Do you know an Outstanding Member of the Specialty Retail Industry?

Specialty Retail Report is currently seeking nominations for
Outstanding Retailer of the Year
Outstanding Specialty Retailer of the Year
Outstanding Specialty Leasing Manager of the Year
Outstanding Specialty Leasing Director of the Year

Anyone can be nominated for this prestigious award in recognition of overall achievement in the industry.

Fill out the 2016 Hall of Fame Entry Form
to nominate yourself or someone you know.

Email completed forms to

The deadline for nominations is February 15, 2016.

Deborah Kravitz
2013 Lifetime Achievement, Steeped in Retail

Lifetime Achievement
Steeped in Retail

Duffy Weir

Deborah Kravitz has watched as specialty retail has evolved over the years and has played a vital part in grooming new waves of entrepreneurs.

For a woman who says she is not quite finished with her "lifetime in specialty leasing," Deborah Kravitz was humbled when she learned of her induction into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame with the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award. "I am deeply honored. The company I keep with this award are the best in the industry," Kravitz says, "The award is not mine as it is a lifetime of incredibly talented and dedicated mentors, friends, employers, bosses, and past and present PRI (Provenzano Resources, Inc. & Pro Retail, Inc.) team members that should also be recognized for their achievements and for their contributions to this award."

Kravitz says the most salient feature of her career has been the direction and guidance from the people she has "had the honor of working with along the way." She attributes her success to a long line of store owners; mentors at Bonwit Teller, ACA JOE, a national chain that had filed for bankruptcy and needed her help; and her business partner, Ross Provenzano, of PRI.

Retail roots

Kravitz has been in retail or some form of it just about all her life. Following graduation from college Kravitz took a retail job and within six months, she was managing the largest store in the chain. She has stuck to retail her entire life because she loves management, merchandising, buying and creating the consumer environment. She has worked for many of the great retailers including Neiman Marcus, John Wanamaker, Boyd’s of Philadelphia, Bonwit Teller and Claire’s Boutiques. She says this wide range of retailers has added value to her specialty-leasing resume because they cover the range of merchandise in a typical RMU/kiosk program.

In 1989, Kravitz took her first corporate position in specialty leasing with the Simon Property Group in the Northeast and had the opportunity to assist in the grand opening of the Mall of America’s program. A few years later, she moved to southern California to work with Ross Provenzano for his burgeoning company, Glowing Candle Factory. When she left Provenzano’s company to start her own consulting business, Glowing Candle Factory (then Lava Enterprises), became her first client. "The phone rang and rang and never stopped ringing," she said and business flourished with interesting projects including opening an outdoor program for Woodbury Common in Central Valley, NY. In addition, she opened 45 pop-up swimwear stores and did visual merchandising at the LA County Fair. Kravitz thrived on the wide variety of projects and the flexibility that being a consultant offered.

In 1995, Ross Provenzano and Kravitz again teamed up to form a specialty leasing consulting company called Provenzano Resources, Inc. that they operate today. Each is a 50/50 partner with Kravitz as President and Provenzano as CEO. "We bring completely different background and skill sets, but we have the exact same perspective on how to do business; views on life, values and moral," Kravitz says.

Evolution of specialty retail

DebKravitzandRossProvenzan-copyKravitz, who has been around almost as long as the industry, has witnessed first-hand the seismic shifts in the industry from a business whose sole purpose was to groom and develop new retailers that would add to the permanent tenant mix of a shopping center to today’s focus of contributing significantly to the Net Operating Income of a center. "Sadly, a lot of the change has to do with the realization that specialty leasing is a large and profitable revenue generating machine. The bidding for space, the repetition of product, the similarities from one mall to another in concepts and even the exact same RMU units are a different direction entirely," Kravitz says.

Being a counselor to new retail merchants is something Kravitz knows well. She calls it like she sees it, and her honesty is infectious. She tells prospective merchants that success in retail is rarely quick. Her advice: "Do your homework, be prepared, and be honest. Communicate your goals and objectives to the specialty leasing manager so he or she can guide you properly." Kravitz knows how hard the consumer is to read from her first-hand retail experience. She encourages retailers to listen to their customers and ask questions. "Don’t be afraid to change your concept, your display, or your staff. Have a product that you love to sell with a story to tell and train, train, train your salespeople!"

Future forward

DebKravitzandPatricia-copyWith an eye toward the global marketplace, Kravitz has traveled to Dubai, France, Spain and Asia and has a good sense of how many of the specialty leasing programs are becoming institutionalized and "Americanized." She predicts that India will become the fastest growing international retail market because of the large and increasingly affluent market and enormous pipeline of shopping center development there.

Kravitz believes the specialty retail industry needs to take a closer look at NOI and the contribution specialty leasing makes to it. She believes there needs to be elasticity in the business with respect to lease rates; terms need to be flexible and bring in more seasonal products that the customer can relate to at the right time of year.

"I hope it [specialty leasing] will look different in the near future. I think we need to go back to our roots of being a retail development program for shopping locations. We need to look hard at what having the same exact thing in every mall really means to the consumer experience," Kravitz says. The entrepreneurial nature of the specialty retail merchants is what drives her excitement for the industry: "They still come to us with excitement, with something they believe will be the next new thing."

Amy Hall
2013 Specialty Leasing Director, Giving Back

Specialty Leasing Director
Giving Back

Duffy Weir

After countless deals and merchants, Amy Hall hasn’t forgotten how to make each one count and to give back to the community of specialty retail.

If you know Amy Hall you would completely understand why she was nominated for and was inducted into the Hall of Fame as the Specialty Leasing Director of The Year for 2013. Hall always raises her hand, volunteers, trains, and inspires others. She is the epitome of someone who juggles workload and still returns every phone call at the end of the day. Besides running the Local Leasing business at GK Development, Hall volunteers and gives back to the industry by teaching courses at Specialty Retail Report’s Summit and ICSC’s NOI conference. She never stops learning herself. Coaching and counseling are second nature to Hall even as she completes her Master’s degree in Professional Development. She is recognized as a consummate professional who holds herself, staff, and retailers to the highest standards.

Hall began her career in real estate with Del Webb and in the shopping center industry with General Growth Properties. In the fall of 2005, GK Development, headquartered in Barrington, IL, approached her about the position of Senior Director of Local Leasing. "I came on board to build their specialty leasing department, which has now evolved into local leasing, including the local permanent leasing, temporary leasing, mall as media and sponsorship. I would not be here without the support of those at GK that help make my job success possible," Hall says. She has been credited for creating GK’s specialty-leasing platform.

Hall says she was "shocked and incredibly honored and humbled" upon hearing about her recognition. "There have been so many wonderful experiences along the way, but I am most proud of seeing my team meet the goals of the properties, assisting the malls in achieving NOI year after year, even in a down market."

The state of specialty retail

AmyHall3-copyHall has been in the shopping center industry long enough to observe the many changes including the consolidation of cellular phones and accessories and the transition and growth of local entrepreneurs who have expanded operations to multiple concepts in multiple locations. Hall thrives on working with entrepreneurs and says one of the thrills of her work is "seeing merchants succeed to the point that they can become part of the permanent inline. Being able to cultivate single property merchants into regional or national players has been a lot of fun as well," she adds.

