Spirit Halloween with Greg Parsons – Retail Retold Replay
Guest: Greg Parsons
Topics: Spirit Halloween, short-term leasing
Chris Ressa 0:00
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 Retail everyone. Today I’m joined by Greg Parsons. Greg is the founder and owner of GP Retail Consulting. He’s been in the retail real estate industry for a long time. He’s a friend of mine. I’m excited for him to be here. Welcome to the show, Greg.
Greg Parsons 0:35
Thanks, Chris. Thanks for having me.
Greg, I think you have an interesting path in retail real estate. So why don’t you tell everybody a little bit about who you are and what you’ve done over your career.
I’m Greg Parsons, the founder of GP Retails Consulting, currently, but I’ve been in the industry for the better part of 25 years. Starting primarily on the landlord, retail retail real estate side, and then recently was with spirit Halloween, over the last two seasons on the retailer side. So my path has taken me into property management, property marketing, leasing, traditional leasing, non traditional leasing. So I mean, I’ve had a very winding road path to get to where I am today.
And, and I don’t know if this is a fair characterization. But I put you in the specialist category of someone who’s pretty passionate about temp leasing, seasonal leasing pop up stores, in these type of non traditional concepts. Is that a fair characterization?
I mean, I think it’s in part a fair characterization. I mean, I do have a passion on retail, have always had that. And so finding that niche between short term and seasonal retail has just kind of I was bitten by a bug a while back. And I’ve really found that a lot of creativity and is in that realm. And just to really always found enjoyment, just trying to figure out how best to maximize retail real estate and in specifically shopping center spaces and to utilize them on a short term basis.
And you have this, you have this what’s going on in pop up retail every is every Friday,
yeah, every Friday, right comes out and tell everybody about that. What is what’s going on in pop up retail.
So I started this, we’ll call it weekly report on pop up retail, a couple of years ago. And again, it kind of spawned from a passion of, of what I’ve gotten done my entire career. But it really summarizes the creativity and just the innovation of what’s going on with international brands, regional brands, or even local brands across the globe. And so I’m just constantly researching what’s going on what’s what’s happening in other parts of the world.
Because I report it, because I think other people should know what others are doing. I think it’s a great way to share information. And someone’s creativity. And China may be a great idea that somebody can use and let’s just call it Bloomington, Indiana, per se. So I just like bring that together and kind of just summarizing what’s going on that particular week.
So what is going on in pop up retail today? Like if you were going to summarize, this is a growing category actually don’t answer that. Let’s, let’s reframe everybody for a second. For those who don’t know, let’s talk about short term leasing, versus seasonal leasing.
And the differences in these seasonal tenants versus these short term type tenants that we’re seeing in the in this pop up world and what’s going on with that? Can you take us through and kind of break it up because there’s I think there’s different categories so that we can make sure we’re all understanding the same reading from the same textbook.
So I think when we consider seasonal leasing, you know, we initially started with, let’s say your typical Christmas store or like a Christmas tree sale, you know, over the holiday season, and then you know Oh 30 Some years ago, Halloween became a much more popular holiday.
And so retailers decide, you know, the evolution and the starting of the Spirit Halloween and the Halloween Express’s of the world capitalize on that season as well. And so they’ve always kind of wrapped themselves around a special holiday for say, so that’s kind of your seasonal leasing pour it into like Hickory
Farms in there and some of those groups calendar
Yeah, I mean, everyone that’s kind of capitalizing on a specific holiday, per se, then you know, the Hickory Farms See’s Candies Go Go Go retail go calendars. You know, those guys that you’ll typically see and you know, in a mall kiosk during November, December, I call I categorize them into the seasonal retail.
Okay, got it, and then you’ve got others and you can put h&r block and you can put, you know, Jackson true in that same block as well, right now they’re capitalizing in a specific season.
Short term retail, I think, is a little bit more targeted in a specific, whether it be a specific market, a specific demographic, you know, whatever the case may be is in there trying to capitalize on a short term basis to either test, you know, it’s a retail laboratory, some retail experimentation, to really engage a shopper on a very specific time.
