Summer 2016
Specialty Retail 2016 Hall of Fame

Outstanding Specialty Leasing Manager of the Year

Luis Cristobal
Senior Specialty Leasing Representative Simon Property Group, Inc.

Luis Cristobal leads specialty leasing at one of the nation’s premier malls. We find out the secrets to his success.

headshot_luis-cristobolLuis Cristobal has logged twenty years in the specialty retail industry and has watched its evolution from the leasing side of things.

The Specialty Leasing Representative at Dadeland Mall in Town Center, Boca Raton, says that the industry has changed in terms of just how many national players are now seeing the value in specialty retail. “One had a larger pool of independents and mom-and-pops years ago and that might still hold true in a lot of markets out there, but in the higher- end metropolitan markets, what you’re noticing now is that more nationals or regional players are understanding that there’s value in the common area. Specialty retail is a viable channel for a lot of brands out there.”

What works

Cristobal says he is fortunate to work in a high-profile center such as Dadeland, which also attracts a healthy number of tourists. He emphasizes that the key to success in specialty retail leasing is to make sure you have the co-tenancy right. “There always has to be a balance with the co-tenancy and the product mix throughout the center. As a shopper you want diversity, you want to have a balance,” Cristobal says, “If I’m seeing too many of the same uses out there, then there’s no differentiation between you and your competitor.”
How does he create these perfect co-tenancies? “I definitely look for voids in the market. I try to get together with the marketing directors and the general managers and find out what’s best and what’s needed,” he says. An example: a kiosk that sells wine or a distributor of Greek foods selling olive oils, cheese and crackers.

Look around the mall, Cristobal advises incoming specialty retailers. If you’re selling purses for example, you want to be located close to a women’s clothing store to create the perfect co-tenancy.

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Definition of success

Success in specialty retail might come from an independent operator realizing the American dream or from national retailers developing their stories for the common area so they can test drive a new concept.
Cristobal advises specialty retailers to take a deep breath and truly evaluate the viability of their business concept before they dive in. “There are times when specialty retailers will not know much about the product, much about the mall, even the market for that matter,” he says, “Do your due diligence, learn as much as you can.” Also, don’t get disheartened if the timing’s not right, he says. “Even though they want to go ahead and do the deal, we might not have the right co-tenancy for that concept that makes sense, so don’t rush, it’s always a good idea to wait things out,” Cristobal says.

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Cristobal’s successes in specialty retail have not been without challenges and the biggest one, he says, is to stay ahead of new developments and keep oneself informed and educated. “Being able to adapt and change with markets, trends, different malls that you’re in, that’s key. There’s no one hidden formula,” he says, adding that working with the “phenomenal talent” at Simon has been a gift. “They’re probably the elite group in the whole industry and I have been able to fall back on them and ask my colleagues for advice, that’s helped me.”

In the higher-end malls, everyone is elevating their standards, their brands, their uses, Cristobal points out, adding that in the future there’s a strong possibility of the common area essentially being an extension of the department stores. “In middle-tier malls, I think you’ll see more pop-up concepts, more independents trying the idea with unique products.”

And Cristobal’s clear-eyed vision of what it takes to make specialty retail work guarantees him a ringside seat through all of these changes in the near future and beyond.

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Poornima Apte

Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor specializing in retail and the book publishing industry. Learn more at wordcumulus.wordpress.com.
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