Retail Apocalypse? Strategic Planning Helps Valley Shopping Center Thrive in Competitive Market

There seem to be ways around the so-called “retail apocalypse,” but it means more work and spending more money for the owners and operators of shopping centers.

The retailers at Desert Ridge Marketplace, a shopping center located in north Phoenix off Loop 101 at Tatum Boulevard, have apparently
bucked the trend and reported sales growth greater than 40 percent over the past five years, according to Vestar, the property’s owner.

During that time, Vestar invested $22 million into Desert Ridge Marketplace, renovating buildings and public spaces, upgrading signage and adding amenities like bocce ball courts, children’s play
areas, electric vehicle charging stations and stateof-the-art video walls.

“In the shopping center world, you can’t simply be a passive owner and operator,” Vestar President David Larcher told the Phoenix
Business Journal. “You can’t just wait for the rents to come in every month. It’s a fully integrated operation.”

Vestar also holds hundreds of public events at the space. Larcher said the company found people will come out for unique experiences.

Focus on tenant mix Desert Ridge Marketplace has benefited from the
large increase in population to the surrounding area in the last 18 years, after the center was first built. But just being near people doesn’t cut it, Larcher said. Other centers nearby don’t attract the high quality of tenants that Vestar does.

In early 2019, 12 new tenants will open at Desert Ridge Marketplace, totaling more than 100,000 square feet, including H&M and Copper Blues Live, a restaurant and entertainment venue that also operates a location downtown at CityScape Phoenix.

Larcher said his team focuses on getting the right mix of tenants that will be able to drive traffic to other businesses on the property. Restaurants are a large part of that philosophy.

“The days of food and beverage being somewhat of an afterthought – those are long gone,” Larcher said. “The food and beverage component is really a focal point. At any successful center today, restaurants are taking up a significantly higher percentage of the leasable area than they have historically in years past.”

Having a good mix of restaurants, including a number of chef-driven concepts such as Barrio Queen and Sam Fox’s Flower Child, along with everyday retailers such as Albertsons and Target, Desert Ridge is able to steer customers to its other tenants, especially its big box retailers, Larcher said.

“We have several big boxes that normally produce the best numbers out of all their stores in the market, if not the highest numbers,” he said. “Every year the numbers continue to prove that big boxes have the ability to succeed here, contrary to conventional wisdom on the future of these big stores.”