"Specialty leasing will continue to lead the effort to incubate new business concepts in the shopping center industry," Hall says. "The models may be dramatically different and in tune with the evolution in social media and technology. Retailers are likely to use social media to market their in-mall business and they may have an online business as well. More importantly, the industry has a rare opportunity within the common areas of our shopping centers to embrace and showcase the many innovative ideas that will be surging into the market."

Hall, like many others, believes that developers need to do a better job ensuring the merchant base is viable. "For many years, more rent has been the name of the game, and while it is the lifeblood of our industry, it’s also important to remember that rent is a function of sales. Retailers with strong business plans, trained sales staff and outstanding products are the only way we can continue to see top rents."

Her advice to newcomers: "Be well rounded in your profession. Know what the other disciplines within the shopping center are responsible for and how your deals affect them. Know your merchant’s business. Demand professionalism and deliver it along with respect and common courtesy. Believe in what you are doing."

One of Hall’s fondest memories is one where she reconnected with a merchant that she had worked with several years ago and they discussed the center and the retailer’s experience there. According to Hall, the retailer says, "There were many times you would tell us ‘no’, but you always told us why you were telling us no and we knew you always cared about our business." This memory sticks with Hall because she says, "This is a tough business that burns out many people. After thousands of deals and countless merchants, the day I stop caring is the day I need to leave," Hall says.

Jocelyn McCloskey
2013 Specialty Leasing Manager, Profile of A Shining Star

Specialty Leasing Manager
Profile of A Shining Star

Poornima Apte

Through personal interactions and an emphasis on quality merchandising, Jocelyn McCloskey is a rising star in specialty leasing.

Imagine exceeding your sales goals by one million dollars. Now imagine doing it at a time when the economy is on uncertain ground. Jocelyn McCloskey’s performance in 2012 as Specialty Leasing Manager at Scarborough Town Centre, in Scarborough, Canada, was so spectacular that it won her induction into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame.

McCloskey began her career in the shopping center industry in 2004 as an Assistant Tenant Coordinator for the construction of Vaughan Mills Shopping Centre in the Greater Toronto Area. Beginning August 2011, her first management role was at Scarborough Town Centre, an Oxford property.That McCloskey has achieved her success at STC over a span of less than two years is testament to her talent. The $2 million specialty leasing program at STC, includes 10 RMUs, 6 Kiosks, 11 pop-up stores, weekly brand activations, sponsorship, mall media, rooftop and storage revenue.

McCloskey says that educating retailers about the importance of merchandising and having them embrace change has been one of her most challenging assignments. She points out that STC completed a $62 million renovation in 2010, and although the property changed, it took a while for retailers to follow suit. "The challenge was convincing these retailers that there is a direct correlation with presentation, customer service and sales performance," McCloskey says, adding that retailers were provided with cost-effective solutions for merchandising, and helped with ideas for allocating funds to areas that would have the most impact. One of the best examples of such a transformation was Sweet Tooth, a candy shop that transformed from a cluttered convenience store feel to a modern vintage candy boutique. The store has seen a 30% increase in sales year over year since implementing the changes. "The reality is that specialty retailers do not have the same spending dollars on marketing and merchandising as the national retailers," McCloskey says, "They are not merchandisers, they are entrepreneurs. They are small businesses that require our expertise in their new venture and assurance on the success of the business."

To this end, last year, McCloskey launched a Specialty Leasing Pinterest site ( for all retailers at STC as inspiration for cost-effective ways to merchandise a store.

Future promise

PatriciaandMcCloskey-copyMcCloskey predicts that strategizing, creativity and working closely with leasing will continue to play a prominent role to ensure revenue is maximized in today’s economy. "Cultivating and strengthening relationships will be important in closing deals with premium local retailers and ensuring they do not relocate to competitors," McCloskey says. "Innovation and new ways to generate revenue will increase with the challenges of lease restrictions and limited leasable space in the common area." McCloskey also predicts that experiential marketing and pop-up retail will increase.

Her advice to fellow professionals: cultivate relationships. "Face-to-face meetings are important. You will be surprised by what ideas and opportunities [can come up] through a conversation. You are able to establish a relationship and get to know the individual and learn more about their needs than their wants at a different level than you would through email," McCloskey points out, "Opportunities are created by being honest and sharing your ideas on how to contribute to the success of a business and most of all, keeping an open mind. Customers and clients appreciate your opinions and interest in their business. If it is not successful, the added level of service will be remembered and can potentially lead to future opportunities."

McCloskey believes that specialty leasing is a partnership based on trust and honesty. "Retailers should feel comfortable to speak their mind and work together with the landlord to make their business a success," McCloskey says, "My best achievement is obtaining the respect and confidence from my colleagues and retailers, knowing that I am making a difference in their business while at the same time, having fun and establishing lasting relationships."

This sentiment was echoed by many at Oxford Properties Group when nominating McCloskey for induction into the Hall of Fame. Brad Merchant, Director of Retail, stated: "… with Jocelyn, it’s not just about the financials. She has proven to be extremely resourceful; is a great team player; and approaches each challenge with a smile on her face. Truly one of our stars!"

Tony Detzi
2013 Specialty Retailer, Care Tactics

Specialty Retailer
Care Tactics

Duffy Weir

The phenomenal rise of Spirit Halloween stores is no trick but instead achieved by incredibly well-synchronized processes.

It is no secret why the specialty retail industry voted to recognize Spirit Halloween’s Tony Detzi as Retailer of The Year. Detzi has a methodical approach to store growth, product mix, and people management and a passion to give back to the community that is admirable and purposeful.

Tony Detzi, Senior Vice President of Spirit Operations, is in charge of all functions from real estate and fixtures, to supply and purchasing. He is passionate about the temporary Halloween business and contributing to the communities in which Spirit operates. "Despite the perception, there is no downtime in the Halloween business," Detzi says. Besides operating stores from Labor Day to shortly past Halloween, operations are fully engaged recruiting over 18,000 part-time employees; conducting a careful review of the success of every location; and analyzing product mix. "Our biggest challenge as we have grown is just being able to handle the sheer magnitude of going from zero to 1,000+ locations year after year. The idea of hiring the number of associates we need is certainly mind boggling as well," Detzi says.

According to Detzi, delivering product to the stores in a short timeframe and being able to warehouse the merchandise in order to get the goods to every state in which Spirit operates, is a monumental task. "We have accomplished all of this through the tenacity of our organization and putting systems in place to make it all happen," he says.

Compelled by charity


In 2006, Detzi and his team had a vision to contribute to the communities in which they operated. They created "Spirit for Children," a program that helps make hospitals less scary for kids and families by providing fun during the Halloween season. Each store collects money at the point of sale for funding Child Life departments within hospitals. "We collected from all our 990 stores. Last year we collected $11 million and 100% goes to hospitals," Detzi says proudly. In addition, Spirit employees coordinated Halloween parties in 80 hospitals. Spirit’s suppliers get into the act too, by donating costumes for these events.

