RealREIT Conference Tackles Industry Challenges

The intelligentsia of the retail real estate crowd congregated in Toronto last Thursday to talk property management and disruptors.

The fourteenth annual RealREIT conference dove headfirst into its retail focus, and the spate of grim prognoses the media’s been assigning the scene of late.

OneREIT CEO Richard Michaeloff was succinct in his efforts to put the hysteria in perspective. “Retail,” he said, “has always had turmoil. . . . The key thing is for landlords and property owners to stay focused, be adaptable and recognize trends.”

Among the forces vying for their focus, find the aggressive encroachment of technology and ecommerce.

Ken Silver, CEO of CT REIT, told the crowd that retail success boils down to a commitment to the stuff. The retailers that are investing in technology—not just in support of their website and e-commerce efforts, but in every move they make—will always be the victors, he said.

And for the retailers not among this laureled crew, the fallout of addressing the space they abandon falls to the property owners. Not surprisingly, the conference made room here for a lively discussion about the legacy of Target—which left 16 million square feet of unoccupied Canadian retail space in its wake.

Clever managers, conference participants concurred, can make a virtue of such failures by turning them into opportunities. One third of the old Zellers stores are now Planet Fitness centres.

The conference also dipped into comparative analysis, and the consensus was that the differences that distinguish the American and Canadian markets are significant.

For one, the population split means there’s about 25 square feet of retail space per capita in the US, versus just 15 square feet per capita in Canada. That, commented Don Clow, president and CEO of Crombie REIT, means “there is a bit of a cushion.”

For another, there’s the vacancy rates in the two countries’ major shopping centres: below five percent in Canada, almost eight percent south of the border.

“The bottom line is we do have reasonable level of occupancy in this country,” Clow told the group.

“You just need to be working with your retailers to adapt very quickly and make your centres successful through that accelerated change.”

Retail Real Estate CBSF

New Accolade Honours Pros Who Make Spaces Beautifully Liveable

There’s nothing like a prize to make all the effort worth while. By keeping their eyes on the thing, professionals challenge themselves to achieve performance levels beyond those they might hit on a non-competitive landscape.

It’s why Antalis, a noted European distributor of papers, packaging and visual communication products, has partnered with Wallpaper* magazine to launch the Antalis Interior Design Award.

This brand-new international contest is aimed at celebrating the talents of architects and interior designers, among others, in transforming spaces into areas for splendid, and exemplary living.

Two types of submission are eligible for the contest, including projects completed (or launched) between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2017, in the hospitality, restaurant, retail, office, home and public building domains.

 The organization will award six separate prizes:

  • the Hospitality Award for hotel design;
  • the Restaurant Award for restaurant and dining design;
  • the Retail Award for shop/retail design;
  • the Office Award for office/workspace design;
  • the Home Award for home design;
  • the Public Premises Award for public/outdoor space design.

The contest will be judged by an international jury presided over François Confino, a world-renowned specialist in museum exhibitions, and Wallpaper* Bespoke art director Aneel Kalsi.

The prizes for the Antalis Interior Design Award are juicy. For one, winners will get a burst of media exposure in all of Antalis’s communication sites, as well as through its press partners, Intramuros and Wallpaper*.

 Selected works will be on display on the Antalis Gallery website throughout the competition’s gestation.

Winners’ work, along with their profile pics, will also be published in a book—The Book—showcasing the best projects from the competition. Ten thousand copies of it will be distributed among the world’s key interior design players.

Finally, the Antalis Interior Design Award will recognize the contestant/project that scored the most likes on social media.

Interested parties are invited to submit their entries for the competition from between September 1 and December 31, the day the contest closes. The winners will be announced on January 15, 2018.

For more information, visit Antalis Interior Design Award.


RCC Program Facilitates Meeting Accessibility Targets

The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) is making good on its pledge to facilitate Ontario-based retailers’ efforts to meet the province’s new accessibility laws.


The RCC’s training program—a workshop and webinar series that’s part of the EnAbling Change project—offers practical assistance for retailers charged with adhering to an end-of-year complying deadline for a revised set of accessibility laws.


