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(Real Talk Series 11) Anjee Solanki

Episode #: 043
(Real Talk Series 11) Anjee Solanki

Guest: Anjee Solanki
Topics: Colliers, omni-channel retail


Chris Ressa 0:02
This is retail retold the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris Ressa and I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC management

Welcome to retail retold everyone today we have Angie Solanki. Angie is the National Director of retail services for Colliers. Angie has been in the retail industry for 30 years now. She’s very passionate about retail. We are excited to have her. Welcome to the show, Angie.

Anjee Solanki 0:46
Thanks so much, Chris. Thanks for having me.

Ressa 0:49
Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do. And what are you doing at Colliers these days?

Solanki 0:56
Yeah, sure. No happy to share. So you know, I’ve been in the business, as you mentioned, 30 years, just really passionate about retail, I’ve been with Colliers for the past 10. And really my core focus is how do we help our clients as it relates to all things retail, so whether you’re looking at from looking at return from capital markets, or repositioning, whether it’s, you know, on the on the agency side, you know, assisting retailers with, you know, site selection, etc, we have over 550 retail professionals throughout the US, and I have the great pleasure to work with, you know, I’d say close to 95% of them on a regular basis. And so I’ve learned a lot I’ve shared a lot. And it’s just been a great working experience being here volleyers.

Ressa 1:47
That’s exciting stuff, you get to talk to almost 550 people about what’s going on in different markets. What you know, as you come come out of this pandemic, what, what are what are like some of the keys for you, that you’re looking to that you’re focused on with your team right now?

Solanki 2:08
Sure, yeah, you know, we actually when the shelter in place, I’m here in San Francisco that’s on base, previously to COVID. It was, you know, seat 13. A on Alaska Airlines. You know, that’s changed quite drastically. But nonetheless, you know, what we, when shelter in place, came about for us here in San Francisco, which was, you know, early March, we were kind of at the beginning, or at the forefront of it. We, I started thinking about, you know, this isn’t, this is not a time to sit back, listen and read, but how do we, how do we become a part of it? How do we really keep the conversation, live and share good, factual information, even if it’s not factual, at least good information, where people can have a conversation discuss so we can identify potential solutions, right? This is completely unknown, it’s unforeseen, it’s not happened, you know, at least in my lifetime, so a pandemic is something not to shy away from. So under that premise, my my thought was, hey, we need to be bold here. Let’s start reaching out similar to as you are with these podcasts, these wonderful podcasts, you know, talking to a variety of folks that have a different perspective and lens, I did the same where I said, we need to go out and look at retail, from a global view, look at it from various aspects, whether it’s the overall retail landscape, right, when COVID was occurring to, you know, what will the impacts be to the supply chain, and from there, the impact to restaurants, the solutions, and the creative solutions that restaurant tours and QSR are identifying, ie Chipotle lane, and created a webinar series that I think really took hold, especially for our retail professionals, because they are able to invite their clients and then continue that conversation after. So for me, that was quite powerful. We, we had, I think, close to 1000 people per call. And, and we hit 14 countries, which tells me that, you know, timing was really ripe, and that people were really seeking some form of comfort. I think since then, of course, there’s been a little bit of zoom or webinar burnout. But nonetheless, I think Steve, people are still you know, very curious. They want to know who’s going to lead the solution and what, you know, the risks and rewards are and how’s it panning out for most but people just really want to feel connected, feel that they’re together and in their part of that conversation.

Ressa 4:55
That’s great. I love the be bold and natural. Sit back and read what everyone else is doing. But be a part of it. I think there was a lot of, you know, a lot of people that were preaching before this, that this is a time to sit back and kind of take it all in. But I love the approach of diving in. And, you know, trying to be a part and of the solution. I think that’s awesome. Insights for everyone out there. And anytime there’s a crisis, I think that’s a really good lesson. So we are, in some interesting times now, I think there was, you know, a lot of negativity in the, in the world, the last few months, but it’s, it’s starting to get to positive in some places, which is good to hear we, we all need a little positivity. So what is the AIG take on? What’s going on in the world these days?

