By Beth Azor – Owner, Azor Academy
Leasing in a COVID world!
What a crazy time we are living in! Never have our retailers been ordered to shut down for months! Thank goodness for the food and beverage businesses that had apps to complete curbside pickup orders- that has saved so many food and beverage businesses.
As we look in our rear-view mirror, it seems incredulous what has happened in the past 5 months. However, as we finally begin to reopen across the country, there have been wonderful stories of creativity from small businesses. Additionally, there are landlords who have stepped up and adapted quickly. Many landlords created formal curbside pickup areas in their shopping centers. To drive traffic, events such as drive-in movies were held with a lot of success.
Leasing has also seen some great activity. While some markets have had more than their share of vacancy, other markets are beginning to rebound in a big way. In south Florida, we are hearing of pre-COVID activity times 3! The voluminous influx of new population into Florida from around the US due to no income tax and great weather may be helping to contribute to this excessive activity.
To spur activity and increase pipelines, I hosted a challenge with a group of leasing agents in August. It was called the “Canvassing Calendar Club Challenge”. We each committed and signed a pledge to canvass (prospect) the amount that matched the day of the month. For example, day 1 we prospected 1; day 10, 10; day 18, 18; and of course, on day 31 we each prospected 31 businesses! By the end of the month, each agent had prospected 496 businesses.
Most prospected thru Facebook and Instagram because we could get a lot done in less time. Many did it the old-fashioned way of canvassing. Over 14 agents completed the challenge reaching over 7,000 prospects!! All of us experienced “canvassing karma” like getting calls from prospects and signing deals with them without having called on them! I believe it is the Universe rewarding the effort! I know it sounds hokey, but I promise you, 14 leasing agents can testify it happened to ALL of them. I am currently negotiating 10 LOI’s for the 6 shopping centers I own. I do not know the last time I worked on 10 LOI’s at once.
“Canvassing karma”!! If I execute 5 of them in the middle of this craziness, I will be thrilled!! So leasing activity (at least in south Florida) is back, and businesses have begun to open. The question is, will the consumer be courageous enough to come back into the stores and malls? I say yes! In fact, I believe we will have the busiest, best Holiday season ever! I think the unspent monies on vacations, sleepaway camps, back to school supplies, school uniforms, work clothes, gas, restaurant dining, entertainment, graduation and birthday parties, etc. will encourage a level of spending we haven’t seen in a long time. Consumers are tired of not celebrating holidays. Easter came and went. Halloween will do the same. I think holiday decorations will be installed in October! So, I hope our retailers are ready! I hope the parental guilt will feed our small local businesses and our big chains. I hope the supply chains can get up and running so we can get more bicycles in the stores. Health will be the big winner here and gyms will be back in a BIG way come January for New Year resolutions (to attack that COVID-19 weight we may have put on)!
I am bullish on retail and especially local shops! I am ready to say goodbye to COVID and only see it in my rearview mirror!
About Beth Azor
Owner at Azor Academy
Beth Azor, a 34-year veteran of the commercial real estate industry, owns Azor Academy, which specializes in consulting services, training, sales/leadership coaching, acquisition due diligence, and market analysis. She owns and manages an $80,000,000 portfolio of commercial retail properties in southeast Florida and wrote and published “Don’t Say No For The Prospect”, a guide to help propel the career of both novice and experienced leasing agents and more recently, “The Retail Leasing Playbook”, a detailed ‘how-to’ book on leasing commercial retail space.
Ms. Azor is also a frequent guest on business and commercial real estate podcasts and hosts a monthly “Rockstar” book club call where she and her listeners review non-fiction business-related books. Her clients include Brixmor Properties, Urban Edge Properties, The Shopping Center Group, Phillips Edison, Kimco Realty, and DLC Management Group. A graduate of FSU, she is the past Chairman of the Board and Founder of the FSU Real Estate Foundation.