The EnAbling Change program is an initiative of the Government of Ontario, administered through the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario (ADO), that provides financial support and expertise to help industries and sectors comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

The series, which launched on August 22 with the webinar, “How to comply,” will include five webinars in all, on such topics as the ramifications of non-compliance and mental health in the workplace. And on September 29 at the RCC office, retail participants will be able to take part in a workshop with a guest speaker from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.

Other guest speakers in this series include representatives from the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“We’re very honoured to have been selected as a key partner in helping retailers in Ontario succeed at making their stores more accessible,” Diane J. Brisebois, the RCC’s president and CEO, has said. “Shopping is such an important part of peoples’ everyday lives, and removing barriers to help all people in Ontario have a better retail experience is an excellent example of how retail matters in this province.”

The EnAbling Change webinars are free and open to all retailers.


Free Workshop and Webinar Series for Retailers (CNW Group/Retail Council of Canada)

Free Workshop and Webinar Series for Retailers (CNW Group/Retail Council of Canada)

Pot Shops Need Clean, Comfortable Designs to Break the Mould

With marijuana legalization slow-burning on the horizon, Canadian entrepreneurs are racing to lay hands on whatever part of the retail pie they can.

Retail design is part of this looming revised reality.

Pot stores, legit though they might be, are hitting the scene at a significant disadvantage. After all, their head-shop predecessors have established a sketchy reputation for purveyors of such dubious pleasures. These are the seedy, dark dens of iniquity—populated by sketchy characters and staffed by cut-from-the-same-cloth clerks—a mother hustles her child across the street to avoid.

Though there’s still lots of haze around what legalization will look like in this country, there’s no doubt that the looming legislation offers a fresh opportunity for those involved in this trade to reinvent themselves, and those in on the ground floor know it. This next generation of pot-dispensing retail outlets can set the bar high from the start and the retail sector’s buzzing with ideas on how to do it.

Among them:

  • Sidestep psychedelic posters and reggae music in pursuit of a more professional image. Nobody wants a store to tell them who they ought to be.
  • Don’t eschew the traditional head-shop look so fiercely that you end up like a clinical drug counter—that’s just as unappealing, particularly to the older population looking to replace pharmaceuticals and opioids with something natural.
  • Include a clean, cozy consultation area that, ideally, says consumer research conducted by Toronto-based interior design company Figure3, looks like a kitchen.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of featuring an assurance of safety in the design of the space. That means lots of glass and an open view in from the street.

In January, the first-ever business-only national trade show devoted to the marijuana retail and dispensary business will take place in Oregon. The “RAD Expo,” whose booths will be populated by retail design firms, fixture manufacturers and lighting companies, will look to offer pioneers of this retail arm some guidance.

Photo: Surterra Wellness, Tampa Florida. Design by figure3


CBSF Surterra Wellness

World Interior of the Year Finalists Announced

The spotlight at this year’s World Interior of the Year contest—the theme for which is “performance”—is on colour, acoustics and volume, and the impact these elements can have on a professional interior space.

The shortlist for this prestigious competition—featuring the efforts of practices in the States, Canada, Japan, China, Australia, Mexico, India and Europe—was announced a month ago, and it’s crowded with innovation. We just can’t get enough of these entries.

Among the highlights, find: a spectacular floating bar at the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, a jade green spa in the basement of a Shanghai hotel, and the extraordinary new contemporary headquarters for Airbnb in Dublin, set inside a disused warehouse and designed from scratch.

Amsterdam studio UXUS is shortlisted in the retail category for the stunning shop it designed for the Herzog & de Meuron extension to the Tate Modern Gallery in London, heralded as Britain’s most important new cultural building in almost 20 years.

And a design studio in Shanghai called Neri&Hu converted a former missile factory in Beijing into a car repair garage with offices and an on-site café by way of an industrial-style metal staircase, mesh cages and painted brickwork.

The two World Interior of the Year Canadian contenders are: the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, in Montreal, in the Health and Education Category; and McCarthy Tetrault’s Vancouver office, in the Office category.

In all, 78 projects were shortlisted for this competition, a focal point of the prestigious World Festival of Interiors show, which takes place in Berlin in November.

There, the entries will compete in eight different categories: Bars and Restaurants; Civic, Culture and Transport; Creative Re-Use; Display; Health and Education; Hotels; Offices, Residential and Retail.