Solanki 5:59
Yeah, I would agree with you, you know, we’ve seen such change in retail, pre COVID, where retailers are really trying to evaluate all this information, this great data that they’ve been consuming and gathering over the years, through customer surveys and plsa pos data and how to, you know, create the Omni omni channel experience, etc. And, and so COVID occurred. And I think what really happened, as we start to unfold and see where we’re going over the last few months is this acceleration. And this acceleration to me, is, it’s exciting at the same time, there’s definitely going to be some areas where, you know, some of these local retailers may not be able to survive, just due to just pure sustainability of you know, their, their product, or operational issues, etc. But there is silver linings. And I think it’s that acceleration piece, meaning that we’re going to see it, you know, brands that we’re very familiar with, for example, Starbucks, coming up with a new, you know, mobile to go concept to attract that ease, and also that ROI, because you can definitely see an increase there. I also think we’re going to see a rise in more curbside pickup, delivery and on demand. I’m not saying that brick and mortar is going away, I just think that it’s going to become more optimized and, and more efficient, just purely based on what what customers are asking for.

Ressa 7:40
That is very insightful, insightful. I agree. So you gave us a bit about the general state of how you’re seeing the world. One thing I’m always curious about is when I when I talk to people who are so connected in the industry, and they have access to so much data. What question Are you dying to have answered right now? What what what’s like burning for you like that? You’re you’re seeking answers to one question is that,

Solanki 8:19
you know, I actually, this was a question that came up in one of my conversations with an asset manager, retail asset manager, and I it was actually her question, but it really made me pause and go, Wow, that’s actually very interesting. And that is, when we look at retail, you know, we we’ve always had that simple formula, right, that footfall or foot traffic, you know, equates to how you look at Merchandising, and creating a merchandising mix. And from there, the goal is to increase foot traffic. So that increases sales, which, you know, hopefully, we’ll start to increase, you know, rent or percentage rent. And so everyone’s happy, it’s a win win scenario for landlords and for retailers. But if we’re going into, you know, you know, through 2020 with, you know, various percentages of customers or consumers are saying to one another, I’m looking for the least amount of contact, I don’t want to be in a store for very long I want curbside where I drive up and and you know, I, I hit I’m here button and they drop it into my trunk, like, I just experienced over the weekend at Bed Bath and Beyond, which was a little, it was a little too many, too many buttons to press to get to the end. But nonetheless, you’re seeing more of that. How does that impact how we calculate sales per square foot? And so when she mentioned I was like, you know, that is a fascinating question because I just it’s too early. Need to Know. You know, Chris, I’m sure you’ve seen this where, you know, mobile data geofencing, you know, was such a, you know, the latest technology tool? And how are we advancing that and understanding where consumers are coming from? Well, how is that going to apply now, if we’re seeing to customers, hurry up, go to your store, have a pickup and or we’ll deliver, or mobile order and just pick up and go, we’re almost asking them to come to the project or the shopping center, and then to leave very quickly. So this dwell time, this, you know, cross synergy in, in cross shopping, is, we’ll come back, how do we start to evaluate that when we look at our merchandising?

Ressa 10:49
Yeah, there’s, it’s a really interesting point that dwell time because there’s this ying and yang with it, because you have this, the landlords have been over time trying to create longer dwell time, right, experiential retailing, and, you know, creating more options for people to diversity for people to spend at diversifying the offering, yet, retailers are trying to make it more convenient, and potentially decrease dwell time. So what do you know, where does that balance come? I think a lot of that will have to do with the product type, and the type of retail environment, right, I you know, if it’s a convenience store, or a grocery store, you know, I think that’s different than a Lifestyle Center. And where, you know, it’s very pedestrian friendly, and you’re trying to create this walking environment. But if it’s the soccer mom that has two kids in the car, and just needs to pick something up and forgot to order something and need something in a pinch, you probably need to make it as convenient as possible for that consumer. So I think it’s an interesting, ying and yang right there, where, how do we,

