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Summer 2011 Specialty Retail 2011 Hall of Fame

For the second year in a row, Specialty Retail Report inducted outstanding industry professionals into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame. This year’s winners were inducted in many categories including: Outstanding Specialty Retailer of the Year, Outstanding Leasing Manager of the Year; and Outstanding Specialty Leasing Director of the Year. James Gilland of Tricked Out Accessories won in the retailer category while Carol West at Simon Property Group won in the leasing manager category. Suzanne Cayley with Ivanhoe Cambridge in Canada, won the Outstanding Specialty Leasing Director of the Year award. 

All were recognized at a special cocktail reception held at SPREE. Two veteran professionals, Robert Norins and Jim Allen with Simon Property Group, were awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards.

The awards were created to honor the valuable achievements of industry professionals. An internal panel at Specialty Retail Report made final decisions on nominees. “We felt it was important to recognize the phenomenal work put forth by industry trailblazers,” said Patricia Norins, Publisher and CEO of Specialty Retail Report.

These exemplary individuals are profiled in the following pages.

Lifetime Achievement
Trail-blazing Pioneer

Poornima Apte

Robert Norins was one of the first to see the potential of the mall’s common area well before the specialty retail industry became the booming business it is today.

By all indications, Robert Norins met the definition of a visionary: He had an eye for what worked in business and keen foresight. It was this foresight that lead him to explore and profit from the common area in malls—way before most retail entrepreneurs.

Robert Norins passed away on April 2 at the age of 67, and was posthumously inducted into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame. At the ceremony held at SPREE, Patricia Norins remembered her father as an entrepreneur who paved the path for many who followed in his pioneering footsteps. Patricia Norins is the publisher and CEO of Specialty Retail Report.

Specialty retail beginnings

Forty years ago, in 1971, Norins and his wife, Evie, launched their business Santa’s Corner, selling personalized Christmas stockings from carts in malls. At that time, the field of specialty retail wasn’t born yet. Most mall owners were skeptical about the idea of having merchants in the common area. But, says his daughter, Patricia Norins, Robert Norins saw the benefits of working the common area when most others didn’t. “There was a fair amount of resistance from some people in permanent leasing who wanted to make their numbers, there were complaints about sight lines and the like,” Patricia says. “But he found a way to work out the details and persuaded malls to become receptive,” she recalls. Also in 1971, there were none of the efficient and high-tech kiosk and cart designs of today. Patricia remembers her parents set up shop using folding tables. Despite all these obstacles, Santa’s Corner flourished. At its peak, Santa’s Corner grew to 300 seasonal kiosks opening November 1 and closing December 26. Norins eventually sold the business in the ’80′s.

It was also in the early 1970s that Robert Norins launched a magazine for the mall industry, National Mall Monitor. The foray into publishing was strengthened further when Robert and Evie also launched a magazine for retail outlet centers called Offprice Outlet Report and a retail tenant directory that ranked all the retailers in the country.

Robert Norins’ years of experience with his cart program did not go unnoticed. In the late ’80s, the Mills Corporation requested Norins to set up a cart program for them at a couple of properties. That successful venture lead to the creation of Sales Dynamics Inc., a third-party operator that managed and operated cart programs for malls. “It was invaluable for malls developers because startup costs for carts or kiosks were covered, seasonal programs ran effectively. He made it all work,” Patricia Norins says of her father. Robert Norins hired a team of specialty leasing managers—Sales Dynamics had 200 specialty leasing managers and a corporate office in Cherry Hill, NJ. Patricia says “there are still many people in the industry trained by my mom and dad.”

Industry pioneer

Norins says she has heard from a variety of industry professionals—including retailers, leasing managers and mall owners—about her father’s crucial role in developing this nascent field. “So many people have come up to me and told me that my Dad had an important niche in the industry and that they appreciate his business vision for the industry—it has been very gratifying,” she says.

Patricia Norins remembers her father as a trailblazer who saw ideas and concepts where none existed. “He really forged his own trail, rolled out new concepts like petting zoos at shopping centers,” she says. “That was shoppertainment before that concept even existed.” A philosophy major at college, Robert Norins was also very creative in coming up with new ideas and in overcoming challenges while implementing them, his daughter recalls.

He and Patricia’s mom, Evie, worked as a perfect team. “They were an amazing duo that completed the business package. Dad was the strategist and ideas guy propelling [the business] in new directions and working with the business model, while Mom did an amazing job finding the right people, motivating them. She was an amazing salesperson,” Patricia says. “Both had great marketing ideas that helped propel the company to great heights,” she adds.

