Walton: “The basic fundamentals of retail real estate have not changed: the most valued opportunities are still based upon location, visibility, access, parking and demographics.”
COSTA MESA, CA — Sophisticated retail tenants today are technologically savvy, and they expect their landlords to be the same, Westar Associates’ Kam Walton tells GlobeSt.com. Walton was recently named a partner at the real estate development and management company after joining in 2013 as the VP of leasing.
Walton oversees all aspects of leasing the company’s retail portfolio, as well as the management of its in-house leasing team. With more than 14 years of experience in the commercial real estate industry, he is also involved in the planning and execution of the company’s development and acquisition strategies. Prior to joining Westar, he helped lead Cushman & Wakefield’s retail platform expand into the Orange County market, where he was the top-producing retail broker in that firm’s Irvine office each year.
We spoke with Walton about his new role, trends in retail leasing and what today’s retail tenants are demand of landlords.
GlobeSt.com: What are your goals in your new role with Westar?
Walton: Westar Associates has a successful track record of more than 35 years developing, managing and operating commercial real estate in California. My goal heading into 2017 is to maintain the level of excellence that’s long been established to make our projects as successful as can be, and also to proactively adapt to the constantly changing landscape that our industry is enduring leading into the future.
GlobeSt.com: What trends are you noticing in retail leasing?
Walton: There are many trends with today’s retail leasing environment, including an increased emphasis on consumer experience, omni-channel sales and an ultra-competitive market for restaurant sales. However, the basic fundamentals of retail real estate have not changed: the most valued opportunities are still based upon location, visibility, access, parking and demographics. This year, we expect to see more fall-out from tenants and businesses whose sales are being taken by on-line giants like Amazon, who is expected to become the largest retailer of apparel goods in the US in 2017, as one example; the supermarket industry will continue to evolve in our market from the various mergers, acquisitions and new players that have arrived; and although the competition is fierce, Southern California should remain a focal point for new concepts coming to the market, with restaurants and daily-needs service tenants leading the way.
GlobeSt.com: What are today’s retail tenants asking of landlords?
Walton: Sophisticated retail tenants today are technologically savvy, and they expect their landlords to be the same. They want their marketing efforts to be in partnership with those of their landlord. Westar Associates has its own in-house marketing team positioned to lead those efforts with its tenants to ensure the best and most effective programs are put into place. For each individual project, the team specifically designs and executes a marketing plan aimed to enhance the business and increase sales of the various tenants. Technology, social media and community relations are an integral part of what makes a retailer successful in today’s environment, and Westar is committed to helping facilitate the success of those tenants across the portfolio.
GlobeSt.com: What else should our readers know about Westar?
Walton: Westar recently celebrated its 35th anniversary. Last year we opened a 23-acre mixed-use development in Santa Barbara County in the City of Goleta with 76,000 square feet of retail and 266 apartments, and we are currently under construction on a 98,000-square-foot neighborhood retail center in South Orange County (Rancho Mission Viejo) anchored by Gelson’s and Rite Aid. We have several other development projects in the works throughout Southern California, including self-storage, apartments and hotels, with the primary focus being retail.