Collings: u201cI have not seen a brick-and-mortar retailer defer a deal because of their online retail presence.u201d

IRVINE, CA—Retail landlords continue to seek ways of both competing with and capitalizing on e-commerce. recently spoke exclusively with Fred Collings, SVP leasing for Irvine Co. Retail Properties, about how landlords and their tenants can get a leg up on online purchases, the upcoming ICSC RECon convention in Las Vegas and his advice for young dealmakers. How has online retailing changed your approach to new tenant deals?

Collings: Like other landlords, we’re watching to see which online concepts are hot and might be considering brick and mortar. I have not seen a brick-and-mortar retailer defer a deal because of their online retail presence. Major grocers are still doing 40,000- to 50,000-square-foot deals, and high-volume retail stores are still securing spaces if the location is right. In our favor at the Irvine Co. are the strong demographics of Orange County as well as Southern California’s fabulous weather. We fall prey to online sales like every other landlord, but when a shopper is at their computer and it’s 75 degrees outside, we have a clear advantage to getting them out of the house and to one of our shopping centers. What concepts are bringing excitement to centers today?

Collings: Food, food and more food. Portfolio-wide, Irvine Co. has focused on adding restaurants to its retail centers because food continues to be a key ingredient to bringing shoppers back again and again, as well as to tourists visiting the area. Electronics are bringing a lot of excitement to centers simply because technology is changing so fast. And entertainment is key. The luxury theater, as an example, is gaining in popularity, and I anticipate it will continue. Clearly, in-home theater and streaming video options are tough competition but when reserving a seat in advance can prevent a time-pressed couple from waiting in line to see a movie, it’s a great sales tool. Within our portfolio, Regal Cinemas’ Island Cinema in Fashion Island, Newport Beach, is an example. What projects will Irvine Co. be focused on at ICSC?

Collings: A great part of what we focus on at convention is maintaining our relationships with retailers and restaurateurs. We want to make sure the retail community knows what the Irvine Co. has to offer as a retail partner as well as a master-planning company. We will be actively leasing two grocery-anchored shopping centers now in development, both slated for Spring 2016 openings. Both will be anchored by a 40,000-square-foot specialty market. Spectrum Plaza is located in Irvine and is part of our aggressive expansion of the Irvine Spectrum area. The second is Santa Clara Square in the heart of Silicon Valley, where we also plan a 1.2-million-square-foot premium office campus. We will be looking for restaurants and quick-service food uses as well as unique retail concepts. What do you think will be different at RECon this year? Do you see continued optimism?

Collings: I think the convention will be upbeat and very busy. Real estate is a relationship business. There are a lot of deals to be made. But at the same time, our retailers have a plethora of choices and are being selective as their “open-to-buy” is not as great as it once was. They have their choice of locations—not only nationally, but internationally—and they aren’t taking on anything they see as a gamble. It is again an exciting time in our industry, but it’s a very competitive marketplace. What advice would you give to young dealmakers today?

Collings: My counsel to young dealmakers is the same as the directive I give to my Irvine Co. team: Get away from your computer and get out on the street. You cannot conduct leasing or learn your trade on the Internet or at your desk. You have to touch, feel and know the stores, the products and what sells. There is nothing more embarrassing than to respond “no” to a potential retailer who asks, “Have you seen my store?” Any advice for how best to approach the convention for new leasing professionals?

Collings: My advice for any entry-level leasing professional new to RECon is to first get familiar with every company that is your competition. Learn what the industry is doing by walking the leasing mall from one end to the other. Visit booths and look at displayed site plans for ideas on prospective tenants. Also, educate yourself on various center layouts. I suggest a visit through the trade-show mall and definitely any of the sessions you ca make time for. It’s a terrific opportunity if you use it to your advantage, and it only comes once a year.