And so they’re able, they use that short term period, to gain as much data as they can generate some sales in the process, and to really evaluate their overall brand in that short, short timeframe.
So I mean, you know, the Burberry a lot of that comes from these luxury guys leave the times to do yours, Burberry, Burberry, you know, those guys are focused on I mean, they have an entire division dedicated to short term retail, because they’re constantly testing and evaluating, you know, where their brand is going and what shoppers are doing.
Got it. And malls for a long time, incubated short term tenants hoping they might be come permanent tenants in their malls for a long time, right, they sign a year lease with a 30 day out. And hopefully the tenant knocks the cover off the ball sales are through the roof. And, you know, wants to stay long term. Right? This has been a concept for a long time from a short term basis. Yes. Which is different than the seasonal retailers who their models pretty set in stone right now.
They they know what they need to do they know when they need to do it, they’re coming in for a certain period of time to capitalize as you call it surrounding a holiday or season. So. Okay, so there’s that now that we’ve separated the two, what’s going on, in, you know, short term leasing pop up retail, what’s going on today?
I think a lot of it, what’s interesting to see is that there’s so much experimentation in that in that realm. You know, you’ve got a lot of people that are collaborating with artists to create these immersive retail environments. And on a short term basis. And but they’re doing it on different levels.
So it’s a it’s a solid experimentation, almost like a laboratory, if you will, to to really engage shoppers to understand the data that they’re billing to generate some sales and to really evaluate the overall impression of that brand. That that shoppers we’re seeing. And that’s where I think it’s very, it’s, it’s much different today than it was even five years ago. And yes, the pandemic has somewhat exacerbated that. But it’s much more poignant and targeted than I think it’s ever been before.
If you are going to tell me, let’s just make it fun. What are like the three coolest short term pop up stores you’ve seen since the pandemic? March of 2020? Let’s put you on the spot. We didn’t practice question everybody.
Yeah, no, I know. The I think candy opolis Is been one that’s been pretty impressive. They bounce around from market to market and essentially create this environment. It’s almost like a maze that’s just dedicated towards simple different Park different candies and you know, they’ll they’ll take a 15,000 square foot space, they’re open for six months. And it really becomes a museum almost of, of just simply about cane sugar. Yeah, it’s all sugar.
Candy opolis That’s one.
Yeah. The way Bhutan really is doing some some impressive things with regards to artists collaborations, they just launched one a couple of weeks ago, earlier this year, with an artist in Japan, and they’ve really taken that and expanded it across the globe. So now they’ve had one in Japan, they’ve got one apparently got New York and LA, I mean, that’s a pretty impressive, just those types of collaborations, I think seem to be pretty impressive.
A third that, I think, that I’ve seen has been is is being utilized fairly well is what Dick’s is doing. Dick’s is doing kind of like their warehouse sale.
And so they use it as an experimentation. venue, and they are trying to they are trying to offer you know, to you know, clear out inventory clear up thank you, for my last words clear out inventory from from other stores, but they’re typically in decent either either in local shopping centers that they the things that they’re already in, or they’re actually testing out other markets within within a sub market of that geographic geography.
So I think those three are some some interesting aspects of what’s going on. So far.
So Greg’s three cool, short term concepts, capitalist leave time, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Cool. One last thing, before we get into your story, sure. Tell us what GP retails consulting is what you’re doing and how it’s going.
So it’s, I really launched it last, last fall, really had decided that I’m wanting to step away from the, you know, kind of from the we’ll call it the corporate world, if you will. And it’s thought that there is this niche and desire for landlords, municipalities, even retailers, to utilize short term, pop up retail, and within their venues and expand it to what they currently do.
You know, a lot of a lot of municipalities are growing to, you know, they’re trying to infiltrate and try to upgrade their, their merchandise mix within their municipalities, and they’re not really they’re just not tapping into the opportunity if they can be, and utilizing what they’re the opportunities that they have.
