By Retail Insider
Take a walk along a busy downtown street or visit a suburban shopping centre, and you’re bound to find several empty storefronts, paired with a “For Lease” sign affixed to the door. A deeper look into the situation and you will quickly realize how retail vacancies have skyrocketed in Canada and abroad over the past several years.
With approximately 36 million square feet of vacant retail space in Canada, and over 800 million square feet in the U.S., the retail industry is witnessing the demise of many traditional brick-and-mortar shopping destinations. A once booming downtown street in Calgary lost 29 businesses in just two months this winter alone, due to everything from rising property taxes and increased labour costs, to the rise of e-commerce. And just last week, Coresight Research reported that store closings in the U.S. in 2019 to-date have surpassed store closing in all of 2018.
The retail landscape is quickly changing with the shrinking of the middle class and as consumers turn to the instant gratification of online shopping and door-to-door delivery. Retailers are re-thinking shopping experiences, forcing commercial real estate owners to get creative in how they attract new tenants to occupy vacant spaces.
To find these solutions, new property technology, or PropTech is the key.
As the first company in the world to create an innovative digital media delivery platform specific to window fronts, FrontRunner Technologies offers commercial real estate owners four essential tools as a way to:
Light up their dark, vacant spaces with digital content as a way to attract new tenants
Sustain a vibrant urban eco-system and protect commercial value by making empty spaces destinations
Collect real time demographic and impression data that aids in both the sale and leasing process; and
Monetize unoccupied retail spaces
Leveraging existing, unused window space and storefronts, FrontRunner has created a scaled, connected platform that delivers dynamic, projection-mapped video and interactive content in high-traffic areas using a pop-up format.
“It is clear that brick-and-mortar retail is in transition, and a Renaissance is under way. To lead the charge, we have built a solution that addresses two major industry problems at once,” says Nathan Elliott, CEO and Founder of FrontRunner Technologies. “Our WindowFront Matrix™ shines a light on dark spaces across North America, while also providing brands buying in the digital out of content with access to high-traffic inventory to share hyper-targeted, engaging and interactive content. We’re turning challenges into opportunities in industries where major change is under way.”
FrontRunner provides a way for commercial real estate owners to generate an additional revenue stream despite high vacancy rates — a significant game-changer for an industry facing a potential termination of vacant unit rebates and the institution of new taxes on empty spaces across Canada. Using window spaces from property owners to create a space for digital content, FrontRunner presents an opportunity for landlords to draw positive attention to existing space, to drive social capital, and to cash in on their existing space while they continue their search for new tenants.
“Property owners are using periods of purgatory to inject new life into their spaces. They are learning more about their properties than ever before through the analytics we are collecting, while turning them into focal points of public attention,” said Matt Stefan, Chief Mar-tech Officer for FrontRunner.
Partnering with some of the top real estate groups in the business—including Cushman & Wakefield, Colliers, Canderel, Kingsett Capital, Rockpoint, and several others—FrontRunner’s WindowFront Matrix breathes new life into darkened storefronts, creating brighter commercial opportunities for not only real estate owners, but also business owners and residents in the surrounding area.
“Adding engaging, vibrant content to what once was a dark storefront helps potential new tenants as well as community members realize the full potential these neighbourhoods have,” says FrontRunner Director of Business Development Elizabeth Crisante. “Vibrant communities generate higher property values, greater engagement between local business and their neighbours, as well as positive public perception overall—it’s a win-win-win for property owners, retailers and the public,” she added.
Retailers can also benefit from advances in new technology as well. Several groups are set to launch FrontRunner’s WindowShopping platform, turning store windows into interactive interfaces for points of purchase, catalogue perusing and more. The dawn of New Retail is clearly upon us.
“We’re seeing big players like Adidas, Proximo Spirits, Scotiabank and BMW turning to our platforms as a way to engage with their consumers through a more creative and potentially interactive medium,” Nathan Elliott said. “Each WindowFront has its own content delivery potential, based on several factors including property location and the quality of space. Retail vacancy is a wide-spread issue, this allows us to precisely hit a brand’s target audience across vastly different neighbourhoods.”
“There are literal windows of opportunity everywhere. Why not light them up?”
For more information on FrontRunner Technologies, visit: www.frontrunner-tech.com