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Fall 2014
Franklin Flea: A First for Philly

PREIT’s efforts to rejuvenate one vacant department store space paid off handsomely enough to have it become a model across all properties.

Each year The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) host the U.S. MAXI Awards to recognize innovative events, programs and technology that add value to shopping centers across the United States. According to icsc.org, “categories are designed to recognize the evolution of the industry, while rewarding creativity and innovation.”

One of the 2014 MAXI finalists in the Leasing category was the Franklin Flea at The Gallery in Philadelphia, owned by PREIT. The mall had a 25,000-sq.-ft. department store space that had been vacant since 2006. The management team activated this space with a temporary high-end vintage market concept: Franklin Flea, so it would not be dark during the 2013 holiday season. Franklin Flea, modeled after the famous Brooklyn Flea in New York, presented an opportunity for PREIT to explore a non-traditional retail format. The high-end vintage market concept has been emerging in other cities with success and PREIT saw it as a chance to offer a unique and creative pop-up retail experience to shoppers within the Philadelphia market.

Franklin-Flea-photoPlacing the Franklin Flea in the vacant department store site at The Gallery also allowed PREIT to demonstrate the viability of the location for new retail. The Gallery, originally built in 1977, is a property on the verge of redevelopment with plans underway to transform it into one of the region’s premier shopping destinations. The Franklin Flea gave PREIT a chance to show that the central location and accessibility of the center serve as a positive draw for potential retailers with the ability to attract a strong cross-section of shoppers including tourists, local office workers and a growing population of city residents.

The Gallery teamed up with entrepreneur Mark Vevle, to manage and coordinate the vendors, whom he found through his relationship with Brooklyn Flea. Participating vendors were selected based on their product offering, quality, and how they fit into the overall brand of the market. Vendors were assigned a space that was 10’x10’ on average and they had to adhere to brand visual standards. Seven market events took place each Saturday between November 16 and December 21 with a special Friday market right before Christmas. The market also had its own website and social media pages.

Homage to landmark

Formerly home to the iconic Strawbridge’s Department Store, the site used by the market is designated a certified historic structure by the Philadelphia Historical Commission.  Features include ornate columns, marble floors and large brass chandeliers, all of which contributed to Franklin Flea’s unique experience.

The space also served as an additional draw for shoppers in the area who had memories of shopping at Strawbridge’s and saw this as a chance to take a peek at a piece of Philadelphia history.

Execution of the program was a collaboration between various teams within PREIT including operations, marketing, partnership marketing and specialty leasing. From working with the city to obtain the proper permits to the coordination of the details and promotion of the program, it was definitely an “all hands on deck” approach, which allowed the team to turn the project around quickly and successfully.

According to Crystal Hughes, Regional Specialty Leasing Director of PREIT, The Gallery was very pleased with the outcome of the Franklin Flea as it succeeded in drawing a wide cross market of over 14,000 shoppers (demonstrating the potential for new retail at The Gallery); activating what would have otherwise been dark space during the holiday period; contributing $7K in NOI; and creating a new concept in pop-up retail that can be translated to other properties.

“The mix of creative and artisan merchants and the overall brand of the market attracted shoppers representing a wide range of demographics that may not have previously visited The Gallery,” Hughes said.

PREIT is currently working on ways to merge the market concept in other properties through special pop-up programs delivered in creative, unique formats.

Starr Cumming

Starr Cumming is a freelance writer from Atlanta with 12 years of shopping center industry management and leasing experience. She most recently was a RVP of Business Development with General Growth Management, Inc. She can be reached at starr.cumming@gmail.com.
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