And so I just have always been this passion within retail, and always like that there’s the niche of, of doing something short term, I just, I thought it was time to kind of go out on my own and distort to see what the, you know, what’s kind of what’s out there.
So, if someone were what what is any engagement you foresee that you might take on so that people could know, and you can tell the audience if they’re interested in potentially, you know, bring some short term opportunities, then what does an engagement like? What would be a scope of work you would be doing?
You know, so scope of work for me would be simply I can do it on a deal by deal basis. You know, if there’s, if there’s a property that needs some help, that I could go out and canvass those markets on and really attract retailers on a short term basis.
I can also put together some strategies with with different cities to evaluate their, their locations and their opportunities within those specific markets that they control to, to really integrate some hikes and quality operators to really get the lights turned on, you know, so that their presence, you know, so they’re, you know, there’s St Kitts streetscapes look as best they possibly can. So those are just a couple of a couple of things.
Got it. Cool. Well, appreciate you giving us some cool concepts telling us a little bit about you, and what’s going on in short term and seasonal retail. You have a story about a spirit Halloween in Centennial, Colorado, take us away.
Okay, so, this this is 2005 So we’re going back a little bit and 2004 just for Feet had just gone bankrupt. So all of their stores have closed in 2004. So that leaves, you know, a good good amount of real estate available for possible short term for short term deals for Halloween stores. Back then, so I’m working at DDR at the time, which is now site centers.
So I’m, and we go out on since April, April 2005, we go out to bid for, you know, who’s going to take over the majority of our Halloween business back then, you know, you go to spirit, we go to Halloween Express, which is another calling operator. And there’s a couple of local operators, you know, within tertiary markets that we work with as well.
So everybody goes out the bid, we solicit the sites and Centennial with the just for feet space, and Centennial is we’ll call it a hot commodity. Yeah, it’s it’s attractive, right off of I 25, right across from Park Meadows Mall. Probably one of the best, best pieces of real estate in the country. In all honesty, it’s a pretty attractive place. So throughout the bid process, we award that we award the just for feet space to spirit, spirit will end up you know, so this is we’ll call it late June, early July.
And space goes out for Spirit, we secure a deal with spirit. And they’re preparing to move in middle of August. Okay. And going back a little bit. The property is leased and owned and managed by DDR time, they’ve hired a secondary broker to kind of help out with some of the additional leasing because there was some other vacancies at the property even though we have an insert in house leasing staff. And come middle of August, spirit comes knocking on the door.
Well, doors open, and someone else is already inside. Oh, no. And someone that’s already inside is setting up Halloween merchandise. Oh my God. And so it’s going to be lo and behold, it’s Halloween Express, whom we rejected their bid for the space months ago, come to find out that the local broker team did a deal with Halloween Express. Oh, my God, somehow.
And I mean, I only found out about this, I get a phone call on a random Sunday afternoon from a property manager in Colorado, whom I rarely talk to, you know, aside from during the week, said, Hey, we got a problem here. We’ve got two people trying to get to the same space at same time and go. Well, that’s interesting, because I only know of one. And so it was it was interesting.
We had a little bit of negotiation of, of emergency negotiations handled to get because eventually eventually end up happening. How am I express had no business being there, even though the broker team did the deal. Which was a whole separate issue of how it even who signed
the document, because the brokers or third party they couldn’t sign on behalf of the ownership who signed the document.
Only an express, only express sign there’s and I think it came from the broker, the broker group. I mean, again, it’d be it was a very weird situation. This happened.
And so spirit. So now so they don’t really have a deal. So you must have Did you call Halloween Express?
Yeah, I’m on the phone with Halloween Express isn’t working. I’m like, like, look, we’ve talked about this, like, how did you guys get into like, whoa, we thought you just, we thought the other broker group just let us do the deal. Like, no, that’s not how this was supposed to go. I mean, you know, we always work together. We have hundreds, you know, we’ve worked with you in multiple sites across the country. You kind of know the process. Wow.
