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Retailers and restaurants compete for real estate in Florida

Retail guru Faith Hope Consolo, shown in front of Louis Vuitton in New York, recently talked about shopping trends in Florida.
Retail guru Faith Hope Consolo, shown in front of Louis Vuitton in New York, recently talked about shopping trends in Florida.

T hey call Faith Hope Consolo the "Queen of Retail" in New York City. As the chairman of the Retail Group for Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Consolo sees business trends as they unfold in cities across the country. "It's all about service now. Personal shoppers, concierge desks, valet parking, perk cards, loyalty programs, give backs," Consolo said about the retail industry. "Anything and everything to keep the consumer interested and coming back." On Tuesday, Consolo spoke to the Tampa Bay chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Women's Network at the Westin Tampa Bay. Last week, Consolo answered a few questions about the state's retail landscape and the upcoming holiday shopping season.

During the CREW Tampa Bay luncheon, you said that Florida ranks No. 2 in terms of retail interest in the country, behind New York. Can you explain why? Why do retailers and restaurants want to come to Florida?

Florida has incredible tourist traffic, perfect weather for year-round shopping and dining, and entertainment. Restaurants are rushing into Florida. Spending has been on the upswing for years, even during times of recession. Americans are spending more on dining out than ever before. There's never been a time where Florida has attracted so many with interest in opening a new concept or expanding from another city. Everyone wants to have a presence in this dynamic market.

Retailers and developers want people to spend time at their centers. Malls combine restaurants, movies, gyms, spas and other "experiences." More stores are adding dining components too, like Tommy Bahama and Bass Pro Shops. Restoration Hardware has been incorporating restaurants and wine bars into their locations for the obvious reasons to get people to stay longer and spend more. Starbucks is coming out with a cocktail menu. Food follows fashion.

There are so many retail developments in the pipeline and in the ground that everywhere you look — Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville — cranes line the sky. New retail development is growing in Florida.

Everyone loves talking about what's going on in Miami right now. How does the Tampa Bay area stack up against South Florida?

Remember it's all about the numbers. Tampa Bay is the second largest metro area in Florida and 18th largest in the U.S. Unemployment is low and increasingly less than last year. Leisure and hospitality sectors are in a growth mode. Miami is another numbers game. Miami's job growth year over year increased approximately 18 percent due to the diversity of the local economy which is constantly expanding. New hotels, new residential, new retail, multi-family, new office space are all under construction contributing to the excitement of the city.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing Florida retail right now?

Over-development, over-building, and just being overly optimistic. Let's not forget this state has always been "boom or bust."

One of the topics brought up at the CREW Tampa Bay luncheon was that it's hard for restaurants to find good real estate in Tampa. Is that true of the state or the nation? How has that changed over the years?

South Florida's density has driven retailer demand, pushing rental rates to the highest in the state. It is always the same: location, location, location. And sometimes the choices are limited. That creates the dilemma.

What can consumers expect for this upcoming holiday season?

The 2015 holiday season is high on economic optimism with incomes on the rise, more jobs being filled and shopper confidence is back. Consumers' increased willingness to spend should definitely drive growth. Retailers will benefit from all of this.

We will see the true marriage of online-offline purchasing this holiday. Retailers are investing in mobile websites and applications while finding ways to bring online shopping into their stores. Brick-and-mortar stores are filling more of their orders from their local shops and giving the option to pick up online orders in store. Instead of waiting around for FedEx or UPS, consumers have the instant gratification and a sense of completion of their holiday lists. They like to research it, click on it, have a confirmation and head over and get it directly in their hands and ready to wrap. Once shoppers physically come to the store, getting them to buy once they've arrived is another challenge.

This holiday season will be the first true test of new concepts in social commerce. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube have all introduced "buy" or "shop now" buttons that encourage and ease the process of purchasing, especially on mobile devices. Facebook and Pinterest store credit card information and let people purchase a particular item in a few clicks, and combine that with PayPal that already stores addresses and payment methods, this is a win-win combo.

The shopping season has for sure broken traditional calendar boundaries. We'll see a big increase in sales early in the season, encouraged by pre-Thanksgiving discounts and free shipping. And then there will be post-holiday markdowns.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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