Following college and a stint in the Army Reserve, Detzi took a retail job with a regional "five-and-dime store" operator and the rest is history. Detzi came to Spencer Gifts in 1996 opening temporary stores called Spencer Express and grew that chain to over 100 stores. It was then that Spencer’s bought a regionally based west coast Halloween operator called Spirit.

Detzi has built the Spirit Halloween brand by increasing the number of store openings year after year. In 2012, Spirit operated in over 997 stores in vacant spaces that averaged 7,500-10,000 square feet. Over 800 stores were in power centers, downtowns, and stand-alone locations. Taking a company that had only 49 stores in 1998 to one that will open over 1,000 locations in 2013—every one of them temporary and open only for 7-8 weeks, is one of his greatest accomplishments, Detzi says.

Spirit Halloween has its eyes on Canada and Europe for growth through owner-operator arrangements. "We also think the online business will continue to grow. And we are looking at more interactive stores in the future with more customized and animated sets, engaging and interactive merchandising displays and energetic, friendly sales associates," Detzi says. Spirit has evolved in customer service too, adding free shipping to those who order costumes online while in their stores. Detzi also envisions a smaller footprint Spirit Halloween store in traditional malls to manage the store’s growth plan. "We feel we still have room for growth in many parts of the country. There are many markets where we are either underutilized or in the case of smaller markets where we haven’t even ventured. Malls are also a venue we feel have much more potential for us," Detzi says.

He says Spirit feels honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as Retailer of the Year. "I give a lot of credit to the real estate team who manages the most important aspect. It’s all about relationships with landlords," Detzi says. Thirty percent of Spirit’s current business is done with national developers and the rest is done through one-on-one relationships with individual landlords. Spirit Halloween also has relationships with retailers who have excess space to sublease—such as Best Buy, Walgreens, CVS and Office Depot.

Frank Pacera, Director of Leasing at Spirit is delighted with the recognition. "Tony is well liked, greatly respected, extremely hard working and passionate about the business," Pacera said.

Marc Winkelman
2012 Lifetime Achievement, Industry Game-Changer

Lifetime Achievement
Industry Game-Changer

Duffy Weir

Specialty retail veteran recognized for vision, leadership and humanitarian efforts.

It is no secret that Marc Winkelman, the CEO of Calendar Club, is a game-changer and a visionary. After all, says Patricia Norins, the publisher of Specialty Retail Report, who recently presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award, that's what it takes to successfully run the world's largest seasonal specialty retail program.

Winkelman learned retail through osmosis while growing up in a family of retailers. In 1977 he opened a large bookstore and café in suburban Detroit and ran it successfully for 13 years. It was during this time that Winkelman noticed the calendar business grow naturally out of the book business as publishers began producing more calendars every year. From Sierra Club titles to Ansel Adams photography and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editions, calendars were becoming popular gift-giving items. "Each year I was in the book business, publishers offered more calendars and by the mid-80's, our bookstore offered more than 300 different titles and our customers loved them," Winkelman says.

Noticing how well the calendars did in the store, Winkelman thought a kiosk in a mall would make a logical extension. However, success was not immediate. Testing a mall calendar kiosk, Winkelman tinkered with the temporary seasonal calendar business for a couple of years in the mid-eighties. Those early decisions—especially merchandising calendars on the wrong fixtures; a weak selection of calendars and the wrong mall location served as lessons learned while he figured out how to proceed.

A few years later, in the early '90s, Eddie Brasch, a partner in Bighorn Sheepskin Company, one of specialty retail's most successful iconic operators asked Winkelman to try the calendar operation again. "Eddie and Barry Silverman [with Bighorn] knew a lot more about seasonal retailing than I did," says Winkelman.  It was during this period that Calendar Club was started as a division of Bighorn Sheepskin and Winkelman partnered with the two sheepskin retailers. Now Winkelman can look back on those early days as learning experiences that guided the management of the successful Calendar Club that he operates today.

Calendar Club has built a successful international component to the business too. Winkelman says his greatest accomplishment is in building an organization with operations in many countries outside the United States—including Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Today, Calendar Club operates 1100 temporary locations and has diversified its product mix. "Right now we have 30+ (year round) game, toy and book locations and we are looking for other concepts," Winkelman says.

Norins points out that the Lifetime Achievement Award was created to recognize professionals "who have achieved truly outstanding success and who stand out as industry game-changers." She says that in talking with the Calendar Club team, she was impressed at how often they used words like integrity, honesty, passion and intelligence to describe Winkelman. In recognizing Winkelman with the honor at SPREE, Norins said the award was "based on Marc's relentless passion for the industry, his amazing vision, his tremendous leadership skills, his humanitarian efforts and his innate ability to run a very successful company."

Heidi Cardall
2012 Specialty Leasing Director, Service with a Smile

Specialty Leasing Director
Service with a Smile

Duffy Weir

Pixie dust and alligator skin make for a leasing professional who can handle anything with a smile.

If you want something done, ask the busiest person. This is how colleagues describe Heidi Cardall's "take-it-on" and "get-it-done" attitude. Heidi Cardall, Senior Director of Specialty Retail at CBL & Associates was recently recognized as The Specialty Retail Director of the Year, and as someone who handles everything with a smile.

Jeff Gregerson, Vice President of Specialty Leasing and Cardall's supervisor, says Cardall, who has been with CBL for 14 years, has always been a tremendous asset to the company and the specialty retail department. "She is hard-working, conscientious, and loyal. She always has the department's best interest in mind and keeps everyone on track with deadlines. Heidi is the glue that holds the department together and I am very fortunate to have her on the team," Gregerson says.

Cardall began her career in specialty leasing long before she knew it would become her career path. In high school she worked at carts and kiosks at Sea World in her hometown of Orlando, Florida. "It was always fun for me," she says. Cardall majored in retail management, marketing, and consumer behavior in college and following graduation she joined American Greetings. After three years, she moved to Philadelphia where she took a seasonal-type position with Halloween Adventure where she was responsible for visual merchandising, leasing, and gift buying and acted as the district manager for stores. In the early 1990's, Cardall was leasing 100 Halloween locations nationwide.

After several years with Halloween Adventure, Cardall decided to try working on the developer side of the shopping center business.  In 1996, she worked for The Mills Corporation in Myrtle Beach, North Carolina. When she learned that several of her friends were relocating to Chattanooga, TN, she became interested in the possibility of transferring to a mall there. In doing her market research, she learned of a possible position at CBL corporate. Gregerson brought Cardall in for interviews. "I was offered the job that week, and instead of going to another Mills property (Sawgrass), I took a huge risk and leap of faith and came to CBL. I'm so glad I did; I've never looked back," Cardall says.

Cardall knows how to overcome challenges in her work. "I like to say I'm very firm but always fair. Having grown up in Orlando, I joke that I was dusted with pixie dust, then moved to the Northeast and grew alligator-tough skin," Cardall says.

Cardall is hoping that the specialty leasing industry is on the comeback. "The 2012 SPREE show had such a wonderful energy and surge of excitement. I feel the industry is on the cusp of breaking loose again in the next couple of years and will start to fill in those merchandising gaps that have been missing during the last few years of recession. Hopefully the SBA (Small Business Administration) will start releasing loans again, and money will start flowing in a positive manner, so we can get the economy running in the correct direction and people will be willing to take those risks again," she adds.