Last year’s World Interior of the Year winner was a clothing boutique in Hangzhou, China, that was remarkable for its strikingly monochromatic matte-black interior. China dominates again this year, with more than a third of the finalists based there, including 19 from the mainland, five from Hong Kong and four from Taiwan.

The overall World Interior of the Year winner for 2017 will be crowned on November 17.

OHLAB concept store MiamiUSA

Pop-Up Shops Get Digital Boost

Appear Here may be a pioneer in the field of short-term-rental retail space.

This smart new British app connects brands, entrepreneurs, retailers, designers and creative types with available space in some of the world’s most vibrant cities. Better yet, it all happens on line.

In all, Appear Here offers more than 10 million square feet of commercial space looking to be temporarily transformed into any number of retail reinventions.

The stated mission of this cool new marketplace that bloomed out of the pop-up-shop craze? “To create a world where anyone with an idea can find space to make it happen.”

Appear Here was hatched in London in 2012, when a 20-year-old, Ross Bailey, sought to capitalize on the popularity of the encroaching Diamond Jubilee. With a friend, he opened Rock & Rule in a recently vacated shop and sold limited-edition Queen-Elizabeth-inspired T-shirts and apparel for a few days.

Bailey was surprised at the number of inquiries he fielded during the short period his store was open about how he’d manage to score such a cool short-term rental space. Thus, the idea for Appear Here was born.

The startup quickly expanded into France and, most recently, into New York. It operates in three offices now: one each in London, Paris and NYC.

To date, Appear Here has listed more than 4,000 “exclusive spaces” for consideration by its short-term retail clients. Its clever marketplace has been used by more than 80,000 brands, including headliners like Nike, Loewe, Givenchy, Coca-Cola, Net-a-Porter and Kanye West. But it’s the independents who make up the bulk of the company’s clientele. These are the little guys who want to take their idea for a spin around the block without having to commit to anything long term or insanely expensive—the ones precisely for whom Appear Here was created.

In a recent IPO, Appear Here raised another US$12 million, bringing its total raised capital to US$21.4 million. It’ll use the proceeds to expand into other locations.

CBSF AppearHere

How to Launch a Pot Shop

That recreational marijuana is poised for legalization in this country (starting July 1, 2018) has been all the buzz for the past long while in Canada, as the government scrambles to clarify the particulars. Lots of folks are keen to capitalize on this flaming development, and the uncharted possibilities beckon with tremendous promise.

The only question is: how and where?

Given that the retail oversight of this sparking new merchandise channel has been left up to provincial and municipal governments to decide (and that those decisions are still unmade), and, here’s what would-be marijuana retailers have to work with.


Excluding the homegrown and mail-order options, the LCBO has emerged as the most likely channel for retail sale in Ontario, given the provincial agency’s experience with handling controlled substances. Still, the anti-LCBO stance argues that these vibrant self-service outlets are hardly transferable to the world of cannabis distribution.

If the publicly run provincial monopoly for alcohol distribution wins out, it will almost certainly have to establish new retail outlets for this unique product offering.


Another much-discussed conduit for pot sales is pharmacies. The Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management, which supplies drugs to pharmacies and hospitals, has declared itself a no-brainer on this front for its well-established system for marijuana distribution.

And, in October, Shoppers Drug Mart applied to be a licensed producer for the purposes of distributing medical marijuana.


Finally, there’s the option of small community storefront dispensaries, such as those selling pot—and attracting tourists—in Colorado. The Retail Council of Canada is said to be consulting with its members and the government on the stuff.

Critically, says Michael Gorenstein, CEO of cannabis firm Cronos Group, these new-style shops have got to be appealing places for folks to visit. “A lot of what drives cannabis tourism isn’t just legal access,” he’s said. “It’s the character in the dispensaries they’ve opened up. It’s a unique retail experience.”


Along whichever path the retail distribution system for cannabis emerges, there’s no doubt the stakes are high. There’s a blaze of money to be made in this field.

Pot Shop

The Slash of the Cash

Years ago, predictions of a paperless society fluttered about the place like so much confetti. Today, the subject of predicted demise is cash—and retailers should take note.