you know, balance dwell time versus convenience? And, you know, I don’t think there’s any answers yet, just like you said, I think hopefully, they’ll start to intermix, because you also have the, you know, the ICSC put out a publication about the halo effect. And if you, the consumer, how much more people spend, if they buy something online, and then and then go pick it up in the store that there’s, you know, additional purchases made. So if you make it so convenient that they don’t enter the store, then maybe you missed that opportunity. Or maybe that person and I’d love to do you think there will be a there’s a consumer that buys it online, picks it up at the store and says, Hey, while I’m here, I’m gonna go look at something else.

Solanki 13:03
Definitely. Yeah, definitely. Yeah, it was interesting. I think it was target. They shared that they actually saw, you know, they were considered essential, of course, from a grocery perspective, but they also have general merchandise. And so what they noticed is that they actually saw a completely new customer coming to target because they were it was either close in their local market. But it also offer general merchandise. So that person that said, I’m going to pick up, you know, milk and eggs, etc. Oh, wow, I can also buy a bike, I know, I’m going to be stuck indoors, but I want to be outdoors and the climate, you know, allows for it. So they saw an uptick in, you know, outdoor equipment, bicycles. And then what they saw is that same customer came back and then bought a bike lock. And then that customer came back and bought bike gloves, and a helmet. And so what they’re seeing is that they were able to say, this is really interesting. Now, how do we retain that customer? So post COVID We don’t lose them. And now there’s looking at you know, retailers, I think we’re looking at what does that loyalty program look like? So I think to your point, it’s, it’s this full cycle, it’s a full journey. So we’re just seeing it in different patterns, and maybe with with with different retailers that are seeing a new customer coming into their stores locally. So that’s an example.

Ressa 14:35
Totally, I I actually had an amazing target experience on Sunday on Father’s Day. I

I got new workout shoes. It’s been a long time since I had new workout shoes. I got a new workout shoes for Father’s Day, the Nike met cons and my kids were down for a nap and it was Father’s Day and I was like, let me try these out. I was like, You know what, before it worked out I need some fresh socks. Thanks. So I was like, I’ll pop by target. And then I said to myself, at let me let me try the buy online pick up in store, and I go on the app. And the options were unbelievable. I could get it delivered to my home same day. Yeah, I could go pick it up in the store, I could go pick it up, I could do the drive up where they bring it to my car. Or I could actually just go in the store and shop and I decided, I’m gonna go out, I haven’t been out much been hunkered down. Let me go out and I went and got the socks, but I was just the app and how Target has maneuvered through this has been really incredible. So

Solanki 15:44
yep, yeah, I think you know, the retailers that really embraced technology and pivoted quickly because of COVID are those that are going to continue to see great success. I you know, it was interesting when you talk about all the different options and opportunities, I actually went into the, into Nike on sun, I think, no, Sunday on a Friday, sorry, a day after they opened in San Francisco and Union Square. And, oh, let me just go inside. And it was it was pretty busy. But what was really fascinating was that there was this line that snaked around on the second floor, which is their kind of customer service area, looking at everybody going, is there a special that I’m missing out on? Like, what’s going on, I want that discount. But at night, instead of instead of when I’m looking, I’m like, Well, this is interesting. People had two or three boxes of shoes where they were actually returning them. And so they must have purchased online, and then we’re coming into the store to return. And I mean, the, you know, whether they made a second purchase it or not, I’m not sure. But it was still very active. It was a busy and, and I think to your point, providing customers a lot of flexibility is really the key. And that’s that was always the case, right, Cree COVID. But I think as you as we talked about earlier, it’s accelerated. Everything is accelerated.

