Thinking Outside the Box
Macerich masterfully creates a unique retail concept combining independent retail with a ‘shop-local’ focus.
Macerich, the shopping center developer known for its premier centers across the country, has successfully launched an exciting new retail concept at their upscale open-air lifestyle center in Scottsdale, Arizona—Biltmore Fashion Park. This new retail concept, named Union Biltmore, is made up of 18 unique specialty retail tenants and fills a 7,200 sq. ft. space on the east side of the mall that had remained vacant for quite some time. The grand opening of Union Biltmore was on November 9, 2012.
Devon Hoffman, senior marketing manager, explains, “In this economy it’s tough to find a large tenant who is willing to do an expensive build-out of the space.”
Rather than leasing to one large tenant, Mary Boyd-Williams, senior leasing manager for Macerich, and the mastermind behind the project explained, “I wanted to put together a collection of local independent retailers that represented the best of the best.” She added that one of the main goals of the project was to bring in more local stores to create a shop-local destination.
Macerich hired local architect, Hayes McNeil of Plus Minus Studio, to subdivide the open spaces into 16, roughly 72 sq. ft. areas, and two larger spaces compromised of 200-500 sq. ft. spaces. The design goal was to create an aesthetic that really set the project apart. Boyd-Williams said, “We were looking to give the area an intimate marketplace type of feel that was really distinctive.” The architect combined visually interesting industrial design elements such as concrete flooring, exposed duct work and steel beams with earthy elements such as reclaimed barn wood and six sky lights that provide a terrific source of natural light throughout the space. Each space can securely lock at the end of business each day and has built-in storage at the back of each unit. As a side note, the architect, McNeil, ended up opening a coffee shop at Union Biltmore because he was so excited about the project.
As part of her leasing strategy, Boyd-Williams sought out a variety of unique tenants who brought in a vast array of products to appeal to a wide range of consumer demographics. The tenant line-up includes such concepts as contemporary and vintage home décor stores; a cosmetics store that offers customers, among other beauty products, the opportunity to custom-mix perfumes; a charming bicycle shop, an olive oil store, eyeglass store, women’s and men’s apparel, a whoopie pie baking company, a candy store and a florist.
As a result of her leasing strategy, Boyd-Williams said they have now added a new younger shopper to the Biltmore customer demographic.
Lew Gallo, owner of a home accents store at Union, For the People, said: “The day of big stores is a thing of the past. Kids don’t have the same brand loyalty that their parents do. To survive companies need flexibility to change quickly.” Because the store spaces are small and manageable, Gallo explained that he can quickly change out inventory to keep the merchandise mix fresh and on trend.
In addition to the 18 specialty inline stores, all of whom have signed one to five year leases, Biltmore launched a new farmer’s market that takes place twice a month (on the second and fourth Sunday of the month). The farmer’s market is run by a local organization, Momma’s Organic Market. They sell a combination of locally grown produce, baked goods and gourmet products such as honey and jams. The farmer’s market is an extension of the ‘shop-local’ theme, a mission of Union.
Part of The Union’s space also includes a charming outdoor patio terrace where customers can drink coffee, eat or simply take a break. Macerich also hosts events such as bringing in a local DJ or musician in this space.
While Macerich coordinates the majority of the marketing and PR efforts to promote Union, the tenants have also jumped on the bandwagon to spread the word. Many have partnered together to produce specialized events and to promote the program via social media and email marketing. For example, before Valentine’s Day this year, some retailers got together to host a special promotion. According to Hoffman, “There is a really big sense of community amongst the tenants. They collaborate and work together.”
The program, now in its fourth month, has been deemed a huge success by Macerich and the Biltmore Union store owners. The long list of potential tenants on a wait list is testament. So are the thousands of local residents who are turning to The Union as a distinctive shop-local destination in Arizona.