The Hall of Fame Award for Specialty Retail Director of The Year surprised Cardall. "I was privileged and humbled by the honor. I had no idea that I was being recognized for hard work, my high standards, or anything else that I do every day, as part of my job. I truly absolutely love my job and everyone I work with, whether it is within my own company, a retailer, a manufacturer, or other peer or company, so to be awarded for doing it, especially by the industry leaders and magazine, is simply amazing," Cardall says.

Denise Monahan
2012 Specialty Leasing Manager, Merchants' Darling

Specialty Leasing Manager
Merchants' Darling

Bernadette Starzee

Denise Monahan is the first specialty leasing manager to have been nominated for a Hall of Fame award by a tenant.

When Denise Monahan found out that she had been named Specialty Leasing Manager of the Year, she laughed. "I received a call from one of my tenants, Dan Kilkoyne, president of Mini Melts USA, Inc.," she recalls. "He said, 'I did something without telling you, and I hope you're not mad.' He's a great tenant, and I was wondering, 'What could he have possibly done? Moved a machine?'"

Kilkoyne informed Monahan that he had nominated her for the award, and that she had won and would be a getting a call in five minutes. "I chuckled, because of the way he told me," she says. "The honor was especially sweet because the nomination came from a tenant."

In nominating Monahan, Kilkoyne spoke about how she had helped guide his company as it grew. "I believe Denise is one of the best specialty leasing reps in the nation. Her property is always fully leased, the décor is incredible and she integrates so many different elements into the program," Kilkoyne wrote in his nominating papers. "She values her tenants' opinion and creates an extremely productive work environment."

Monahan's ability to relate to tenants stems from the fact that she used to be one of them. About 25 years ago, she began her specialty retail career with two carts at Plymouth Meeting Mall in Plymouth Meeting, PA. She went on to own and operate 11 RMUs in four different states over six years.

While a tenant at the Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia, PA, Monahan was approached by management about a leasing position in 1993. "I jumped the desk to the other side," she says, crediting Franklin Mills' Carole Asher, whom Monahan describes as her mentor, with teaching her the ropes.

For the past 12 years, Monahan has worked at Jersey Gardens in Elizabeth, NJ, where she currently manages a specialty leasing program with 41 RMUs, 15 kiosks, 17 temporary in-line stores and 19 jewelers in a 6,000-square-foot jewelry exchange.

"When I talk with my tenants about margins or about why something isn't working for them visually, they appreciate that I have been there," she says. "A lot of our tenants are mom-and-pop shops, and I do a lot of mentoring. I love working with tenants from concept to completion. Some former tenants from 15 or 18 years ago still call me for advice, which I find very fulfilling," she adds.

Looking back on her accomplishments over the years, Monahan is especially proud of her work with Lollipop Boutique at Franklin Mills. "At first, the owners didn't know what product they wanted to offer on their cart," she says of the operator that, with Monahan's guidance, focused on specialty apparel for weddings and first communions and grew into a kiosk and then temporary store and, ultimately, a successful permanent store.

Monahan says her position requires that she think outside the box, a skill she says she learned when she worked as an event planner for IBM before getting into specialty retail. "You have to think about how you can turn a space into something unique," says Monahan, who jokes that she is a "frustrated visual merchandiser." She was particularly proud of the lush caravan-style kiosk she came up with for a tenant's palm-reading concept. Monahan's visual merchandising abilities have earned her several Visual Victory awards from Specialty Retail Report,, as well as various merchandising awards from Glimcher, the real estate investment trust company that owns Jersey Gardens.

Things have changed in specialty retail since Monahan entered the industry, and the changes have created new challenges. "Over the past decade, there has been an explosion in temporary leasing of inline stores," she says, noting that she wasn't trained in working with inline stores and had to learn as she went along. Temporary inline stores are a win-win for properties and tenants, Monahan says. "For tenants, they provide a way to test out a product or a location," she says. "And filling empty stores with temporary tenants is an invaluable source of revenue for properties."

Tim Oldfield
2012 Specialty Retailer, Banking on a Golden Opportunity

Specialty Retailer
Banking on a Golden Opportunity

Emily Lambert

This specialty retailer worked an old and tested idea into a roaring specialty retail success.

To be inducted into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame as Specialty Retailer of the Year is no easy feat, especially in this economy. The retailer, chosen  from  nominations submitted by industry professionals, needs to demonstrate a number of successful attributes including a strong commitment to the company mission. Tim Oldfield, CEO of Gold Buyers/Gold Rush, does precisely that. Gold Buyers/Gold Rush, headquartered in Virginia Beach, VA, states its mission is to be the largest gold recycling company in the world, through a caring and passionate workforce—and Tim Oldfield, sticks to this mission passionately.

Gold Buyers/Gold Rush (the name of the company varies depending upon what country is being referenced) has 705 retail outlets worldwide in 35 different countries with 2,500 employees. In North America alone, there are 180 retail carts in operation under the Gold Buyer name.

Tim Oldfield's entrepreneurial days began in 1998, when he took a concept popular in his native country, Australia, and brought it to America. He sold secondhand goods through a company called Cash Converters.

In 2008, Gold Buyers/Gold Rush was born by taking the seed from the most successful part of Cash Converters and planting it. "I asked my partner, 'What's the best part of the second hand business?' The answer was, 'gold,'" says Oldfield.

"We buy broken gold and break up gold," says Oldfield. "We refine it and sell it. We buy it for less than New York spot value, and then refine it in Switzerland, and sell it as gold bouillon and/or gold coins," he says.

While Cash Converters catered to a primarily male demographic between the ages of 25-45, buying gold came with a new target market: women. And what better place to be than the common area in a shopping center for that demographic, thought Oldfield. "Women are comfortable in the mall," he says.

Not only are women given a convenient and safe environment to exchange their gold, shopping centers benefit from women receiving their cash in the very place they want to spend it.

The idea was tested on three carts: Chesapeake Square Mall in Chesapeake, VA, Lynnhaven Mall in Virginia Beach, VA and Burlington Mall in Burlington, MA. The reaction: a golden opportunity for expansion. Locations spread to other parts of Virginia and Massachusetts, and by the end of 2008, to the state of California. Locations also moved to Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Over the years, 32 countries followed suit.

Beneath this vast enterprise is Oldfield's business philosophy: "Keep it simple and professional." This translates not only to the actual exchange—"We have a strong culture to be honest and open with every customer every step of the way"—but to what employees wear to work. At Gold Buyers/Gold Rush, you will find staff in professional uniform.

Keeping it simple has been important to expansion as well. The exchange of gold can easily be duplicated in other shopping centers, states and countries, says Oldfield. "With diamonds, that would be too complicated. With gold, it is easy to train. It's all the same gold in every country. Just different purities," he says.

And no matter what country, state, or community gold is exchanged in, it benefits the environment and the community as a whole. "Gold being mined is a dirty business," says Oldfield. When gold is exchanged, it is recycled back into the system.

Oldfield also gives back to the community through charities. "A lot of women give us stones in their jewelry. We only pay for the metal. Any stones we get, we sell and donate those proceeds to charity," he says. Chosen charities relate specifically to women, such as cervical cancer research.

