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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.