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Commercial Real Estate

CRE Opinion: Evolve or Die in DFW Retail

Having a great selection of retailers in an optimal location is no longer enough to stand out.

With the continual growth of online shopping, retail developers are faced with the challenge of creating an unparalleled guest experience that websites can’t replicate. It’s actually bettering retail places because we are being forced to raise our game. Having a great selection of retailers in an optimal location is no longer enough to stand out. We must make people feel special from the moment they arrive to when they are making a purchase, providing touchpoints along the way that they will remember until the next time they visit. That next level of customer service draws people in and keeps them coming back for years, creating a true connection and deep loyalty.

Creating emotional ties to a property takes a great deal of effort, taking the time to plug into the community and listen to their needs. Improving customer experience might include evolving common areas, installing public art, hosting innovative events and programming, bringing in pop-up shops, or providing a concierge staff that can enhance any retail, residential or office experiences. The key is to incorporate that community’s wants and needs from the beginning, so when they arrive, the details tell them that someone is listening and someone cares.

Terry Montesi

E-commerce is quick and efficient, but that functionality can’t replace the human aspect of a great retail destination. Rather than a simple transaction, the goal is to create a place where people want to come and visit with friends and family—to be their place. The non-tangible details may be harder to directly translate to profits, but they can lead to brand loyalty, an even more valuable commodity.

A local example of elevating guest experience is at Victory Park, where Trademark has spent several years listening to the community and transforming the landscape into an elevated mixed-use environment unlike any other in Dallas.

Public art has been a powerful medium to help evolve the space visually and impact how people feel when they explore the district. When walking through the parking garage, you will find several vibrant murals by local artist Lesli Marshall, which bring a renewed sense of energy and also provide a wayfinding mechanism. Two sculptures have also been installed: a musically-inspired painted pipe sculpture by Las Vegas artist Tim Bavington, and an eight-foot steel sculpture in the “victory” or “peace sign” hand gesture by California-based artist Nathan Mabry. All of these works embody a renewed energy in the district.

Combined with more subtle enhancements to streets, sidewalks and storefronts, Victory Park has become a more authentic and walkable neighborhood. The customer experience continues with a curated selection of new restaurants that are quickly opening this summer. Tracy and Kent Rathbun’s Asian eatery Imoto has opened its doors, and the first of three concepts from Tristan Simon’s Rebees, high-end Texas dining saloon Billy Can Can, will make its debut in the coming weeks, along with wine bar Burgundy Swine, Popbar, and Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas Victory Park. To ensure visitors have a smooth visit, Victory has rolled out a new high-tech valet and self-parking system.

I recently had a conversation with experiential and entertainment development expert Paul Kurzawa on the importance of identifying these innovative ways to stay relevant in the face of e-commerce. As I always say, it’s evolve or die in this industry, and retail developers must be committed to the continual improvement of customer experience.

Terry Montesi is founder and CEO of Fort Worth-based Trademark Property Co.

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