For everyone involved, it's a golden opportunity. For Tim Oldfield, the Hall of Fame recognition is more than an award, "it's an honor," he says.

Robert Norins
2011 Lifetime Achievement, Trail-blazing Pioneer

Lifetime Achievement
Trail-blazing Pioneer

Poornima Apte

Robert Norins was one of the first to see the potential of the mall's common area well before the specialty retail industry became the booming business it is today.

By all indications, Robert Norins met the definition of a visionary: He had an eye for what worked in business and keen foresight. It was this foresight that lead him to explore and profit from the common area in malls—way before most retail entrepreneurs.

Robert Norins passed away on April 2 at the age of 67, and was posthumously inducted into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame. At the ceremony held at SPREE, Patricia Norins remembered her father as an entrepreneur who paved the path for many who followed in his pioneering footsteps. Patricia Norins is the publisher and CEO of Specialty Retail Report.

Specialty retail beginnings

Forty years ago, in 1971, Norins and his wife, Evie, launched their business Santa's Corner, selling personalized Christmas stockings from carts in malls. At that time, the field of specialty retail wasn't born yet. Most mall owners were skeptical about the idea of having merchants in the common area. But, says his daughter, Patricia Norins, Robert Norins saw the benefits of working the common area when most others didn't. "There was a fair amount of resistance from some people in permanent leasing who wanted to make their numbers, there were complaints about sight lines and the like," Patricia says. "But he found a way to work out the details and persuaded malls to become receptive," she recalls. Also in 1971, there were none of the efficient and high-tech kiosk and cart designs of today. Patricia remembers her parents set up shop using folding tables. Despite all these obstacles, Santa's Corner flourished. At its peak, Santa's Corner grew to 300 seasonal kiosks opening November 1 and closing December 26. Norins eventually sold the business in the '80's.

It was also in the early 1970s that Robert Norins launched a magazine for the mall industry, National Mall Monitor. The foray into publishing was strengthened further when Robert and Evie also launched a magazine for retail outlet centers called Offprice Outlet Report and a retail tenant directory that ranked all the retailers in the country.

Robert Norins' years of experience with his cart program did not go unnoticed. In the late '80s, the Mills Corporation requested Norins to set up a cart program for them at a couple of properties. That successful venture lead to the creation of Sales Dynamics Inc., a third-party operator that managed and operated cart programs for malls. "It was invaluable for malls developers because startup costs for carts or kiosks were covered, seasonal programs ran effectively. He made it all work," Patricia Norins says of her father. Robert Norins hired a team of specialty leasing managers—Sales Dynamics had 200 specialty leasing managers and a corporate office in Cherry Hill, NJ. Patricia says "there are still many people in the industry trained by my mom and dad."

Industry pioneer

Norins says she has heard from a variety of industry professionals—including retailers, leasing managers and mall owners—about her father's crucial role in developing this nascent field. "So many people have come up to me and told me that my Dad had an important niche in the industry and that they appreciate his business vision for the industry—it has been very gratifying," she says.

Patricia Norins remembers her father as a trailblazer who saw ideas and concepts where none existed. "He really forged his own trail, rolled out new concepts like petting zoos at shopping centers," she says. "That was shoppertainment before that concept even existed." A philosophy major at college, Robert Norins was also very creative in coming up with new ideas and in overcoming challenges while implementing them, his daughter recalls.

He and Patricia's mom, Evie, worked as a perfect team. "They were an amazing duo that completed the business package. Dad was the strategist and ideas guy propelling [the business] in new directions and working with the business model, while Mom did an amazing job finding the right people, motivating them. She was an amazing salesperson," Patricia says. "Both had great marketing ideas that helped propel the company to great heights," she adds.

Always an entrepreneur

Patricia says even after her father retired, the business instinct and entrepreneurial spirit never left him. He counseled many who came to him for advice. Patricia remembers her dad advised a real estate broker to get his real estate law degree which he did and now that broker has a flourishing practice. A neighbor who was a bookkeeper completed his CPA on Robert Norins' advice and enjoys great success now, Patricia points out, as examples of her father's counsel and generosity. "For a lot of people he provided inspiration, he was a huge proponent of education and understood business models inside and out," she says.

Patricia says she learned a lot from her parents and her father loved teaching her subtle lessons. Even as a young child, Patricia stuffed envelopes for the business. One of Robert Norins' favorite lessons was running business models by his daughter. "We used to go to a restaurant for lunch and Dad would be like 'how many customers do you think they get every day, let's run the numbers,'" Patricia says, "even when he was in the hospital, he would be like 'how many hospital beds are there here, is this a profitable business model.'"

"It really was in his blood," Patricia says. She will miss his ready ear and inspiration the most. "He was always there for me. I'll really miss all of that," she says.

Robert Norins' impact on the industry will be felt for a long time to come. "When you look around and see some temporary [merchant] and realize that my Dad had some hand in that, it's amazing," Patricia says. "There are so many people benefiting from the trail that he blazed."

Jim Allen
2011 Lifetime Achievement,
Spearheading Specialty Retail Growth

Lifetime Achievement
Spearheading Specialty Retail Growth

Duffy C. Weir

Jim Allen's success in specialty retail is legendary. Over the past 24 years, he has created a hugely successful program for Simon and overcome personal struggles to get there.

A chorus of voices in the specialty retail industry will tell you that no one deserves Specialty Retail Report's Lifetime Achievement Award more than Jim Allen, Executive Vice President of Local Leasing at Simon Property Group. The award recognizes professionals who have made outstanding contributions to the specialty retail industry during their lifetime. As a consequence of the award, Allen was inducted into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame at SPREE.

In the 24 years that Allen has worked in the industry, he has spearheaded the creation of management and leasing processes–developing a dedicated sales team, and implementing best practices that lead to even greater levels of business success. Over the last 16 years, he has created the largest specialty retail program in the industry, never losing sight of the bottom line. "Jim's never-ending passion for the industry, his amazing vision, his tremendous leadership skills, and his innate ability to run a very successful program are some of the many reasons we decided to recognize him with the industry's highest honor," said Patricia Norins, Publisher and CEO of Specialty Retail Report at a special ceremony to honor Allen. "The Lifetime Achievement Award is about recognizing a person who really stands out as an industry game changer and Jim Allen is just that."

Allen is responsible for all local leasing activities at malls owned or managed by Simon. He is accountable for overseeing the targeting and developing of new local tenants as well as the use of carts and temporary kiosks in the center's common areas. He is tasked with maximizing interim leasing of vacant inline store space and developing unique retail and new service concepts for the center environment.

Early career

Allen's career at Simon began in 1994 when Karen Corsaro, then EVP of Marketing, convinced him to join Simon Property Group. "I will forever be indebted to her for giving me my start," Allen says. From there, property management took responsibility for the temporary leasing business. Allen and Corsaro grew the business into a dual function of marketing and leasing management. Allen is the first to say he did not invent the idea for specialty retail at Simon, but he was certainly responsible for its growth. Allen grew the staff from 12 to 80 local leasing representatives and the cart program from a few hundred carts in 1994 to 3,485 units in 2011.

