25 Apr 2022

SHOPPING CENTER BUSINESS: Facing Challenges Head On

By Nellie Day | April 2022

Ask any property manager out there about what the past two-plus years have been like in their profession and they’re likely to answer with one word: challenging.

“Truthfully, being a property manager during the pandemic was terrifying at first,” says Sandy Sigal, president and CEO of NewMark Merrill Companies in the Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills, California. “This wasn’t like a recession when things slowly declined. This was ‘on Friday our businesses are fine, and by Monday the world is shutting down.’”

The obstacles haven’t subsided, unfortunately, as the pandemic transitions to an endemic. Health and safety are still of paramount importance, while a perfect storm of raging inflation, labor and materials shortages and the popularity of omnichannel solutions are the new obstacles. Fortunately, the same strategies that got shopping centers through the pandemic can see them through now. Namely, a little creativity and a proactive approach.

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Feeling the Shortages

Tanya Keshishian, vice president of real estate management at Coreland Companies in the Orange County suburb of Tustin, California, adds that lean times — both in terms of staff and dollars — often require a dose of creativity.

“The pandemic forced managers to outline creative strategies for property maintenance, primarily to ensure that common area expenses billed to tenants were manageable,” she says. “Property services were assessed on a weekly basis across our portfolio to consistently balance need and expense. When labor shortages began to dramatically affect the availability and performance of some vendors, managers addressed new strategies. Non-urgent maintenance was deferred and service schedules modified, but security and cleanliness remained a top priority.”

These sentiments echo the “Jack of All Trades” title that Sigal believes property managers must embrace in chaotic times such as these. “Being a retail property manager requires the management team to wear a lot of hats,” he explains.

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Embracing Tech

“Working remotely was disconcerting at first,” Keshishian admits. “Overnight, numerous virtual conference platforms became the new global norm and bridged physical distancing, allowing for greater personal connection with property owners, management teams and vendors. The urgency of the shutdown just further solidified the value of efficient technology in this industry, like paperless invoice processing, online bill pay, and app-based systems for work orders and tenant communication.”

Having a tech-forward approach pre-pandemic also benefited shopping centers, as more than just employees were able to transition to online.

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Click here for the complete Shopping Center Business article, Page 32.

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