Always an entrepreneur

Patricia says even after her father retired, the business instinct and entrepreneurial spirit never left him. He counseled many who came to him for advice. Patricia remembers her dad advised a real estate broker to get his real estate law degree which he did and now that broker has a flourishing practice. A neighbor who was a bookkeeper completed his CPA on Robert Norins’ advice and enjoys great success now, Patricia points out, as examples of her father’s counsel and generosity. “For a lot of people he provided inspiration, he was a huge proponent of education and understood business models inside and out,” she says.

Patricia says she learned a lot from her parents and her father loved teaching her subtle lessons. Even as a young child, Patricia stuffed envelopes for the business. One of Robert Norins’ favorite lessons was running business models by his daughter. “We used to go to a restaurant for lunch and Dad would be like ‘how many customers do you think they get every day, let’s run the numbers,’” Patricia says, “even when he was in the hospital, he would be like ‘how many hospital beds are there here, is this a profitable business model.’”

“It really was in his blood,” Patricia says. She will miss his ready ear and inspiration the most. “He was always there for me. I’ll really miss all of that,” she says.

Robert Norins’ impact on the industry will be felt for a long time to come. “When you look around and see some temporary [merchant] and realize that my Dad had some hand in that, it’s amazing,” Patricia says. “There are so many people benefiting from the trail that he blazed.”

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.

Outstanding Specialty Retailer
Star Status

Regina Molaro

James Gilland, president of Tricked Out Accessories, earns the prestigious “Outstanding Retailer of the Year” title.

It takes dedication, sharp business skills, and talent to be inducted into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame. Just ask James Gilland, president of Tricked Out Accessories—a company that specializes in accessories for cell phones and hand held devices.

Gilland, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame as “Outstanding Retailer of the Year,” exhibits unrivaled leadership skills and professionalism. Renowned for his positive attitude, uncompromising work ethic and in-depth understanding of operating a customer-focused business, Gilland certainly has what it takes to soar to the top.

Gilland’s successful rise can be tracked from Midland, Texas to Utah and Hawaii. After temporarily dropping out of high school, he worked as a telemarketer at a photography studio. His sales abilities soon got him promoted to manager. With some work experience and management skills behind him, he went on to work as a sales representative for a national jewelry company. A two-year stint teaching Spanish for his church then brought him to New Jersey.

Upon returning home to Utah in 2001, the mobile phone industry was taking flight. At that time Gilland worked in management for a mobile accessory company. It was there that he began developing a vision of a “new and improved” company that would focus on product selection. This creative vision later materialized into Tricked Out Accessories, which got its name from a record label Gilland liked.

Specialty retail beginnings

In 2003, Gilland got a loan and opened a cart at the Newgate Mall in Ogden, Utah. Since Gilland already had previous mall experience, a cart seemed like a logical beginning. Six months after the launch of Tricked Out Accessories, a competitor offered to sell Gilland his cart, so he purchased that cart with profits from his first one. What began with one Utah-based cart soon blossomed into a thriving business that now has a total of 20 locations (carts and inline stores) in Utah and Hawaii. A professional dress code has helped build Tricked Out Accessories’ professional image.

In addition to ongoing training for his dedicated staff, Gilland also dedicates time to educating himself via courses, seminar videos, audio books, and more. Since 2005, he’s been holding monthly manager meetings and has never missed one. In fact, it was at one such meeting that Gilland learned of his induction into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame. Colton Barton, general manager of operations in Hawaii, nominated Gilland for the honor.

Gilland learned of the award when Barton flew into town and surprised him during a manager meeting. “He walked in, interrupting with a phone call for me, on speaker phone. It was Debbie Lahti, Tradeshow Director for SPREE, who announced in front of all the managers that I had been selected for the award,” says Gilland. “I was touched, shocked, and emotional—not only at the honor of receiving the award, but at the kind words and thoughtfulness of so many people.”

Excellence in business standards

Respect and admiration are what prompted Barton to nominate Gilland for the recognition. Barton says he was impressed by the way Gilland has chosen to grow and manage his business by promoting standards of excellence, and by his dedication to professional management and ongoing training.

Since catching consumer interest is key, Gilland has also been investing in the design and building of custom RMU fixtures. At Hawaii’s Ala Moana Center, Tricked Out Accessories has set a high standard in visual displays that some office staff have pointed out to other mall tenants as an example to emulate.

Gilland attributes his success to having high standards and an unyielding commitment to ongoing improvement. “I’m always looking for weaknesses because that shows an opportunity for progress. I also have some of the best trained and most talented staff who share the company vision,” Gilland says.

Gilland points to excellent customer service and an eye on the long-term strategy, as ways to really excel. “I hope retailers will strive to uphold the long-term values of customer service and excellence,” he says, “It’s disappointing to see so many businesses with a short-term vision of high-pressure selling and misleading claims that are focused on temporary success, and not what is best for the customer.”
Regina Molaro is a freelance writer who covers retail, art and design, and fashion.

