Looking Back On 2020
Our core values of Humility, Attitude, Do the Right Thing, Together and Own It were never more on display than this past year as we managed through some of the greatest adversity we’ve faced as a company and an industry.
Jared Chupaila, CEO Brookfield Properties Retail
Facing adversity has enabled our team to become stronger, flexible, and more innovative than ever before. Here’s a look at some of the programs that ran and succeeded during a trying year.
Collections in our retail portfolio continued to improve as retailers have adjusted to the new normal as well. In the fourth quarter, we collected more than 80% of our billings, and importantly, continued to reach settlement agreements with our tenants regarding outstanding arrears. As a result of those negotiations, we ended the year with 85% of our outstanding arrears from the second and third quarter in some form of agreement.
While shopper footfall in our malls has not yet recovered to historic levels, all of our centers remain open and our key tenants showed resilience through the holiday season with many reporting 2020 sales figures that compare favorably to 2019 holiday sales. A silver lining to the restrictions put in place during the pandemic is that there is significant pent-up demand for consumer spending given the savings that people have accumulated over the past nine months.
In addition, the $900 billion stimulus bill approved by Congress in December will help both consumers and retailers alike. The proliferation of one channel e-commerce, centered around using the store not only as a point of sale, but also as a distribution and return center continues to benefit our mall fleet. Consumer use of Buy Online Pickup In Store has grown approximately 500% since the beginning of the pandemic. Dick's Sporting Goods recently reported that stores fulfilled 70% of their online sales and contributed 90% of their quarterly sales growth.
While the showroom area of the store may shrink, retailers are using more space for inventory, returns and fulfillment, making the distribution channel itself less relevant, but the location of its physical real estate more important than ever. Retailers have quickly realized that overall sales volume can benefit from wider profit margins when maximizing a one channel strategy.
FIT:MATCH Expands Their Contactless Fitting Rooms
In 2020, Fit:Match opened their virtual fitting rooms at three of our properties, including Oakbrook Center, Glendale Galleria, and Stonebriar Center. The “fitting rooms”, which utilize 3D-AI powered technology to match customers to their perfect fit came at a unique time when health concerns were transforming the way customers shop.
Curbside Pickup Revolutionizes Shopping
When stores began opening back up during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was important for us to create a safe and comfortable shopping experience for our customers. Curbside Pickup was just the answer, offering shoppers an easy and convenient way to purchase online or via phone, and subsequently pick up their merchandise at the shopping center. The Curbside Pickup program is running at over 100 of our properties and is redefining the meaning of safe shopping.
Spot Holder Simplifies Line Queueing
To accommodate for social distancing and occupancy restrictions, we launched Waitwhile, a line queueing software to facilitate line queueing for our brand partners. Waitwhile creates a safe shopping experience for customers and employees by tracking store occupancy and allowing customers to join a virtual waitlist or book in-store appointments.
Let it Shine at Northbrook Court
The holidays looked a little different this year, but Brookfield Properties was committed to bringing joy and light to our customers. We launched Let it Shine, a brand new curated drive-thru light show, at Northbrook Court. The state of the art, touch-less, light display immersed visitors into a symphony of site and sound, all synchronized to holiday classics from the comfort of their car.