Specialty Retail 2016 Hall of Fame
Lifetime Achievement Award
Duffy Weir, CMD, SLD
Owner, Duffy LLC
Duffy Weir launched the specialty leasing program for Rouse Company when the concept was just birthed. Her career of 38 years has seen much reinvention but she has not lost her adaptability and vision for what it means to be a winner in specialty retail.
The year was 1976.
Faneuil Hall, the popular Boston shopping complex, had just launched a cart program under the auspices
of the Rouse Company headquartered in Baltimore, MD, and essentially kick-started what was to snowball into the juggernaut that is the specialty retail industry today.
It was all very well and good for a cart program to be launched in Faneuil Hall, a popular urban attraction for hordes of tourists and locals, but could such programs be launched at suburban shopping centers all across the United States, essentially monetizing what was until then the unused mall “common area?” Rouse was determined to find out. And the person they appointed to spearhead operations: Duffy Weir, the winner of our Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award.
Thermostats and thermometers
In her acceptance speech at the 2016 SPREE RECon, Weir pointed out that the industry has always had two types of people: the thermometers are those who simply read the temperature and report on it. Then there are the thermostats who change the atmosphere around them. “These are the people who invent what’s next, inspire and develop their staff, and take enormous risks to test something new,” Weir pointed out, “This is what we should all strive for.”
By all indications, Weir has been a “thermostat” all through her illustrious 38-year-career, which started in 1978 with Rouse as a Community Relations Manager. She moved on to marketing aspects and eventually became Regional Marketing Manager for the Southeast, moving to Rouse’s headquarters in Maryland. When Weir was assigned the task of spearheading the specialty leasing program in suburban malls, the early start was called event merchandising programs, creating merchandising events around holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Back to School etc. The program was launched in Texas and then rolled out throughout the country and Weir was officially Vice President and Director of Specialty Leasing, one of only three women officers in the company at the time.
As Rouse changed its focus to move marketing under the specialty leasing umbrella, Weir was a “thermostat” adjusting to the new normal and rallying her team to go with the flow.
It was in 2002 that Weir left Rouse for a variety of personal reasons but she wasn’t done with specialty retail yet. She founded a consultancy business and stayed in touch with the trenches by writing for Specialty Retail Report as its Trends Editor.
Weir singlehandedly launched ICSC’s Specialty Leasing Designation (SLD) program, a series of training courses for specialty leasing professionals. “Those three things: the suburbanization of specialty leasing at the Rouse company, the ability to use my educational writing skills to contribute to Specialty Retail Report, and then the SLD program are three of my greatest loves,” Weir says, “I’m very passionate that it has all happened in my lifetime.”
And Weir is only getting started, looking to continue her writing and consultancy career in an industry that has been fortunate to have her for 38 years.
Secret sauce to success
Weir advises specialty retail professionals, especially those just getting started, to always ask for more if they’re bored. “Raise your hand, let people know you want to contribute in a broader way.” That strategy has helped Weir in her own career along with an attitude that actively sought out mentors.
Weir approached the Executive Vice President of Rouse, Woody Beville, and said to him, “I’d like to meet with you every Friday no matter what because there’s always something that I have a question about.” That dedication to learning and willingness to go the extra mile has been evident throughout Weir’s career whether it was at Rouse, or by chasing down difficult-to-find industry teachers for the SLD program.
Her advice to specialty retail professionals is to not lose sight of the niche in pursuit of the bottom line. “Our industry needs to get with the program and really challenge itself to be more about just leasing space. It’s really about curating the common area and about figuring out what’s right for your market.”
As Weir embarks on the next phase of her career (this really should be called the Career Achievement Award, not the Lifetime Achievement Award, she says), she is grateful to have made a difference in the industry and an impact on so many lives. “I love people, just keeping them motivated, keeping them connected,” she says, “Making a contribution to somebody else’s life is the biggest gift that could ever be bestowed upon me.”
One additional factor has helped: “I love to shop,” Weir says.