Specialty Leasing Manager
Trend Spotter

Poornima Apte

An eye for trends, hard work and excellent management skills have made Carol West one of the go-to people at Simon Property Group. The specialty leasing manager inducted into this year’s Hall of Fame, is an inspiration to all around her.

It was early in 2000 when Carol West came across the now ubiquitous Crocs at the Park Meadows Mall in Denver. “I recognized and identified the product as a concept with a lot of potential that could be duplicated across the portfolio,” West, a Local Leasing Manager with Simon, says. In short order, West contacted the Director of Real Estate for Crocs and introduced him to the company. As a result, at their peak, Crocs had a presence in more than 50 Simon properties nationwide.

It is this ability—to catch a trend in its infancy and nurture it till it yields rich dividends—that coworkers say is one of West’s many great strengths. It is also one of many traits that prompted Shannon Shinn, Simon’s Vice President of Local Leasing, to nominate West for the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame.

Specialty leasing start

West works as Local Leasing Manager at Towne Square West and Towne Square East in Wichita, KS. It was in Wichita that West got her start in specialty leasing—she joined as an office administrator for Towne West in 1987. “At that time, there weren’t any specialty leasing people in the field, [so] one of my responsibilities was to attempt to lease temporary space as time allowed,” West recalls. It was around the same time that Simon decided to test a new position where the employee’s sole responsibility would be leasing temporary space in malls. Having already worked at this as an office administrator, West was a natural fit for the job. She increased the revenues in this category by 65%. West’s stellar performance in the field resulted in the position becoming a permanent feature at Simon Property Group. Today the company has over 80 specialty leasing representatives.

Dedicated service

West’s years of dedication at Simon have not gone unnoticed. “She is one of our short-term leasing managers with years of proven success,” Shinn said in her nomination. “Carol is revered as one of the ‘go-to’ people whom the other specialty leasing reps contact first with questions, seeking advice, opinions, ideas, help, etc. Her years of experience, learning from what has not worked and capitalizing on what does work, epitomizes hard work and dedication,” Shinn added.

“Carol is the best at what she does,” Shinn said, “Because of this, she continues to train several of our Short Term Leasing Representatives helping to form the way we conduct our business.” It is this mentoring, training and development that West has provided to others at Simon over the last 24 years, that West points out, is her “signature stamp” on the work she does. “I have had the privilege of being a manager for Simon and thus have been able to lend my knowledge and expertise to numerous individuals that have worked within our corporation throughout the years,” West says. West adds that being the first leasing representative at Simon and watching that branch of the company grow, has been her biggest achievement.

Leasing success

Shinn says West is not afraid to think outside the box and find new creative ways to lease space and generate income. Some of her tenants have not been traditional ones. Case in point: the inline store Until We Meet Again, a local merchant who sells custom caskets. In addition, says Shinn, West is able to move cart customers into inline stores smoothly, thereby generating additional income.

Her ability to work with tenants and their needs has earned her high praise from them as well. Shinn quoted one of West’s tenants in her nomination: “Ms. Carol West has always understood our need, effectively addressed the problems and offered [the] best possible solutions. Carol West has always demonstrated excellent communication skills as a good listener to all the matters we put forward for her consideration and promptly responded whenever we are in need of her assistance. I congratulate Simon Property [Group] for having such a wonderful person on their team and I am confident that her services are an asset to your group.”

Shinn agrees. “Carol has demonstrated her dedication to our program at Simon and to the industry,” she said in her nomination, “She is one of a few in the industry that continues to be a pioneer, an achiever year after year and continuously sets new standards. She is a person that retailers, industry leaders, tenants and peers look to for advice and new ideas in the industry. Carol is truly an asset to the company, to the malls, to her tenants.”

Specialty retail changes

West recalls that her career has not been without its challenges. The principal one, she says, is staying in touch with new and cutting-edge concepts while based in the Midwest. “Very seldom, if at all, does a concept or trend begin in the center of the United States; it’s almost always on the East or West coast,” West says. She works around this by canvassing other properties and markets, reading industry publications, researching trends online and attending industry trade shows. “I am continually attempting to hone my skills by attending, fairs, festivals, expos and trade shows across the country,” West says. “By doing so it keeps my outlook fresh and allows me the ability to keep my eyes and ears open so as to identify the next hot item or category in specialty leasing,” she adds.

