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(Real Talk Series #23) Julia Raymond

Episode #: 079
(Real Talk Series #23) Julia Raymond

Guest: Julia Raymond
Topics: Podcast tips, retail trends


Chris Ressa 0:01
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 on the show, I am joined by Julia Raymond. Julia is the editor in chief of rethink retail. She is also a podcast host. I am excited for her to share a lot of great insights today. And welcome to the show, Julia.

Julia Raymond 0:51
Thank you for having me, Chris. It’s nice to be on the other side of the table, as we like to say, This is my first time on your show. So I’m definitely happy to be on.

Ressa 0:54
So yeah, happy to have you. And, you know, pre pandemic, I actually was on your podcast. And that was interesting, because everything was just happening at that point. So it was an interesting time. So why don’t you tell everybody a little bit about who you are your journey and what rethink retail is and what the podcast is?

Raymond 1:14
Absolutely. So I’ll begin by saying that, you know, I know a lot of your listeners are interested in commercial, retail real estate. And I definitely cover a lot of that. My topic areas really broad because I actually, this is a bit of a secret, but I actually never worked in retail myself. So I kind of take things from a bird’s eye view. people I interview are really the experts, and I’m just kind of helping share the information. So with that in mind, I do work for a global agency. And it’s called valtech. We work with some of the leading retail clients around the world. From fashion like blue baton, we do digital and retail work. And then we also have L’Oreal MAC Cosmetics decathlon, which is a sports retailer in Europe, kind of like our Dick’s Sporting Goods here. Audi, so we had a huge stake in retail and the genesis of rethink retail was actually it started as a podcast as a way to make more connections in the retail space. And really create some thought leadership content and network with, you know, people who know what they’re doing day in and day out and can really give us an ear on what’s going on. So that’s kind of how it started. But then it became a lot bigger, we got a lot of traction. And we started really ramping up on our online media. And so now we’re kind of like a whole media company, really. And we’re a separate, separate sort of arm from valtech, who is the parent co so rethink retail, we’ve done about 100 or so episodes, like you said you were on the show a couple months ago. And that’s kind of how I got to where I am now I will say, I do have a kind of cool story I’d like to share with your listeners. And this is just one of my connections to retail personally, is that my grandmother actually ran a specialty retail store called Tilly Marie. And this was many years ago. But she actually one of her clients was Bernoff, Bergdorf Goodman, and she would send a lot of her items there. And there was one story, she would always tell me as she got in a shipment of dresses, I think they were actually made by the Amish because she was in Pennsylvania area. And she realized that they forgot to include the tags or she didn’t order the tags, something went wrong with the tags, and she had to get the shipment out on time. So she thought quickly on her feet. And she went to the woman who worked for her who actually hand painted furniture that she sold in her store. And they hand painted all of the tags for these dresses. And when they shipped, you know, she was like fingers crossed. They don’t say anything. I hope they’re not like what is this. And then months went by she sends the next shipment with the regular tags, and she gets a phone call. And it’s Bergdorf Goodman and they’re like, Hey, what happened to the hand painted tags? And she’s like, Oh, and she explained the story and they’re like well our customers really love that they they want that. And so it was kind of funny how something that you know was a mistake actually had that that personal touch that people really like and that creates that connection in retail. Awesome. Well listen to your podcast, read some of your stuff. You’re whether you admit it or not. You are a retail thought leader and experts so but I appreciate

Ressa 0:43
all you said and even though you didn’t come through the retail ranks I think your your content is spot on and in thought provoking. So

with that, you know first before we get into what’s going on in retail, we were gonna

Talk about some stuff as it relates to podcasting. And you have three tips. And we both host a podcast and you have three tips for people, podcasting. So I am

hoping to learn here because I feel like I’m still learning. So

Raymond 5:22
why don’t we start with Tip one? What are your three tips? Let’s start with Tip one. Okay, so tip one is a bit embarrassing. I’m just gonna put it out there. I first started out my podcast I was I was actually very nervous because the first person I hosted was another podcast host who had, you know, a pretty great podcast and Q’s experience. So I definitely sounded more like the rookie, at least I thought so in my head. I’ve never gone back to listen to that episode, because I’m just you know how it is watching or listening to yourself. But