Last September, payment tech behemoth Moneris published a report that said cash will account for just 10 percent of all purchases in Canada by 2030, with the balance made up by credit, debit and mobile-facilitated technology.

There are many who would predict that this development is already upon us.

Vancouver-based Kit and Ace’s 60-plus North American, British and Australian active apparel stores—founded in 2014 by family members of Lululemon Athletica founder Chip Wilson—are pioneers on this front, with its two Vancouver shops celebrated for being among Canada’s first to go cashless.

They join the ranks of airlines (most in-flight merchandise and food sales are done without any cash changing hands), parking meters (the green P app is going gangbusters) and a whack of quick-serve retailers (McDonald’s Canada launched self-serve kiosks in 1,400 stores in late 2014) who’ve seen the wisdom of accelerating technologies that facilitate contactless transactions.

And why not? Consumers love it because it’s convenient, it saves them trips to the ATM, and it reduces the time and effort of a retail transaction.

Retailers, meanwhile, are fans of the cashless concept because it delivers an efficiency to their operations like nothing else. Better still, studies have demonstrated that people actually buy more when they’re not paying cash (a much-cited Dun & Bradstreet study found that people spend 12-18% more when using credit cards instead of cash, and McDonald’s has reported its average ticket is $7 when people use credit cards versus $4.50 for cash).

Finally, a cashless store doesn’t suffer the same risks of robbery and employee theft as one with stacks of bills fluttering about the place. And everybody’s wallets can get thinner, too.

CBSF Cashless Society

Rudeness in Retail Reigns

Everyone who’s ever devoted a piece of their lives to serving others across the retail divide—and there are almost two million Canadians working in the retail sector at any given time—has a story of fielding rudeness directed at them from across the store counter or restaurant table.

CBC Manitoba explored the phenomenon recently in its series, The Loss of Civility. In it, Cella Lao Rousseau told reporters of encountering “people who were very, very harsh, very mean” during the four years she spent working in retail.

“Two women came in and they made me cry on the floor.”

In her book, Revolutionizing Retail: Workers, Political Action, and Social Change, K. Coulter writes that “shoppers can believe they have power and superiority over retail workers. This can translate into rudeness and even abuse.”

She feels strongly that respect and civility need to become more integral to the working-in-retail experience. “Policies and laws that prevent harassment can and should not only be written, but enforced,” she opines.

“In my view, managers have a responsibility to actively shield staff from customer rudeness, by clearly establishing a commitment to a supportive working environment that does not automatically defer to customers and by directly intervening when and where needed.

“But some of what will improve retail jobs is dependent on people more broadly to show a little kindness.”

For a start, customers might consider shelving their cell phones during interactions in shops and restaurants. The practice is loudly condemned for being demeaning to the store employee, to say nothing of the delays it causes for other customers.

Still, an argument could be made that the rudeness stream flows in both directions.

A couple of years ago, the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business published a study that revealed that sales reps at high-end stores could actually boost sales by behaving rudely. Consumers who were treated poorly by snobby clerks, their research showed, demonstrated an enhanced interest in buying pricey goods.


CBSF Inc. and Bud Morris Take on EuroShop2017

Fresh back from my trip to Dusseldorf, Germany and the EuroShop Retail Trade Fair and what a great show it was. Arguably the biggest and best retail tradeshow in the world, this was my fourth visit and it never ceases to impress.

It can be an overwhelming experience and such a large show that a lot of time can be wasted without a plan, as I have learned over the years. This year I took along a teammate, Michael Benarroch, our Director of Sales and Customer Service to share in the experience. We had a few items to check off on our list:

  • Find a shelf management software
  • Find innovative products/ideas for our clients
  • Search out design innovation
  • Compare European shopper tracking software against what we are utilizing
  • Confirm that our products and services were comparable to leading European providers

I’m happy to say that we were very successful in our venture and checked off all of our boxes and then some. Our experience will afford us new and exciting partnerships with vendors in other parts of the world that will continue to make us even more valuable partners to our retail clients in North America and set us up for our next phase of growth.  Stay tuned for more coming from CBSF Inc. with all the new discoveries we made.

We’re looking forward to the next show in 2020 and the retail world can look forward to CBSF Inc. being a part of that show.


EuroShop Trade Fair 2017 Pepper and Intuitive Robots