community; yet, going into COVID, only 30 percent of Americans knew our neighbors. And so, now, these gathering places are at a lot of our centers. People are coming, yes, for their essential needs. But I think more importantly, they’re coming for their emotional wants. And so, we’re going to continue to see the rationalization of retail, again, that started prior to COVID. We will see the rationalization of somewhere probably between a billion-and-a-half and two billion square feet of retail.

KT: So, how are your retailers navigating the varying and often conflicting safety measures that we’re seeing in some states: having mask mandates, others not. What does this do for someone who is, say, trying to operate a business in this?

JWM: It’s confusing. It’s tricky. It has put a lot of entrepreneurs in the place where they’re now the arbitrator of somebody’s health, or their own health. We are willing to get in there next to our retail partners to help and support them. But I think for the most part, their thought, first and foremost, is for their own health, their own safety—of themselves, their teams, but also of every customer that comes in the door.

And there is an important factor to retail that goes well beyond just the commerce that happens. We all know that 70 percent of our GDP is driven by consumer goods, but what’s so much more important than that is true prosperity that happens in communities.

When people come together at EDENS places and we watch this through our data, we do everything we can motivated by driving people three-and-a-half trips, five hours of dwell time. And yes, that has economic impact, but when we really look at prosperity and we measure it at our places, we start with economic, but it’s soulful, it’s cultural, it’s social. It is where people come together and feel a part of something much bigger than themselves.

KT: Well, [a listener] wants to know how to keep brick-and-mortar mom-and-pop retailers relevant when they are being forced to compete both against the internet and the national chains.

JWM: What we have found in our portfolio—I’ll just talk about our portfolio, and I’ll talk about a lot of mom-and-pop retailers that we have the good fortune of working with every single day.

Mom-and-pop retailers really are the heart and soul of America. We have found that that is who drives the loyalty to our places. We’ve gone out, we’ve done all sorts of interviews in our community, and we’ll talk to people, and we’ll ask them, “Why are you here today?” And they’ll say, “Oh, I come here all the time because this is where my local bookstore is” or “This is my local café” or “This is my local dress shop.”

 

Mom-and-pop retailers really are the heart and soul of America. We have found that is who drives the loyalty to our places.

Jodie McLean CEO, EDENS

And so, what we find is that the loyalty and the true emotional connection a lot of times is happening around these mom-and-pops, but the foot traffic that makes the mom-and-pops successful is being driven by the nationals. So, the most successful places to us, and I think this is consistent throughout the industry, are those places where you can bring these two together.

And we’ve started this great program in our portfolio now where we’re taking a lot of national retailers—by way of example, Patagonia in Denver. And their store manager is mentoring one of our pop-ups there, a founder of a store called False Ego. And she’s mentoring him, so he has a place to go to ask inventory questions. It’s a great way to bring [unclear], but there’s prosperity now throughout the whole district because of our national retailers really looking, supporting these unique entrepreneurs, being there. That’s what people like. That’s where people want to spend time. And quite frankly, that’s where people want to put their dollars and support.

For the full video interview and transcript, visit Washington Post Live.  Learn more about Jodie W. McLean.