I was told afterwards, you get a voice coach, by other people on the team. And that is a tip I would give to someone who’s looking to start a podcast because the voice coach and I found him on Upwork. You know, if anyone’s listening and wants his name, I can send him your way. But he actually told me, you say, yeah, a lot and your podcast. And he would point out things I did in terms of the flow of how I sounded that I should improve on and it made a huge difference, not only in my confidence as a host, but and you know, for the listeners, right? And so he actually told me, and I still have it hanging in my office today, to print out a list of ways to say yes, and some of them are absolutely ridiculous. And I would never say them, because they’re the phrases get a little funky. But that was one of the tips. So that’s tip one. Wow, let’s let’s, let’s stop there for a second because I have not had a voice coaching. Or knows, I probably could use one. How have you seen that affect other parts of your life in business, not just the podcast.

It’s definitely affected the way I present and the way I speak because one of his main tips and anyone can use this as that when you were speaking, especially in a podcast format, you want to try your best to sound more melodic. And people who are actually more visual learners and thinkers like I tend to be, they talk a little bit more with a lot of pauses, like I’m doing right now. And it’s actually a little bit jarring for people who are listening. So when you tend to speak a little bit more melodically and flow your words together, not like you’re slurring but flowing them together, it actually makes you come off a little bit more polished. Wow, that’s something I learned. I pause all the time. And people comment on that. And so

when you say the word that it’s jarring, oh, my God, I might need to connect with your voice. Because Was it hard to find a voice coach? Or is that like a simple Google? No, it was a bit difficult. I went through a lot of different applications actually pick someone who is an audio engineer. And I really wanted someone who had their own podcasts. And he didn’t have that. But he was an editor for some podcasts. And he has, you know, a background at some fancy schools. He knew what he was doing. And so right when I had the intro call, I just felt like it was a good fit.

Ressa 8:22
I’m taken aback, that’s amazing. And I can tell you this. This weekend, I might be looking at some voice coaches, because I think it has more, as you say, more applications other than just the podcast. So

Raymond 8:38
there’s things you realize you don’t do like the word that I tend to say that a lot. And he was like, if you want to come off a little bit more professional, you need to try your best to say the

and maybe he knows some people might disagree with that and say that’s BS, but hey, I’ve taken it with a grain of salt. And I try my best not to say the I say the just little nuances.

Ressa 9:01
What is practice look like?

Raymond 9:04
So it’s great that he gave you the advice of like, say the instead of the I think that’s interesting. Was there exercises and thoughts around how you actually improve at that? Or is it just like, here it is do better? No, he would say when he first coached me to have our topics. So for example, one podcast we do is the retail rundown. So I already know what three topics we’re going over with the guests that week. And he would say I want you to you don’t have to do this every time but when you’re starting out highlight words that you want to have more emphasis on when you’re reading the script and try your best not to sound like you’re reading you should have read it two or three times before you even hop on the show. I don’t do that anymore. Sometimes I wing a little bit of it because it’s been 100 episodes but definitely when I started out

I would take the time to highlight what words need more emphasis, where there should be pauses for drama and things like that. Wow. All right. I am intrigued. Now, I might just ask you for your voice coach’s name and number. Sure, be happy to give it to you.

What’s number two? All right, number two, and this is one I think, Chris, that you will absolutely agree with me on and that is, use LinkedIn to find guests. That’s how we started. That’s how it’s going. It’s our best channel for finding podcast guests.

Unknown Speaker 10:39
Totally agree. We have a podcast episode. Ours is weekly, how often is yours? Weekly, weekly, and ours is every Thursday. And then we have a what we call him what this is, is Real Talk series where we just talk, you know, traditionally something retail or something real estate. And every once in a while we throw in some just general business type things, which I think is the a little bit of the topic we’re doing now. And they’re still either retail or real estate influencers. And our Thursdays are the story of how that story ended up in your neighborhood. And that’s every Thursday, and LinkedIn has definitely been a place where I’ve found guests. So I totally agree, it is a great channel, find guests. Cool, even if you’re starting out, because you’re offering value to that person by saying I recognize you work for a great company, or you have a great title or however you’ve worked to get to where you are today. Let’s celebrate that. Let’s have a show where we’re featuring you. So people respond. And then I guess I’ll just hop right into the third, which is just start small and cheap. You don’t have to be funded by a big company. To start a podcast, you could be anyone get a Yeti mic on Amazon 100 bucks, and then start from there, use Zoom, and you can make improvements as you go along.