And unpacking that. So you call Harlan Express, they’re already inside. They’ve spent money. They’ve ordered stuff. How long from there? Did they exit the space?
It took them about two weeks, two weeks or? I mean there was this leading up. So they kind of squatted for a little bit as we were trying to work everything out. So spirits just sitting on the front door waiting to get in. I mean they’ve got trucks and merchandise and staff and I mean they’re ready to go. And so but after about two weeks, there was a period where Halloween was Halloween Express is moving out and spirit was moving in at the same time. Wow. Very interesting, dynamic.
And how did how did the conversations go with spirit they call You probably freaking out.
They’re calling me, you know, I get the call from property manager, they’re calling me freaking out. And so now I’ve got to balance all of these one. There’s a lot of unknowns going on. Because how somebody’s got access to a space. I don’t know what the time. And then, you know, I’ve got spirit trusting me that hey, you know, we trusted you with our with with this deal.
We’re trying to make sure that we get into this space, because, you know, we want to get these doors open by Labor Day, because that’s just kind of their their planning. I mean, at the time that was then I mean, now they’re, they’re about a month earlier if they can. So. So that was it was some interest. That was an interesting month.
The and did Halloween Express? Did you have to pay them to leave? No. Well, that’s good. You worked out a deal.
We did not have to pay them to leave. We ended up working out a deal. I want to say it was at another one of our shopping centers in, in Colorado in Denver that actually had come available. It wasn’t as big as just for feet. But it was usable. And I mean, so they were somewhat mean.
Yes, they were somewhat made home. I mean, it was a it was a mistake. And they on they owned up to it at the time after after the fact. But it was still when you’re dealing with seasonal retail and, and there’s just this small window of opportunity. Everything just gets close to this pipe extremely fast. And so some things just kind of slipped through. What happens?
Well, Greg, that was pretty cool story. Really appreciate you coming on today. I want to take us to the end of the show. I got three questions for you already ready? Question one, what extinct retailer you wish would come back from the dead.
It’s interesting, we actually just talked about it. It’s just for feet. Very cool. When I was in college, there was a just for feed store in Dublin, Ohio. And we would always go to and they would offer they had the big basketball court in the middle of the store. I remember when we would all they would always offer like free throw competitions.
They would have dunk contests in the store. So it was always just an engaging environment with for us when we went there as college kids. So it’s just I was I was just I missed that when they left.
Because Is that is that? Is that you telling us that you can dunk?
That is me telling you I can I could at the time and that’s that’s that’s no longer the case. All right, retired those shoes.
Can we make that the title of the show? Greg Parsons can duck.
Yeah, I think you should. I think you should. Okay. Question two,
what’s the last item over $20 that you bought in the store?
So it was a water heater? Blanket from Home Depot. Okay. However, I didn’t use it on a water heater. Would you use it? I use it on our outdoor irrigation system. So I’m in Houston. And over the holiday season, temperatures dropped to below 20. Well, anytime, anytime the temperature drops below 30 degrees. People in Houston panic.
I mean it is you know, grocery stores are empty. Home Depot’s empty. I mean, everything’s gone. So luckily, I was able to find this blanket, wrap the wrap the outdoor irrigation system so it doesn’t freeze, your pipes don’t freeze. And so it just helps prevent glare. It helps prevent damage in the past. So I learned that I learned that trick two years ago, and we had another freeze and so I did that again.
Perfect. Last question. If you when I was shopping at Target, and I lost you what I would I find you and
You know, I’m an avid reader. And so I’m going to be in the book section. A lot of it’s near electronics, so my kids are gonna, you know, my kids are probably over looking at the games for the switch and everything else and I’m sifting through books getting lost. So that’s probably where, I think.
Well fantastic. Greg, this was great. I really appreciate it. Thanks so much. And if you’re not following Greg on LinkedIn, please do.
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