Ressa 17:06
Yeah, definitely everything is accelerated. I’ve been reading a lot of headline news lately. And headline news keeps calling for massive closures. I’ve heard 300,000 restaurants. Is it overblown? Or is it real, and there’s going to be this unprecedented fallout.

Solanki 17:30
I think it is over overblown. We actually had a call last week with one of our partners, and, you know, they’ve historically monitor the restaurant space for the US. And what they were sharing, which was actually very interesting is about, they see if I’m trying to remember the stats now, I think it was net net. There’s about three and a half percent over the last three years of restaurants that have closed permanently in with COVID. They anticipate that to be closer to I think it was 18%. So yes, there’s different, definitely a higher percentage, but at the same time, there’s a new wave of small regional, you know, restaurants and QSR ‘s that are reopening. And I think what we’ll see is we’ll still see a net closure of maybe about five to 6000 restaurants, but we’ll see some gains because of ghost kitchens, you’re seeing you know, I wouldn’t say it’s not a trend, it’s the popularity of a ghost kitchen to quickly pop up in locations where there’s strong demand for delivery. And having these you know, newer concepts who may not have the operational efficiencies or capital to partner with these ghost kiss kitchens and also allow these these startups if you want to call it the ability to model their business in a way that makes sense for them. So they can maybe start slow and you know, slowly ramp up because of COVID and or, or just go bold and be out there and go with quite quickly. One of our restaurant groups that we were chatting with that actually what they did is they have you know about a 3000 square foot QSR concept but around the corner, they had a kind of a hybrid ghost kitchen they said they were so busy, so so busy because people who were staying at home got tired of everything that they were making and they’re buying from what or whatever grocery store, you’re kind of burned out and so ordering just started to pick up and it continues to pick up so I think you know my only the only thing that makes me really sad is that you know when you start to see some of these you know small food or braiders in your local neighborhoods that cannot survive or sustain, and maybe did not receive any PPP, or any governmental aid for whatever reason, it has to shutter that’s, that, to me is really disappointing because you learn so much from these very diverse, you know, people and their food, right. And I’ve learned, I mean, I love to travel. And, and I’ve been fortunate enough to travel my entire life. You know, been so when I come back here, I seek out those unique restaurants like, where we’re going to go and find, you know, the best Georgian food because we just had this amazing Georgian meal, you know, St. Petersburg, or what have you, and, and that’s my fear is we’re gonna lose that, that, that specialty that that, you know, the fabric of, of these people who came to the US to start their business.

Ressa 20:59
I hope that doesn’t happen. But time will tell. I don’t want to make it all about restaurants. But I am going to hit on one point that I think there is, I wouldn’t say controversy but debate over. You’re a fan of ghost kitchens, you think it’s real? You think they’re here to stay?

Solanki 21:21
Oh, yes, I would say I do I do. Because my hope is that the you know, those those restaurants that cannot survive, if they can quickly go. If I can reduce AI, I can’t reopen either because of financial issues or just pure staffing, right, and labor. And so if they can pivot and say I can still share my love for the food I create and share it with others through those kitchen experience, then I think they should go for it.

Ressa 21:54
I am surprised that more people haven’t pivoted to it. Maybe a lack of knowledge and seems to be I had the Chief Development Officer of Capriati is on and I didn’t I didn’t know this. I guess there’s like three companies that really dominate the space of ghost kitchens. And I guess it’s it’s to pivot might not be as easy as I might think. But I’ve wondered if some of these restaurants and I think some will convert, but time will tell for sure. Right. Right. Pivoting over to just general retail? What’s the what’s the Angi take on? Where we’re going? You know, I know, it’s accelerated? Where do you think we are in, you know, 2021, with the general retailing of goods.