Ressa 12:15
Totally agree. I have actually tried multiple different platforms for the podcast. And we actually keep defaulting to zoom.

primary reason is,

what I find is it is the easiest for guests.

There are things with audio quality, that are great and whatnot. And, you know, and I don’t want to call those out as negative here, we found zoom being the best. But there’s a lot of platforms where a lot of our guests like for 20 minutes, we’re struggling on how to use the platform. And but and they’re very focused those companies on podcasting. And we just went back to zoom, and it makes editing a little tougher. Like right now I have a backup going, Zoom makes editing a little tougher. I have a backup going right now for me on my end. Because a lot of those podcasts enable you to split the audio, which is tougher zoom, you can’t split the audio out, right. But the positive is that the guest has an easy experience in getting on. And, you know, in the beginning, I had guests who were like, Listen, this is taking me too long, we’re gonna have to reschedule and we’re like, oh, oh, my God, this is, you know, one, I’m pretty busy and actually do a lot of podcasts, call it either on the weekends or before work or after work. And really hard to schedule and so to to have that happen is is painful, as you know, it is. And I would say we went through the same thing and ended up with Zoom because path of least resistance, you know, people people love and know how to use it. So

yeah, it is what it is. For now. I’ll give one tip, which will be technical, which is, and you were talking about it earlier. So you know, which is make sure your guests audio is pretty good. So in general, you know, we’ll recommend to people who aren’t, you know, typically on podcasts or podcast hosts, you know, getting them in a place where they have quality audio, because there’s only so much the editing team can do to improve their audio. So and not to be afraid to interrupt them if it sounds like shite. Yeah. So in the beginning I was but now I’m like, listen, we have to we either have to reschedule because we can’t do it. Or we have to get you in a place right now where there’s better audio. Do you have headphones, please don’t use air pods. Things like that. Yeah, absolutely. And I’ll get

Raymond 15:00
One technical tip to add on top of that is, Chris mentioned, he uses a backup recorder which I do too. Normally right now we’re recording video. So I’m not. But Audio Hijack is a tool, at least for Mac computers that works really well for that. And it’s inexpensive. Awesome. Cool. All right, pivoting from that.

Ressa 15:20
So now that you’re this media company,

is it something that you guys are trying to profit on the media or just to enhance the brand?

Raymond 15:34
If I’m being candid, it’s not really in. In terms of profit, that’s not the word I would use at this stage. It’s more offsetting the costs of running the brand. Which is nice, because we’re in a position at least right now things change. But we’re in a position where we can be a bit more selective about what we cover and and how we cover it. Because there’s not that intense pressure as if we were just, you know, a startup from ground zero, so

and our Yeah, and most of the revenue sponsors. Yes. So sponsoring the podcast and things like that. Absolutely sponsoring the podcast, coming on the podcast for custom one on one interviews, doing videos, pre COVID, doing interviews on the show floor at feature stores, or NRF, or any of the big shows, to highlight vendors and what makes them special, because there’s so many vendors out there, it’s hard to break through the noise. And that’s where media, I think really helps. And are they are, do you find they’re often willing to pay to be on the podcast?

More and more, yes, but it to monetize a podcast is not an easy feat. I wouldn’t go into podcasting. Totally. So of monetizing, I would go in with the hopes of networking and making a lot of great personal connections. But you know, as you grow it, and as you build an audience, then you can look to monetizing.

Show, that brings us to let’s talk about what’s going on in retail, talk about retail. So this is a bit funny. But yesterday, my editor sent me a YouTube video, and he was like, This documentary is fascinating. You have to listen to it. And I click the link and it’s from I think 1983. And it was Roosevelt field mall and Long Island, which was open back in 1950s. And it’s still around. So it was interesting, because it was they were interviewing people in the 80s about the mall experience and why they go to the mall. And I remember one woman said, I’m here to find, you know, what’s in what’s out, and what people are spending money on. And I’m also looking for a job. And that was kind of a quote she gave and I thought about it and you know, 80s, monoculture was booming. And we’ve come a long way since then. I remember even in the 90s going to the mall for you know, music stores, video stores, arcades, and all three of those things have really been taken over by the internet. And so that leaves us with, you know, movie theaters and, and fashion apparel, and, you know, food, really. So how do we how do we bounce back from there and create environments that are really interesting. And it’s hard because of the pandemic, right? It threw a wrench in all this. In the past, I think mall operators were concerned about how do we help our retailers drive foot traffic and play a role there. And so when I’m interviewing people recently, what I’ve been hearing, there’s three things that I kind of jotted down as I was preparing for this podcast. One is kick foot traffic to the curb in terms of initiatives for operators to help their tenants drive traffic because of the pandemic. They should really be pivoting and help help with fulfillment. And I know it’s easy to say, especially from an outsider perspective. But I want to ask you, Chris, I don’t mean to like flip it and start interviewing you. What is your thought? When people in the industry who are not operators are saying you guys need to be doing the fulfillment? You guys need to be helping with curbside I mean, some are but what is your take when you hear things like that? We we have pivoted to