Prior to joining SPG, Allen was a leasing agent at the Taubman Company from 1990 to 1994. There, he was instrumental in introducing common area cart programs in Taubman centers and oversaw and worked with Sales Dynamics Inc, a consulting firm (set up by Robert Norins, another Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award winner) that developed, leased and managed cart programs for developers for a fee. He also spent four years with The May Centers where he developed and managed the temporary leasing program, then an outgrowth of the marketing department. "Back then, I would order six carts and we thought that was the 'cat's pajamas'!" he says.

In 1974, Jim was a relative newcomer to the shopping center real estate business. A self prescribed "pocket-protector nerd," he began his career at Hallmark Cards and Drawing Board Greeting Cards after graduating from Illinois State University with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and sociology.

Personal struggles

After being diagnosed with lung cancer, Allen created a blog for his family and friends. He recently celebrated his fourth year since his diagnosis and wrote, "Per the American Cancer Society, 75% of those diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer die within 2 years. But, I am still here! I have had a couple periods of remission—one 18 months and one 9 months. Despite the challenges of the past four years, I look forward to being around for quite a bit more time. I'm grateful for the small things. Life—it's a journey."

Allen, like everything he does, has put his heart and soul into staying well. During these past few years, he has sought out the best medical care possible. He takes risks, just like the business risks he's familiar with, as cancer doctors offer the most obscure "cancer drug cocktails" to prolong his life. In life, and in business, Allen has always been a fighter.

James Gilland
2011 Outstanding Specialty Retailer, Star Status

Outstanding Specialty Retailer
Star Status

Regina Molaro

James Gilland, president of Tricked Out Accessories, earns the prestigious "Outstanding Retailer of the Year" title.

It takes dedication, sharp business skills, and talent to be inducted into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame. Just ask James Gilland, president of Tricked Out Accessories—a company that specializes in accessories for cell phones and hand held devices.

Gilland, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame as "Outstanding Retailer of the Year," exhibits unrivaled leadership skills and professionalism. Renowned for his positive attitude, uncompromising work ethic and in-depth understanding of operating a customer-focused business, Gilland certainly has what it takes to soar to the top.

Gilland's successful rise can be tracked from Midland, Texas to Utah and Hawaii. After temporarily dropping out of high school, he worked as a telemarketer at a photography studio. His sales abilities soon got him promoted to manager. With some work experience and management skills behind him, he went on to work as a sales representative for a national jewelry company. A two-year stint teaching Spanish for his church then brought him to New Jersey.

Upon returning home to Utah in 2001, the mobile phone industry was taking flight. At that time Gilland worked in management for a mobile accessory company. It was there that he began developing a vision of a "new and improved" company that would focus on product selection. This creative vision later materialized into Tricked Out Accessories, which got its name from a record label Gilland liked.

Specialty retail beginnings

In 2003, Gilland got a loan and opened a cart at the Newgate Mall in Ogden, Utah. Since Gilland already had previous mall experience, a cart seemed like a logical beginning. Six months after the launch of Tricked Out Accessories, a competitor offered to sell Gilland his cart, so he purchased that cart with profits from his first one. What began with one Utah-based cart soon blossomed into a thriving business that now has a total of 20 locations (carts and inline stores) in Utah and Hawaii. A professional dress code has helped build Tricked Out Accessories' professional image.

In addition to ongoing training for his dedicated staff, Gilland also dedicates time to educating himself via courses, seminar videos, audio books, and more. Since 2005, he's been holding monthly manager meetings and has never missed one. In fact, it was at one such meeting that Gilland learned of his induction into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame. Colton Barton, general manager of operations in Hawaii, nominated Gilland for the honor.

Gilland learned of the award when Barton flew into town and surprised him during a manager meeting. "He walked in, interrupting with a phone call for me, on speaker phone. It was Debbie Lahti, Tradeshow Director for SPREE, who announced in front of all the managers that I had been selected for the award," says Gilland. "I was touched, shocked, and emotional—not only at the honor of receiving the award, but at the kind words and thoughtfulness of so many people."

Excellence in business standards

Respect and admiration are what prompted Barton to nominate Gilland for the recognition. Barton says he was impressed by the way Gilland has chosen to grow and manage his business by promoting standards of excellence, and by his dedication to professional management and ongoing training.

Since catching consumer interest is key, Gilland has also been investing in the design and building of custom RMU fixtures. At Hawaii's Ala Moana Center, Tricked Out Accessories has set a high standard in visual displays that some office staff have pointed out to other mall tenants as an example to emulate.

Gilland attributes his success to having high standards and an unyielding commitment to ongoing improvement. "I'm always looking for weaknesses because that shows an opportunity for progress. I also have some of the best trained and most talented staff who share the company vision," Gilland says.

Gilland points to excellent customer service and an eye on the long-term strategy, as ways to really excel. "I hope retailers will strive to uphold the long-term values of customer service and excellence," he says, "It's disappointing to see so many businesses with a short-term vision of high-pressure selling and misleading claims that are focused on temporary success, and not what is best for the customer." Regina Molaro is a freelance writer who covers retail, art and design, and fashion.

Carol West
2011 Specialty Leasing Manager, Trend Spotter

Specialty Leasing Manager
Trend Spotter

Poornima Apte

An eye for trends, hard work and excellent management skills have made Carol West one of the go-to people at Simon Property Group. The specialty leasing manager inducted into this year's Hall of Fame, is an inspiration to all around her.

It was early in 2000 when Carol West came across the now ubiquitous Crocs at the Park Meadows Mall in Denver. "I recognized and identified the product as a concept with a lot of potential that could be duplicated across the portfolio," West, a Local Leasing Manager with Simon, says. In short order, West contacted the Director of Real Estate for Crocs and introduced him to the company. As a result, at their peak, Crocs had a presence in more than 50 Simon properties nationwide.

It is this ability—to catch a trend in its infancy and nurture it till it yields rich dividends—that coworkers say is one of West's many great strengths. It is also one of many traits that prompted Shannon Shinn, Simon's Vice President of Local Leasing, to nominate West for the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame.

Specialty leasing start

West works as Local Leasing Manager at Towne Square West and Towne Square East in Wichita, KS. It was in Wichita that West got her start in specialty leasing—she joined as an office administrator for Towne West in 1987. "At that time, there weren't any specialty leasing people in the field, [so] one of my responsibilities was to attempt to lease temporary space as time allowed," West recalls. It was around the same time that Simon decided to test a new position where the employee's sole responsibility would be leasing temporary space in malls. Having already worked at this as an office administrator, West was a natural fit for the job. She increased the revenues in this category by 65%. West's stellar performance in the field resulted in the position becoming a permanent feature at Simon Property Group. Today the company has over 80 specialty leasing representatives.

Dedicated service

West's years of dedication at Simon have not gone unnoticed. "She is one of our short-term leasing managers with years of proven success," Shinn said in her nomination. "Carol is revered as one of the 'go-to' people whom the other specialty leasing reps contact first with questions, seeking advice, opinions, ideas, help, etc. Her years of experience, learning from what has not worked and capitalizing on what does work, epitomizes hard work and dedication," Shinn added.

