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Retail Retold Episode 212: Spirit Halloween in Centennial, Colorado

DLC Logo overlayed on top of Tri-City Plaza in Vernon, CT

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Chris Ressa:
Welcome to Retail Retold everyone. Today I’m joined by Greg Parsons. Greg is the founder and owner of GP Retails 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:
Thanks Chris, thanks for having me.

Chris Ressa:
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?

Greg Parsons:
Check. I’ve been in, so my name’s Greg Parsons. I’m 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 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 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.

Chris Ressa:
And I don’t know if this is a fair characterization, but I put you in a specialist category of someone who’s pretty passionate about temp leasing, seasonal leasing, pop-up stores, and these type of non-traditional concepts. Is that a fair characterization?

Greg Parsons:
I mean, I think it’s in part a fair characterization. I mean, I do have a passion on retail. I’ve 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 have really found that a lot of creativity and is in that realm and I just 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

Chris Ressa:
And you have this, you have this, what’s going on in pop-up retail every, is it every Friday?

Greg Parsons:
Yeah, every Friday, everybody comes out.

Chris Ressa:
And tell everybody about that. What is what’s going on in pop up retail?

Greg Parsons:
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 what I’ve 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 happening in other parts of the world. Because I, and 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 in China may be a great idea that somebody can use. And let’s just call it Bloomington, Indiana, per se. So I just like bringing that together and kind of just summarizing what’s going on that particular week.

Chris Ressa:
So what is going on in pop-up retail today? Like if you were gonna summarize, this is a growing category, actually don’t answer that. 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 and what’s going on with that, can you take us through and kind of break it up because I think there’s different categories so that we can make sure we’re all understanding the same,

Greg Parsons:
Sure.

Chris Ressa:
reading from the same textbook.

Greg Parsons:
So I think when we consider seasonal leasing, it initially started with, let’s say, your typical Christmas store or like a Christmas tree sale over the holiday season. And then 30-some years ago, Halloween became a much more popular holiday. And so retailers decide the evolution Halloween’s and the Halloween Expresses of the World capitalized on that season as well and so they’ve always kind of wrapped themselves around a special holiday for saying so that’s kind of your seasonal leasing part and then when you’re on

Chris Ressa:
Do you put like Hickory Farms in there and some of those groups, calendars?

Greg Parsons:
Yeah, I mean everyone that’s kind of capitalizing on a specific holiday per se, you know, the Hickory Farms, Seas Candies, Go Retail, Go Calendars, you know, those guys that you’ll typically see in a mall kiosk during November and December, I categorize them into the seasonal retail bucket.

Chris Ressa:
Okay, got it.

Greg Parsons:
And you can put H&R Block and you can put Jackson Hewitt in that same

Chris Ressa:
True.

Greg Parsons:
block as well. They’re capitalizing

Chris Ressa:
Right.

Greg Parsons:
on 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, whatever that case may be, is that they’re trying to capitalize on a short-term basis to either test, it’s a retail laboratory, it’s 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 timeframe. So I mean, the Burberry, a lot of that comes from all these luxury guys, 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.

Chris Ressa:
And malls for a long time incubated short-term tenants hoping they might become 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, sails her through the roof and wants to stay long-term, right? This has been a concept for a long time from a short-term basis.

Greg Parsons:
Yes.

Chris Ressa:
seasonal retailers who, their model’s pretty set in stone right now. 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 a season. So, okay. So there’s that. Now that we’ve separated the two, what’s going on in short-term leasing, pop-up retail, what’s going on today?

Greg Parsons:
I think a lot of it, what’s interesting to see is that there’s so much experimentation 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. But they’re doing it on different levels. So it’s a solid experimentation, almost like a laboratory, if you will. 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 are 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 ever been before.

Chris Ressa:
If you were 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.

Greg Parsons:
Um,

Chris Ressa:
Let’s put you on the spot.

Greg Parsons:
sure.

Chris Ressa:
We didn’t prep this question, everybody.

Greg Parsons:
Yeah, no, I know. The, I think Candyopolis has 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 candies and you know they’ll take a It really becomes a museum almost of Just simply about candy.

Chris Ressa:
of sugar.

Greg Parsons:
Yeah, it’s all sure. We got a lot

Chris Ressa:
So Candyopolis, that’s one.

Greg Parsons:
Yeah Louis Vuitton really is doing some impressive things with regards to artist collaborations They just launched one a couple weeks earlier this year With an artist in Japan and they’ve really taken that and they’ve expanded it across the globe. So now they’ve had one in Japan, they’ve got one in Paris, they’ve got New York and LA. I mean, that’s a pretty impressive, just those type of collaborations, I think, seem to be pretty impressive. A third that I think that I’ve seen is being utilized fairly well is what Dix is doing. Dix is doing kind of like their warehouse sale. And so they use it as an experimentation venue. And they are trying to take off,

Chris Ressa:
Clear out inventory.