Ressa 19:33
park and pickup as we call it at every one of our shopping centers or majority of our shopping center. So we were definitely we’re bullish that buy online pick up in store is the last mile. And to that end,

we think it’s pretty clear the store has won. And it’s just I don’t think you can 78% of American consumers are paycheck to paycheck and

They can’t pay for $30 delivery costs. And majority of retailers, unless we’re only gonna have three retailers in Walmart, Amazon target,

majority of retailers

can afford to give free shipping and make money. And so that’s why buy online pick up in store makes all the sense in the world because it solves the convenience factor for the consumer. And it’s and it solves the cost factor for the retailer and provides a value to the consumer. And so we’re very bullish on violent pickup in store. I think the second thing is, as far as fulfillment otherwise goes, We’re intrigued by we’re interested, not easy to implement in a to actually get fulfillment centers, you know, retailers doing fulfillment in the store. I think that’s a conversation that’s still happening.

Raymond 20:56
I think some people have said, you know, with the some of the larger tenants moving out to just totally transform some of the anchors into fulfillment centers, as I think Amazon is trying to deal with some empty JC Penney’s, if I remember correctly. Yeah, we’ll see if that happens. And there’s a debate on whether that’s good for the property or bad for the property? And we’ll say, yeah, we’ll see if those those big delivery trucks coming in and out. Yes, how that will impact the community around so that that was the first thing, the other idea I’ve heard floating around. And I personally don’t, probably wouldn’t subscribe to this. But it’s having mall operators provide more deeper service for their tenants and becoming not only the owner of the physical property, but the digital property, and having basically a marketplace model where their tenants can sell their products through them, and they operate the commerce. But I’ve seen that tested out with maybe some of your competitors, and it hasn’t been great. Is that something that you guys discuss? We haven’t done that yet? And I don’t know that we will. That’s not an initiative. It’s interesting. I haven’t actually seen a lot on that. So I am intrigued by the comment, I find it interesting. I haven’t seen a lot about that. And we’ll see how that plays out. I, you know, my brain is racing on how that how that works. But

it’s interesting. It’s a big idea. I mean, potentially, because there’s so much going on in terms of restructuring how communities are, are built, like new communities, and then how they operate. And the whole convenience factor that all the retail thought leaders keep talking, talking about and bringing up maybe it wouldn’t be something where you can have services that you’re offering to maybe smaller mom and pop shops that are your tenants, but I don’t know that a larger retail would be interested in that sort of setup, because of all the things Amazon deals with, right? Like the the data sharing. Yeah. And I struggled to see how it’s so different from them having their own website presence, you know, Walmart need to pay me rent on their, on my site, where they have their own book. Interesting. I know. And that was something I read in a blog, like, you know, Amazon charges $40 a month for sellers on their marketplace. And then they take like a 15% fee on average. And what if that could be translated to a tenant operate. Interesting that but I don’t know about it. So I just want to bring that up food for thought. Yeah, it is an interesting idea. The third thing I’ll jump into, and the final thing is the redevelopment opportunities. Now that some of the big box anchors are not doing as well financially, and then some going bankrupt, that there’s an opportunity to reimagine,

you know how how buildings are structured and what you’re offering.

Open Air contemporary markets is something that is growing. And I think the rise of health and wellness products might be a trend because of the pandemic but it also might be here to stay. So having not only services, but retailer tenants who offer those kinds of things for consumers. Awesome. Well, thank you for those three tips. I’ll go back to a combination of the last one and the first one you said which is one of the things that I was

Ressa 24:29
not loving about all this experiential retailing, that was talked about pre pandemic

was the fact that the product still matters.