"Carol is the best at what she does," Shinn said, "Because of this, she continues to train several of our Short Term Leasing Representatives helping to form the way we conduct our business." It is this mentoring, training and development that West has provided to others at Simon over the last 24 years, that West points out, is her "signature stamp" on the work she does. "I have had the privilege of being a manager for Simon and thus have been able to lend my knowledge and expertise to numerous individuals that have worked within our corporation throughout the years," West says. West adds that being the first leasing representative at Simon and watching that branch of the company grow, has been her biggest achievement.

Leasing success

Shinn says West is not afraid to think outside the box and find new creative ways to lease space and generate income. Some of her tenants have not been traditional ones. Case in point: the inline store Until We Meet Again, a local merchant who sells custom caskets. In addition, says Shinn, West is able to move cart customers into inline stores smoothly, thereby generating additional income.

Her ability to work with tenants and their needs has earned her high praise from them as well. Shinn quoted one of West's tenants in her nomination: "Ms. Carol West has always understood our need, effectively addressed the problems and offered [the] best possible solutions. Carol West has always demonstrated excellent communication skills as a good listener to all the matters we put forward for her consideration and promptly responded whenever we are in need of her assistance. I congratulate Simon Property [Group] for having such a wonderful person on their team and I am confident that her services are an asset to your group."

Shinn agrees. "Carol has demonstrated her dedication to our program at Simon and to the industry," she said in her nomination, "She is one of a few in the industry that continues to be a pioneer, an achiever year after year and continuously sets new standards. She is a person that retailers, industry leaders, tenants and peers look to for advice and new ideas in the industry. Carol is truly an asset to the company, to the malls, to her tenants."

Specialty retail changes

West recalls that her career has not been without its challenges. The principal one, she says, is staying in touch with new and cutting-edge concepts while based in the Midwest. "Very seldom, if at all, does a concept or trend begin in the center of the United States; it's almost always on the East or West coast," West says. She works around this by canvassing other properties and markets, reading industry publications, researching trends online and attending industry trade shows. "I am continually attempting to hone my skills by attending, fairs, festivals, expos and trade shows across the country," West says. "By doing so it keeps my outlook fresh and allows me the ability to keep my eyes and ears open so as to identify the next hot item or category in specialty leasing," she adds.

Over the years, West has witnessed sea changes in the field of specialty retail. She remembers when specialty retail was dominated by mom-and-pop shops coming into a single property with a gift line or homemade crafts. "They usually stayed a weekend, a week or even a holiday season, but by no means was their cart or kiosk the sole revenue driver," West remembers. "The merchandising units of yesteryear were skirted tables or cardboard sonotube gazebos. Today, in shiny RMUs or kiosks, many of the specialty retailers are Limited Liability Corporations who not only have one year placement at a property but also have multiple businesses within that property, and in many instances, have [executed] regional or national deals," West points out.

West sees more mainstream retailers taking advantage of temporary and seasonal leasing. The rise of pop-up stores is also one to keep an eye on, she says.

As for her winning entry into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame, West says she was both "shocked and excited" to receive [this] prestigious award.

"I was unaware that I was even nominated, so it was a huge surprise and a big thrill," West says.

Suzanne Cayley
2011 Specialty Leasing Director,
An Industry Champion

Specialty Leasing Director
An Industry Champion

Duffy C. Weir

Ivanhoe Cambridge's Suzanne Cayley has worked hard to make the company synonymous with Canadian specialty retail.

Between the trendy haircut and glasses and the chunky jewelry lies a strong and determined woman who, according to some, "makes you elevate your standards just by being part of her team." Suzanne Cayley, Vice President of Specialty Leasing and Partnerships for Ivanhoe Cambridge in Canada is the standard-bearer underneath all that style.

Early career

Recently, Specialty Retail Report named Cayley to the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame at SPREE. Cayley got her start in the industry at a mixed-use project, called Queen's Quay Terminal in Toronto and then became a giftware sales representative.

In the late 80's, Cayley rejoined the shopping center industry doing leasing and tenant coordination for a variety of third party management companies. Her next career move was a temporary consulting opportunity to help Cambridge Shopping Centres create a specialty retail program. "I saw an opportunity within Cambridge to create a department and I put pen to paper and wrote out a business plan outlining how I thought that structure and the department should function. And guess what? The company believed in me—and continued to support me over the last 17 years," Cayley says.

One of her greatest achievements in over 26 years in the industry is showing retailers that Ivanhoe Cambridge is the "go-to" company for new businesses opportunities in the Canadian market. "I believe that we have shown that we are willing to talk to people and give them the support and encouragement to flourish within our centres," Cayley says.

Debra McVeety, General Manager of Tecumseh Mall in Windsor, Ontario, who nominated Cayley for the Hall of Fame Award said in her nomination, "As a company, not only have we seen tremendous financial growth, but her vision has launched the careers of many talented, ambitious specialty leasing managers." McVeety, who has known Cayley for 13 years, added: "She has an uncanny gift [for] spotting new trends and concepts and is able to look at a given idea, see the potential and map out the most appropriate path to success."

Cayley has managed the specialty leasing department for Ivanhoe Cambridge, from its creation, for over 15 years. Cayley says she has had some challenges along the way especially balancing the needs of the retailer with those of the developer. "I overcame this challenge when given the opportunity to be exposed to the bigger picture of the organization. I learned to understand that each silo can't work on its own to truly function as an entire corporation. All departments need each other to successfully operate—leasing needs us, operations needs us, development needs us and we need all of them to do our jobs to the best of our abilities."

Cayley's advice to other specialty leasing professionals: "Love what you do and share your energy, drive and ideas with your peers, your retailers and your team. Be a champion of the industry."

When asked about the future of specialty leasing she says, "I predict the future will show that we will be fine-tuning the size of our programs to be a more appropriate fit to the [gross leasable area] of a centre. [We will ] have an increased focus on our local sponsorship programs and develop enhanced relationships and business opportunities at a local level."

Max James
2010 Outstanding Retailer of the Year

Success Powered by Products and People

by Emily Lambert

Max James is the first retailer inductee into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame. The CEO of American Kiosk Management has enjoyed a long and illustrious career in the field.

As the nation's largest owner-operator retailing in 47 states and Canada, Max James is a leading example of what a successful retailer can accomplish. "If you give, it comes back ten times," he says describing his approach to business and the key to his success.

The CEO of American Kiosk Management entered specialty retail in 1997 with a line of nutritional supplements called Metabolife. At that time, Metabolife was marketed directly to consumers by independent distributors, through a distribution system referred to as network marketing. After a successful start, the decision was made to allow individual distributors to sell the products on carts. James "gave it a shot," and formed American Kiosk Management (AKM) to open his initial carts, as well as expand into other lines. AKM was incorporated in 1998. Before Metabolife decided to sell strictly in big box locations, James had built the business up to 84 carts.

In 2002, James hit upon something even bigger. Guthy-Renker, a direct response marketing company headquartered in Palm Desert, CA, allowed AKM to beta-test Proactiv, a line of skin care products. James grew the concept from one location to 40, and was then invited by Guthy-Renker to form a partnership. It was then that North American Kiosk Company was formed. AKM manages the company.