Greg Parsons:
thank you, clear out inventory from other stores, but they’re typically in… either in local shopping centers that they’re already in or they’re actually testing out other markets within a sub market of that geography. So I think those three are some interesting aspects of what’s going on in Papa

Chris Ressa:
All right,

Greg Parsons:
so far.

Chris Ressa:
so. Greg’s three cool short-term concepts,

Greg Parsons:
Yeah,

Chris Ressa:
Kandiopolis,

Greg Parsons:
short-short concepts. Louis

Chris Ressa:
Louis

Greg Parsons:
Vuitton.

Chris Ressa:
Vuitton, and Dick’s Sporting. It’s cool. One last thing before we get into your story.

Greg Parsons:
Sure.

Chris Ressa:
Tell us what GP Retails Consulting is, what you’re doing and how it’s going.

Greg Parsons:
So it’s I really launched it last last fall Really had decided that I’m Wanted to step away from the you know kind of from the we’ll call it the corporate world if you will and I thought that there is this niche and desire for Landlords municipalities even retailers to to utilize short-term pop-up retail and within their venues and expand it to what they currently do. You know a lot of municipalities are growing to you know they’re trying to infiltrate and try to upgrade their merchandise mix within their municipalities and they’re not really They’re just not tapping into the opportunity that they can be and utilizing the opportunities that they have. And so I just have always been this passion within retail and always liked that there’s the niche of doing something short term. I just thought it was time to kind of go out on my own and to start to see what’s out there.

Chris Ressa:
So if someone were, what is an 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 bringing some short-term opportunities to them, what does an engagement, like what would be a scope of work you would be doing?

Greg Parsons:
So scope of work for me would be simply, I can do it on a deal by deal basis. If there’s a property that needs some help, that I could go out and canvas those markets and really attract retailers on a short-term basis. I can also put together some strategies with different cities to evaluate their locations and their opportunities within those specific markets that they control, some high quality operators to really get the lights turned on. So that their presence, so their streetscapes look as best as they possibly can. So those are just a couple different things that we work on.

Chris Ressa:
Got

Greg Parsons:
Yeah.

Chris Ressa:
it. Cool. Well. appreciate you giving us some cool concepts,

Greg Parsons:
Sure.

Chris Ressa:
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.

Greg Parsons:
Okay, so this is 2005, so we’re

Chris Ressa:
Okay.

Greg Parsons:
going back a little bit, and 2004 just for feet had just gone bankrupt. So all of their stores had closed in 2004, so that leaves, you know, a good amount of real estate available for possible short-term deals for Halloween stores back then. So I’m now site centers. we go out, and this is 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, we go to Spirit, we go to Halloween Express, which is another Halloween operator, and then there’s a couple local operators, you know, within tertiary markets that we work with as well. So everybody goes out to bid, we solicit the sites, and Centennial, the Just for Feet is what we’ll call it a hot commodity. You know, it’s attractive right off of I-25, right across from Park Meadows Mall. Probably one of the best pieces of real estate in the country, in all honesty. I mean, it’s a pretty attractive place. So, through the bid process, we award the Just For Feet space to Spirit. Spirit will end up, you know, so this is, and space goes out for business. So 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 at the time. They’ve hired a secondary broker to kind of help out with some of the additional leasing because there were some other vacancies at the property even though we have an and come middle of August, spirit comes knocking on the door. Well, door’s open and someone else is already inside.

Chris Ressa:
Oh no.

Greg Parsons:
and someone that’s already inside is setting up Halloween merchandise.

Chris Ressa:
Oh my God.

Greg Parsons:
And so it’s coming 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.

Chris Ressa:
Oh my God.

Greg Parsons:
So somehow, and I mean, I only found out about this, I get a phone call on a random Sunday afternoon from my whom I rarely talk to, aside

Chris Ressa:
Yeah.

Greg Parsons:
from during the week, said, hey, we got a problem here. We’ve got two people trying to need the same space at the same time. And I go, well, that’s interesting, because I only know of one. And so it was interesting. We had a little bit of emergency negotiations handled to get, because eventually it ended up happening. Halloween Express had no business being there, the broker team did the deal, which was a whole separate issue of how that even happened.

Chris Ressa:
Who signed the document? Because the brokers are third party. They couldn’t sign on behalf of the ownership. Who signed the document with Halloween Express?

Greg Parsons:
I, Halloween Express signed theirs and I think it came from the broker group. I mean, again, it was a very weird situation trying to figure out how

Chris Ressa:
Wow.

Greg Parsons:
this happened.

Chris Ressa:
And so spirit and so now so they don’t really have a deal. So you you must have did you call Halloween Express?