Solanki 22:51
So, you know, there’s been information just trickles down on a weekly basis, and it’s ever changing. As we all know, it’s a little difficult to forecast, I think there’s quite a bit of optimism, you know, as we, you know, Americans are optimistic in general. And so I think that’s a great plus, if we look to the far east, from our, our colleagues, in what we’re seeing in other global markets, like, you know, whether that be in Europe, parts of Europe, in China, etc, there’s still this continuation, so of, you know, retail demand, but might slightly adjusted. And what I mean by that is that, I think you’re going to continue to see, of course, strong brands, like, you know, the, the Nikes, and so forth, still continue to be quite successful. Outlets will definitely, I think, become back in the forefront. Because people are going to be very conscientious about spend and, you know, everyone’s kind of hunkering down and not spending. And we saw, we just saw with some of the reopening in certain states and cities, that there was a little bit of that revenge spending, I think I heard something someone mentioned 17% increase in retail sales. So if we continue down that path, great, but it’s all dependent right upon upon, you know, COVID-19 and how we, as people, safeguard ourselves and others protect the when is the vaccine going to come into play, etc. There’s too many unknowns. So 2021 is really difficult to forecast but we’re hitting, we’re seeing least positive signs as of maybe last week, that based on GDP, etc. We should we should be able to kind of start to catch up in 2021 by end of q1.

Ressa 24:52
I’m hopeful one of the interesting things that I’m hopeful for on consumerism is The personal savings rate in America hit a record high in APR 33%. And the amount of deposits in banks from the end of February to the week of June 10, and increased by $2.2 trillion. And so, if people are consumer confidence is up, and people are have steady incomes, I think you’re going to see, uh, you know, I’m gonna take the opposite approach, I think of a lot of pundits out there, I think you’re gonna see a pretty good Christmas, which would be, you know, positive going into 2021. That’s actually obviously a big call. But we’ll see there’s a lot of, you know, a lot of cash being stored, which is probably good for Americans right now. So

Solanki 26:00
I would agree. Yeah. No, I actually saw your LinkedIn post was great post.

Ressa 26:05
Thank you. Thank you. And savings? Yes, on personal savings. If you were to go back to March 120 20. Is there one thing you might have done differently

Solanki 26:30
about the pandemic, in terms of retail,

Ressa 26:32
just how you did how you operated your business? You told me you were being bold, you know, something you’ve learned through the pandemic, that you wish you knew pre pandemic?

Solanki 26:47
Well, let’s see. You know, I am always conscientious, conscientious and thinking about things. And so I would say that was something that we learned, and it goes back a little to what I stated earlier is that, you know, we don’t want to lose the, you know, the local businesses, the fabric of our local businesses, because that really does make up the community, it could be, you know, a good friend of yours or a neighbor that said, hey, I really want to start start my own, you know, business, and they opened up a beautiful little storefront. excetera. And so I think, you know, what I’ve learned through this journey is how do we help and support our small business owners, and, you know, something that we’ve really looked at is developing a partnership with, you know, companies that can help and support the small business owners to quickly shift to an online presence, if they, you know, if they’re forced to stay close still, or they’re slowly reopening under adjusted hours, because they cannot, you know, identify staff as of yet or bring back their their prior staff. So we’ve been helping a lot of our small business clients or owners, I should say, tenants, with, you know, working with online channels, working with groups that can help with curbside or help with on On Demand delivery. So I think, for me, that was my aha moment is how can we help these people? And immediately, you know, over the last two to three weeks, we created a partnership agreement, and we’re out there helping our small business owners, you know, shift to these other channels to sell. So they can survive? Yeah,

Ressa 28:37
it’s interesting, we talk about that a lot. My tenants are national tenants, regional tenants, local tenants, and obviously, a lot of local tenants don’t have the infrastructure and local retailers don’t have the infrastructure that some of these, the targets have. At a minimum, what I think would be a huge help in a huge learning is if these small mom and pop businesses can stay digitally engaged with their consumer, whether they’re selling on that platform or not, you know, that takes some time and infrastructure, but to stay digitally engaged is just time. And it’s you could do it rather inexpensively. And staying engaged with that consumer will pay dividends over the long haul. And I’m hopeful that the the small businesses across the country and the American entrepreneur entrepreneur can stay digitally engaged with their consumer. So we’ll see. I hope that happens. I wanted Is there anything that’s going on in retail or real estate that we haven’t touched on that we should touch on?