Over the years, West has witnessed sea changes in the field of specialty retail. She remembers when specialty retail was dominated by mom-and-pop shops coming into a single property with a gift line or homemade crafts. “They usually stayed a weekend, a week or even a holiday season, but by no means was their cart or kiosk the sole revenue driver,” West remembers. “The merchandising units of yesteryear were skirted tables or cardboard sonotube gazebos. Today, in shiny RMUs or kiosks, many of the specialty retailers are Limited Liability Corporations who not only have one year placement at a property but also have multiple businesses within that property, and in many instances, have [executed] regional or national deals,” West points out.

West sees more mainstream retailers taking advantage of temporary and seasonal leasing. The rise of pop-up stores is also one to keep an eye on, she says.

As for her winning entry into the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame, West says she was both “shocked and excited” to receive [this] prestigious award.

“I was unaware that I was even nominated, so it was a huge surprise and a big thrill,” West says.

Specialty Leasing Director
An Industry Champion

Duffy C. Weir

Ivanhoe Cambridge’s Suzanne Cayley has worked hard to make the company synonymous with Canadian specialty retail.

Between the trendy haircut and glasses and the chunky jewelry lies a strong and determined woman who, according to some, “makes you elevate your standards just by being part of her team.” Suzanne Cayley, Vice President of Specialty Leasing and Partnerships for Ivanhoe Cambridge in Canada is the standard-bearer underneath all that style.

Early career

Recently, Specialty Retail Report named Cayley to the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame at SPREE. Cayley got her start in the industry at a mixed-use project, called Queen’s Quay Terminal in Toronto and then became a giftware sales representative.

In the late 80′s, Cayley rejoined the shopping center industry doing leasing and tenant coordination for a variety of third party management companies. Her next career move was a temporary consulting opportunity to help Cambridge Shopping Centres create a specialty retail program. “I saw an opportunity within Cambridge to create a department and I put pen to paper and wrote out a business plan outlining how I thought that structure and the department should function. And guess what? The company believed in me—and continued to support me over the last 17 years,” Cayley says.

One of her greatest achievements in over 26 years in the industry is showing retailers that Ivanhoe Cambridge is the “go-to” company for new businesses opportunities in the Canadian market. “I believe that we have shown that we are willing to talk to people and give them the support and encouragement to flourish within our centres,” Cayley says.

Debra McVeety, General Manager of Tecumseh Mall in Windsor, Ontario, who nominated Cayley for the Hall of Fame Award said in her nomination, “As a company, not only have we seen tremendous financial growth, but her vision has launched the careers of many talented, ambitious specialty leasing managers.” McVeety, who has known Cayley for 13 years, added: “She has an uncanny gift [for] spotting new trends and concepts and is able to look at a given idea, see the potential and map out the most appropriate path to success.”

Cayley has managed the specialty leasing department for Ivanhoe Cambridge, from its creation, for over 15 years. Cayley says she has had some challenges along the way especially balancing the needs of the retailer with those of the developer. “I overcame this challenge when given the opportunity to be exposed to the bigger picture of the organization. I learned to understand that each silo can’t work on its own to truly function as an entire corporation. All departments need each other to successfully operate—leasing needs us, operations needs us, development needs us and we need all of them to do our jobs to the best of our abilities.”

Cayley’s advice to other specialty leasing professionals: “Love what you do and share your energy, drive and ideas with your peers, your retailers and your team. Be a champion of the industry.”

When asked about the future of specialty leasing she says, “I predict the future will show that we will be fine-tuning the size of our programs to be a more appropriate fit to the [gross leasable area] of a centre. [We will ] have an increased focus on our local sponsorship programs and develop enhanced relationships and business opportunities at a local level.”

Poornima Apte

Poornima Apte is the managing editor for GIFT SHOP, GREENRetailer and Specialty Retail Report magazines. She oversees and executes all editorial processes and is responsible for delivering editorial content for both magazines. To implement the magazines' editorial missions, Apte works with an extensive team of writers and photographers from across the country. She is also responsible for certain online deliverables including editorial content that complements the print edition of both magazines.

Prior to joining Pinnacle Publishing Group in 2006, Apte was Editor-in-Chief for INDIA New England, a bimonthly publication catering to the South Asian community in New England. In her role for the company, she oversaw an extensive editorial lineup featuring a wide variety of news reports and features. Apte first joined the newspaper as a general assignment reporter. Her reporting, specifically on a series of stories about Indian immigrants returning to their home country in the wake of India's economic boom, earned her a national award from the South Asian Journalists' Association at their 2005 convention held at Columbia University's School of Journalism.

Formally trained as an engineer, Apte made a gradual switch to journalism after a stint in technical writing at Abaqus, Inc. Apte enjoys reading and reviews contemporary literary fiction for in her spare time.

Apte earned an M.S. in Energy and Environmental Studies from Boston University and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL.

Apte welcomes reader input. Please email her at

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