Simon Property Group
Simon Property Group
U.S. headlines have been trumpeting the demise of malls for the past several years. And, yet, many malls have been thriving — especially those owned and operated by Simon Property Group. The commercial real estate company has not only purchased existing malls, but also built 10 outlet malls and 2 mixed-use regional malls from 2009 to 2019.
At the center of such successful, multi-million dollar real estate decisions is STI: PopStats, a vital resource of essential data that Simon leaders have used to develop core strategies and facilitate future growth.
As of March 31, 2019, Simon owned or held an interest in 206 income-producing properties, including 107 malls, 69 premium outlets, 14 mills, 4 lifestyle centers, and 12 other retail properties in 37 states and Puerto Rico. These holdings make the firm the largest retail real estate investment trust and the largest U.S. shopping mall operator with total assets over $30 billion.
As a fundamental component of all real estate decisions, PopStats delivers the demographic data that is crucial for Simon’s Real Estate Research team to gain insight on each potential opportunity. These insights are then used to support the executive-level decision-making process.
“When your inventory is as extensive as ours and you’re making multimillion-dollar investments, the demographics of your properties become critical,” stated Clay Hallman, Vice President of Research. “Thankfully, we have great trust in the data we receive from PopStats.”
Analytics for Informed Decisions
Even with its massive success and position as the number one mall operator in the U.S., Simon is constantly working to improve its centers — from comprehensive upgrades to new marketing plans, Simon expands revenue through continual investment in its assets. Every department in the organization uses statistical insights from PopStats data to inform critical business decisions.
Key variables, such as population density, average household income, and educational attainment, are used to better understand the type of residents in close proximity (within miles or drive times) and throughout trade areas. Comparing demographic similarities and differences across the various Simon platforms (Regional Malls, The Mills, & Premium Outlets) provides clarity for those making difficult decisions and meet departmental goals.
Demographic analysis using PopStats data informs Simon leadership in leasing, marketing, acquisition and disposition, and development initiatives. Deciding which retailers to target, where and when to build new outlet malls, and how redevelopments should be executed all rely heavily on having a strong understanding of the market and the associated demographics.
“There’s not a lot of opportunity for new growth right now, mostly because it’s challenging to find the ideal set of variables for a shopping center to succeed,” noted Clay. “Most of the ideal spots have already been discovered, as we learned from our analysis. Finding the right tenant mix, anchor replacement, and opportunities for mixed-use in our existing centers has become more of a priority today. We use PopStats data to support these efforts.”
Data Informs Retailer Partnerships
Demographics are also a factor in helping the company decide which retailers are the best fit for each of Simon’s shopping destinations. Simon partners with retailers that are the perfect match for each site based on trade area and market demographics, while incorporating industry knowledge that comes from being the most prominent mall operator in the country.
“We don’t just target everyone. We aim at the higher-end retailers for our high-end centers, fashion forward brand names for our outlet centers, and retailers geared towards families for our centers that have a large number of children in their trade areas,” said Clay.
“To make our relationships successful with prospective tenants, we can look at factors as simple as comparing the population and incomes across multiple existing locations,” explained Clay. “Typically, we’re looking for potential opportunities in new markets that mimic the demographics of the retailer’s most successful locations throughout the Simon portfolio.
“Finding retailers for our malls requires having the right fit, and each location is a little different. Our PopStats data helps us find that perfect match for each site.”
Achieving Optimal Success
In its 2018 annual report, which marked Simon’s 50th anniversary, the Chairman, CEO, and President, David Simon, acknowledged the challenges in the industry along with the company’s successes. “Over the last 25 years, like many companies and industries, we have dealt with seismic shifts within our industry. In our case, these changes have forced us to be better operators, more thoughtful and astute capital allocators, and willing to invest in our business with conviction, despite the ever-changing environment.”
In his address, he called out some of the most meaningful geo-demographic shifts over the past 25 years, including the changing demographics and psychographics of the consumers — from Baby Boomers to Millennials, and the fluctuating desires for both high-end and value-driven shopping options.
Among the major disruptions and declarations of a supposedly “dead” industry, Simon has become more profitable by being laser-focused on its core strategy — which has provided a foundation to adapt quickly to both economic cycles and the changing role of shopping destinations in consumers’ lives.
Through it all, PopStats has played an integral role in providing the data necessary to support Simon’s continued success, and it has informed many multi-million dollar decisions throughout the company. “At a time when demographics and strategic insights are more important than ever, Simon will continue to use PopStats data to make important decisions in the future,” Clay concluded.