Solanki 29:47
Um, no. I mean, I can go on and on and on. about various things. I just say, you know, retail is it’s not it’s changing. It’s evolving. It’s six Celebrating for the most part, it’s an it’s still an exciting time. You just have to be, you know, mindful of how things are mindful of just kind of ebb and flow of retail right now, and not just cast it with, you know, a brush that’s completely negative. It’s just for going through another reinvention of what retail is. And it’s still a need. And so yeah, I think people need to just continue the conversation and stay in. Stay tuned to what’s happening.

Ressa 30:33
sage advice? Alright, Angie, we’re now going to pivot to the last part of the show. It’s one of my favorite parts. Are you ready?

Solanki 30:42
Yes, bring it on.

Ressa 30:43
All right, retail wisdom. Here we go. Question one, what is your best piece of commercial real estate advice?

Solanki 30:52
Stay true to your love and passionate for commercial real estate, whether in any product type or any specialty, but stay true to that, if that’s really what you like, and you have you enjoyed, it’s fun. You meet some amazing people through this journey, and stick through it. And you know, we’re always going to have ups and downs. But, you know, forge ahead have that courage.

Ressa 31:17
What is your true passion in commercial real estate?

Solanki 31:20
Really sharing and connecting people sharing information and really connecting people?

Ressa 31:27
Awesome. Two of my favorite ways to add value. All right, question two. What extinct retailer Do you wish would come back from the dead?

Solanki 31:39
Okay, this one is the reason why I like it. It’s an item there’s kind of an offshoot of it, but it’s a sharper image. And that’s because I love going into the stores and just kind of fiddling with all the different gadgets and learning about the different products and I’m just I geek out and of course there’s beta. And there’s also Amazon for stars, although I think beta is probably more in line with what sharper image used to be.

Ressa 32:08
Totally Great answer. Last question. So I am the proud father of a three year old daughter and a 21 month old son. Congratulations and thank you and we are house filled with diapers. I am on Target’s website right now. My son is the size five Pampers Cruisers what is a box of 60 size five Pampers Cruisers retell foreign targets website today.

Solanki 32:47

Ressa 32:50
Do you have do you have children? Angie?

Solanki 32:53
I have no children.

Ressa 32:58
So I will tell you that

Solanki 33:00
60 is a lot so I might be double.

Ressa 33:05
That’s see this is this is what you don’t know 60s Nothing. That’s that’s when you have a newborn. That’s like a week. That’s like a week of diapers. And this is why pampers is Procter and Gamble’s number one brand. I think it’s like a $8 billion brand. If it was a standalone company, it’d be a fortune 500 company alone that brand and those retail for 2499. On Target’s website.

Solanki 33:31
Oh, once I doubled I was closer. Well, that’s it. Yeah, luckily I have. Yeah, I have one. I have one sibling and younger than me. And she has two older boys. So you haven’t seen diapers in over 16 years.

Ressa 33:50
I understand. I’m in the thick of it. So I’ve mentioned pampers a lot recently because I’ve been calling for differentiation in retail stores. And if and the the line I use is if everyone’s selling pampers and Pepsi. It’s just a race to the bottom. And we need some differentiated products in the stores. And so I’m a pampers customer and I and but I mentioned it a lot on a lot of social media platforms. So anyway, thank you for playing. It’s been a pleasure. Great to have you on thanks for all the insightful information. And if you ever need anything stay in touch. I’d love to stay connected.

Solanki 34:31
Definitely. Chris, thank you so much for your time and appreciate this one on one conversation. Stay well, you too.

Ressa 34:44
Thank you for listening to retail. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were a part of on our show. Please reach out to us at retail retold at DLC This show highlights the stories by Find new deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or an attorney. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to retail retold so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode

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