Greg Parsons:
Yeah, I’m on the phone with Halloween Express, because I work with them. Like, look, we’ve talked about this. It’s like, how did you guys get into it? 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. So they

Chris Ressa:
Wow.

Greg Parsons:
just, they thought

Chris Ressa:
And

Greg Parsons:
the…

Chris Ressa:
unpacking that, so you call Highland Express, they’re already inside, they’ve spent money, they’ve ordered stuff. How long from there did they exit the space?

Greg Parsons:
It took them about two weeks before,

Chris Ressa:
Two weeks.

Greg Parsons:
I mean there was this leading up part that, 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 about after about two weeks there was a period where Halloween was, out and spirit was moving in at the same time. So it was

Chris Ressa:
Wow.

Greg Parsons:
a very interesting dynamic.

Chris Ressa:
And how did the conversations go with Spirit? They call you probably freaking out.

Greg Parsons:
They’re calling me, I get the call from proper 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 does somebody got access to a space? I don’t know at the time. And then, I’ve got spirit trusting me that, hey, we trusted you with this deal, we’re trying to make sure that we get into this space because we wanna get these doors open by Labor Day. they’re planning. I mean at the time that was then. I mean now they’re about a month earlier if they can. So there was some interest. That was an interesting month. Interesting two week

Chris Ressa:
That

Greg Parsons:
period.

Chris Ressa:
was an interesting month. The… in did Halloween express, did you have to pay them to leave?

Greg Parsons:
No,

Chris Ressa:
Well,

Greg Parsons:
no,

Chris Ressa:
that’s good. You worked out a deal.

Greg Parsons:
we did not have to pay them to leave. We ended up working out a deal. I wanna say it was at another one of our shopping centers in Denver that actually had come available. It wasn’t as big as Just for Feed, but it was usable. And I mean, so they were somewhat, I mean, yes, they were somewhat made whole. I mean, it was a mistake it at the top after the fact. But it was still, when you’re dealing with seasonal retail 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 slip through. That’s what happens.

Chris Ressa:
Greg, that was a pretty cool story. Really appreciate you coming on today. I wanna take us to the end of the show. I got three questions for you. Are

Greg Parsons:
Sure.

Chris Ressa:
you ready? Question one. What extinct retailer do you wish would come back from the dead?

Greg Parsons:
It’s interesting, we actually just talked about it. It’s Just For Feet.

Chris Ressa:
Very cool.

Greg Parsons:
When I was in college, there was a Just For Feet store in Dublin, Ohio, and that we would always go to. And they would offer, they had the big basketball court in the middle of the store. And

Chris Ressa:
I remember.

Greg Parsons:
they would always offer free throw competitions, they would have dunk contests in the store. So it was always just an engaging environment when we went there as college kids. So it’s just I was and I was just I missed that when they left because I would have loved to share that with you.

Chris Ressa:
Is that you telling us that you can dunk?

Greg Parsons:
That is me telling you I could at the time. That’s no longer the case. I’ve retired those shoes, but.

Chris Ressa:
All right. Can we make that the title of the show, Greg Parsons Can Dunk?

Greg Parsons:
Yeah, yeah, I think you should I think you should You

Chris Ressa:
Okay, question two. What’s the last item over $20 that you bought in the store?

Greg Parsons:
So it was a water heater blanket from Home Depot.

Chris Ressa:
Hmm.

Greg Parsons:
However,

Chris Ressa:
Okay.

Greg Parsons:
I didn’t use it on a water heater.

Chris Ressa:
Would you use it up?

Greg Parsons:
I used it on our outdoor irrigation system. So I’m in Houston and over the holiday season, temperatures dropped to below 20. Well, anytime the temperature drops below 30 degrees, people in Houston panic. I mean, it is, you know, the grocery stores are empty, home depots empty, I mean, everything’s gone. So luckily I was able to find this blanket, system so it doesn’t freeze, so your pipes don’t freeze, and so it just helps

Chris Ressa:
Great.

Greg Parsons:
prevent damage in the past. So I learned that trick two years ago when we had another freeze, and so I did that again.

Chris Ressa:
Perfect. Last question. If you and I were shopping at Target and I lost you, what aisle would I find you in?

Greg Parsons:
you know I’m an avid reader.

Chris Ressa:
Haha.

Greg Parsons:
And so I’m going to be in the book section. It’s

Chris Ressa:
Love

Greg Parsons:
near

Chris Ressa:
it.

Greg Parsons:
electronics, so 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’d be.

Chris Ressa:
Well, fantastic. Greg, this was great. I really appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Greg Parsons:
Sure.

Chris Ressa:
And if you’re not following Greg on LinkedIn, please do.

Greg Parsons:
Thanks Chris, thanks for

Chris Ressa:
Greg,

Greg Parsons:
your time.

Chris Ressa:
just stay on for one second, man.

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