Today, AKM has approximately 380 manned RMU locations and an additional 470 robotic kiosks, through a contractual arrangement with Zoom Systems. AKM earned over 100 million in sales last year.

From the beginning, AKM has owned and operated all of their units. During the recent economic downturn, this became especially challenging. "While many other retailers were forced by the economy to go out of business, or implement significant downsizing, American Kiosk Management has continued to be profitable with only a comparatively small change in their business structure. "These changes were always made with a focus on the welfare of the employees who had been so loyal to Max and American Kiosk Management," says Anthony Hussey, director of investment operations for AKM, who nominated James for the award. "Max expects the best from himself and his associates. He can motivate all of us using a variety of approaches," Hussey says. "He doesn't let a failure stop him from pursuing his goal."

Product and people: Two key ingredients

To ensure profitability, James is always testing new concepts and products. "On average we beta-test three to five product lines a year," he says. Currently being tested is Sheer Cover, a cosmetic line, with other products on board for this summer. "We are testing the market penetration by selling this product [Sheer Cover] on all of the existing Proactiv RMUs. We will see if it has the sales potential to be marketed on a separate cart," says James.

New product lines must meet certain criteria before they can be considered at AKM. Products that need replenishment are always a good bet. Proactiv RMUs enjoy a 70-80% retention rate of customers for this reason. Other successful products include ones that can be demonstrated, and ones that are always needed like sunglasses. Products that are well known in the marketplace but not readily available through traditional retail channels—such as Proactiv—also work.

In addition to having the right product, surrounding yourself with the right people is key, says James. "Only associate with people of the highest character. Hire for character, train for skill," he says. AKM looks for team members who have the potential to grow into higher leadership positions within the company. Some employees have been with AKM for over 11 years. For example, the current president and COO, Linda Johansen-James, started as training and recruitment director. Nikki Lloyd, vice-president of field operations for the west coast, started as a part-time salesperson.

James offers his employees many tools for growth. One of these is AKM University, where employees can bone up on leadership and sales skills. He has also instituted a scholarship program for employees to pursue their areas of interest—no matter what the field is. This was the idea behind the $100,000 check he granted at the SPREE awards ceremony: to set up a scholarship fund to encourage new talent in the specialty retail field.

Beyond specialty retail

James's support is not limited to the specialty retail industry. He is the founder of Camp Soaring Eagle, a camp in Sedona, AZ, for seriously and chronically ill children. Here kids can escape the often painful environment they experience as patients on a day-to-day basis. He has contributed millions of dollars toward this project. "This year we'll send about 300 kids to camp," he says.

James is grateful to many in specialty retail who guided him in his endeavors. "Somebody needs to give Patricia Norins [the publisher of Specialty Retail Report] the credit she deserves. I would've made a lot more mistakes without her and the SPREE organization. I was begging for answers in the beginning," he says.

James says it felt great to be inducted into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame. "It feels like a capstone to this segment of my business career," he says. "And while I have received a few awards in my career for individual achievement, this was in no way an individual achievement award. This represents the really dedicated efforts of thousands of people, many who have been with me for a decade. This award does not belong to Max James, but to the American Kiosk Management family," James adds.

Dina Simcox
2010 Outstanding Specialty Leasing
Manager of the Year

Conquering Change

by Poornima Apte

When the Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville, NC, went through some cuts last year, Dina Simcox took them in stride. What's more, she exceeded her budget assignments by 20 percent. Here's a look at the first specialty leasing manager to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Perhaps it was the fact that during one of the most trying years in specialty retail, Dina Simcox exceeded her budget expectations by a whopping 20 percent.

Or maybe it was her ability to lead her team through daily challenges during a time of changes in her mall. BJ Morton, the regional manager for specialty retail at CBL Properties outlines many reasons why Simcox deserved to be inducted into SRR's Specialty Retail Hall of Fame. The key driver was the fact that Simcox, the Assistant General Manager at Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville, NC, exemplifies the very best talent in the industry. By all measures she is driven, a team-worker and solves problems creatively; and Specialty Retail Report was honored to induct her into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame during a special ceremony at SPREE.

Growth from the basics

Dina Simcox started in a part-time administrative staff position at the mall and worked her way up to assistant general manager in 22 months. She says making her way up through the ranks allowed her a valuable perspective on what makes things work in specialty retail. "Being able to start in the administrative position afforded me the opportunity to learn with a hands-on approach where I was able to get to know the tenants, merchants and staff on a different level," Simcox says. "It was a great foundation for the relationships I forged and has helped me to achieve the role I'm now in."

Navigating change

That training was especially valuable last year says Morton when Simcox "accepted change, took on more responsibilities, [assumed] an active leadership role and reached out to the community." Morton points out that CBL's decision to "remove Marketing" and close the customer service center at the mall was hard on the team. "Dina stood out as the shining star by leading the team through the daily challenges," Morton says.

"Her efforts and commitment throughout this transition were impressive and alleviated burdens on others as well as the general manager without sacrificing any revenue-generating efforts."

Simcox admits that closing the customer service center at the mall brought its own challenges. The team suddenly had to deal with customers who were accustomed to faxing, copying, renting strollers or having their gifts wrapped. "All the customers came to the mall management office with their complaints or looking for services," Simcox says. She adds that the team had to make temporary arrangements to satisfy some of the more important needs such as providing strollers and wheelchairs. Strollers were rented from the office until new self-service units were installed. Team members also had to educate people that they could no longer provide copying or fax services. Simcox says that she took on a "more customer service role" as she helped the team work through the change.

Due diligence

Despite all the challenges last year, Simcox exceeded her forecasted budget, bringing in a 20% increase in specialty leasing income to the center. How did she do this? Hard work and persistence, Simcox says. "I tried, failed sometimes and then tried again and again. I worked very closely with my team, [who made sure] I looked at every possibility, every angle and every opportunity to make a deal work at our center," Simcox says. For example, the center used to have a water fountain that didn't work too well. "We made a decision to close it down, tear it out and tile the floor, again creating potential for new net operating income," Simcox says. She leased the space as her first permanent kiosk deal.

When CBL eliminated the Customer Service Center, it left behind a "very oddly situated empty space," Simcox recalls. She quickly leased it to a local family who opened an Internet café. The fact that the new café provides some of the services once handled by the customer service center is an added bonus.

Award buzz

Although CBL knew that Simcox was due to receive the award at SPREE, she didn't. It was a complete surprise, she says. "We are a small, close-knit group here locally so it was extremely difficult for the local staff to not share information," Simcox says. "On a corporate level, our Senior Director of Specialty Retail was the mastermind for the secrecy. From my regional manager, who nominated me, to the team I was meeting in Vegas at SPREE, to the corporate VIPs, she went to great lengths to make sure the cat was not let out of the bag," Simcox adds. "When the announcement began, I had absolutely no idea that it could possibly be me."

Simcox is thrilled to have received such strong encouragement from the specialty retail community. "I want to thank everyone who has supported me, encouraged me and given me the opportunity to reach this milestone," she says. "I am truly honored to have been chosen."