Retail Real Estate in the Digital Age: A Conversation with Michael Lagazo

If you’re active in the commercial real estate social media sphere, you’ll recognize Michael Lagazo as @Michael_MBA. If you’re not active, take this opportunity to hear insights beyond 140 character tweets from a bright mind in the space, one with depth in the retail and mixed use environments from Southern California throughout the Southwest.

Q. With most of the markets shifting to equilibrium after many years of distress, where do you see the opportunities to buy at value and create value?

A. Value is found in quality core real estate with quality income that can outpace inflation with long term performance. Despite lower yields, adhering to core and quality with both assets and location is the traditionally safe play.

Value can be found as well in good secondary assets in locations outside central metro areas. Secondary projects with productive tenants and long leases have delivered higher returns than better quality properties with less durable incomes. In a article, “Class B, C Retail Sees Strong Demand,” Jennifer LeClaire comments that demand is strong from private capital for B and C class retail opportunities as investors seeking yield are responding to improving leasing fundamentals.

Primary lenders I have talked to in the past week mentioned that income-producing projects in nonmonetary default for delinquent taxes, for example, retain value. Tax sales are attractive to potential investors. Urban infill is in demand, as well, and can presently be acquired at value.

Value creation is largely a function of growth, not current yield. Investors should avoid pursuing growth indiscriminately; true value creation comes from growth without a commensurate increase in risk. Merlone Geier Partners, a private REIT I met with last week is developing Delta Shores, a mixed use project in northern California, by incorporating strong retail with other types of real estate – office, multifamily, hotel, and even healthcare.’

Q. What impact has the digital age had on the role of the property and asset manager?

A. Asset and property management are challenged by changing tenant needs. The use of commercial real estate itself has been impacted by e-commerce, alternative work place strategies, virtual meetings/collaboration, and innovations in logistics.

Cloud Computing

Enterprise Mobility


Real-time portfolio visibility and enterprise information flow across diverse geographic locations improving decision making and potentially increases investor visibility. Mobile engagement empowers people to take the next most likely action in their moments of need. Increased transparency with informed, ultra-connected clients and tenants using revolving devices interacting with peers as well as your competition.
Improved business agility – efficient deployment, faster execution, greater flexibility and scalability. System of engagement: Guide an action or a decision. Get a quick status or a quick search. Higher brand value. Positions group as always addressable.
Elastic – users can access as much as required, on demand.  Improved operational efficiency. Reduced resource costs. Fully managed by the service provider. Engagement is about treating someone differently because you know something about them. Mobile is an important driver in investor engagement. Immediacy, simplicity, and context. Proactive service not just self-service.
Cost effective tenant programs and campaigns elevate quality of service and tenant retention. Moving from a database world to a user experience world. Velocity of change and feedback increasing rapidly. Virtually ubiquitous across all markets and plays a disruptive role. Gain an intimate understanding of clients’ and tenants’ needs and behaviors.

Q. I’ve recently read about what seems to be a ‘rebound effect’ or backlash against e-commerce, particularly from millennial shoppers. What are you seeing, and how do property owners capitalize?

A. Anecdotally, I am seeing broader adoption of showrooming and increasing e-commerce retail sales growth. The Urban Land Institute (ULI) reports in MediaPost that Millennials (ages 18-35) are crazy about shopping at brick-and-mortar stores valuing the novelty and social experience. ULI found that Millenials get bored easily and crave pedestrian-friendly shopping centers, malls, and venues.

Property owners can draw interest by reinventing centers with new concepts offering extensive omnichannel support and specialty foods. The passing of the Marketplace Fairness Act is anticipated to diminish the price advantage e-commerce holds. Gap and Banana Republic shoppers can now reserve products available in stores online. CEO Glenn Murphy uses online and offline inventory pools “to give customers access to business anywhere they want.”

Local restaurants Urban Plates and Burlap offer open kitchens, farm fresh organic foods, and fresh ideas that have activated a shopping center.

Q. Despite this, e-commerce is here to stay. Comment on the impact of online shopping on tenant mix in neighborhood shopping centers.

A. Time-starved consumers still value a sense of place and experiential shopping that cannot be matched online. Daily needs merchants with healthy gross sales are reliable majors. Hardware and home improvement merchants offering products that are difficult to distribute online continue to perform well. 

Q. If you were advising an owner of a well-located neighborhood center to position their property for improved success and profitability for their investors and merchants, what would you recommend?

A. Diversify the merchant mix to distribute risk. The format has to be exciting to the shopper by being unique or well merchandised. The unique value proposition of the location has to fit the demographic of the trade area and be more than a distribution channel. The economics of the leases have to be right for both the landlord and the tenant.

Mike, your perspective is keen and forward-thinking. Appreciate your taking the time to share your views with our subscribers.

Barbi Reuter, Principal/Marketing & Operations
Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR 

Michael Lagazo retail real estateMichael Lagazo is a commercial broker in San Diego, CA specializing in designing and implementing creative leasing strategies which optimize the value of the client’s asset as well as executing strategic leasing and investment sale transactions. Prior to this role, Lagazo held a variety of management and leadership positions with Four Seasons, Forest City and Westfield. Lagazo began by managing regional malls ranging from 1.25 to 2 million sf, later overseeing a luxury resort. Lagazo holds an MBA and a dual B.S.

Sources, Class B, C Retail Sees Strong Demand, June 4, 2013

Deloitte, Commercial Real Estate Outlook: Top Ten Issues in 2013

National Real Estate Investor, Retailers Must Deliver on Customer Service and Experience to Compete with Online Merchants, May 31, 2013, Steve Jones

Wall Street Journal, More Consumers Prefer Online Shopping, June 3, 2013

MediaPost, Marketing Daily, Gen Y’s Favorites: JCPenney, Target, Walmart, Kohl’s, Monday, May 20, 2013

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