And one of the things I keep saying is

if you have a product that you can’t find anywhere else,

people will drive far and wide for it. If you have a brand

And that people connect with people will drive far and wide for it. And so when you think about, you know, some premium brands that are the original direct to consumer brands of like Apple and Nike, you know, they might not be in, they might be in inconvenient locations. And people will still drive forever and make sure they get to that store, because they have something that they connect with the brand, they have a product that’s really needed. And so one of the things that I like about some of the retailers that are, they’re starting to get to a more, there’s a lot more private label, DTC is opening up brick and mortar stores. And I think this is all good. Because if you need a brand, if you have a brand or a product, and you need to either go to my website or my store, my physical store to get it, you’re going to drive foot traffic to the property. If you’re playing in the game of commodities in the in the in the example I always use is Pepsi and pampers a tough game to compete with Walmart, Target and Amazon, and all the grocery stores and drugstores and dollar stores.

But I think one of the things that we need to think about when you mentioned the product, right, you started with movie theaters, movie theaters, food and beverage in fashion, and you’re like, and you’re like, and and you’re like, and you’re like that’s what that’s what a mall has. And one of the things I like about Open Air retail, which we own majority of is we have a more diverse merchandising mix, whether that’s grocery, whether that’s auto parts, and whether whatever it is, and some need based retailing, whether that’s value based apparel, whether that’s goods for $1. And so we’re bullish on our space.

I think the product has matters more today than ever, right? And if you have a product and service that people crave, they will find you. And with that, I will leave the EU with my last three questions. And some of them. I’m going to ask you all three. But based on your experience, I want you to just tell me your three so that I have three questions. Are you ready? All right, let’s hear him. One is a little bit out of your wheelhouse, but I’m gonna help you play along. Okay, based on what you know, and have learned in what you do. What is your best piece of commercial real estate advice?

Raymond 27:29
Well, I will go back to my roots little here.

I got my graduate degree in predictive analytics from Northwestern. I don’t use it. But I do appreciate the field of data science. And I think that there’s an element of predictive analytics and machine learning that is growing when it comes to real estate. I know real estate pros have been using this for a long time but I think it’s going to continue getting more sophisticated and

and there’s another balance right because you don’t want to rely on predicting the future especially when things like the the pandemic happens acts of God that you can’t predict how those factors will play in but using data for for your real estate, knowing people who are around that area and then also looking at the the upside so don’t don’t rely too much on what could be. But what actually is happening in that area. Awesome. Second question.

Ressa 28:30
We call this retail wisdom by the way. Second question. What extinct retailer Do you wish would come back from the dead?

Raymond 28:38
Oh, that’s a hard one

for I don’t know why this name popped in my head so I don’t want to use it. But I was just like BirdEye and I’m like, nevermind. I don’t know if you ever heard of bird ions but they’re they were a big furniture retailer. Um

Unknown Speaker 28:56
I don’t know that one.

Raymond 28:59
It was I think only east coast on the east coast but I don’t know why East furniture interesting their stores. I’m gonna take it no one said that on the show before but I want that to be your answer. Because no one’s ever said that. That’s what popped into my brain. I don’t necessarily know it’s it’s you know, it does. I have a lot of memories going through bird ions as a kid you know, Intel. Got it.

Unknown Speaker 29:21
Last question.

Ressa 29:25
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am on Target’s website.

What does Target’s men’s Turkey union shoe It’s brown. Retail for this is a turkey costume. Oh, a turkey costume? That’s right.

Unknown Speaker 29:44
Okay, is it is it blow up or is it just time where you’re actually a turkey and it inflates? No, no, it’s like, it’s got like, you know, there’s a hood that has the beak on it. And so it’s like a onesie onesie

Raymond 30:00
Yes, that retails

Ressa 30:04
for 3999. Well, you’re closer. I would have thought this was way more expensive. I was way I was way off, but you’re close 2799 2799 But

Raymond 30:15
thank you for playing. All right. I like that. I liked the game as

Ressa 30:22
well. Listen, this has been great. Absolutely. All right, let’s keep in touch. Absolutely. Thanks so much. Thank you for listening to retail retold. 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 behind the deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you are 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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