The Domino’s Effect: Interview with Colliers’ Jawara Partee

by | 11 July 2016

I am excited to introduce a new colleague, Jawara Partee, Retail Tenant Representation Director in Los Angeles, Calif., for Collier’s International. Jawara has extensive history in the real estate industry, with expertise in financial analysis, brand management, strategic insight in commercial real estate planning, construction and development. Most recently he worked for Domino’s as a strategist in national real estate expansion.

ANJEE: Jawara, I’m so pleased to welcome you to the team! Why did Colliers identify a business development person to handle retail tenant representation?

JAWARA: The retail landscape continues to change so rapidly; retailers today are looking for cohesion. They’re basically looking for someone to help them figure out the new landscape and how to grow sales and become stronger.

ANJEE: What does your first 90 days’ to-do list look like?

JAWARA: My first 90 days are really about getting my feet underneath me and looking at building strong relationships locally, regionally and nationally. Overall, the reception has been fantastic. The Colliers brokers are excited about having this position within Colliers. What I’ve heard from many of the them is that having a single point of contact internally to help push the tenant-rep strategy forward is of great value. It’s needed more today than ever before because of the changes we’re seeing in the retail landscape, including increased competition, underperforming markets, demographic shifts, technology, and so on. Our clients are eager to see this program take off.

ANJEE: What’s important to a retailer today that’s different from maybe two, three years back?

JAWARA: When I think of retail two years back, there wasn’t really a paradigm shift the likes of which we are seeing today in the real estate cycle. What is the right size for growth? What markets do you want to grow in? Where is all of the data coming from?

The retailers are looking at how to drive business and questioning whether they need to have so many brick-and-mortar locations. Consumers, meanwhile, aren’t just looking for national brands. They’re looking for regional and local brands—unique products and services they can’t find anywhere else.

It’s just a completely different paradigm. Clients need experts to help navigate those waters, and data analytics is driving the whole game.

ANJEE: Can you highlight a fitting example?

JAWARA: Sure. Domino’s (my previous employer) is a 60-year-old brand, and 30 years ago real estate decisions were purely transactional. They didn’t have to be choosy about where their real estate was located. The environment wasn’t as competitive, and they were focused solely on delivering food. Now the approach is much more strategic, and decisions are being made in a very fast-paced, competitive environment. Decisions need to be constantly reevaluated.

For example, in 2008, Domino’s business was contracting, and they decided they needed to overhaul everything. They were being eaten up by other concepts because of placement. Domino’s recognized that people were looking for speed and convenience. That’s when Domino’s started unveiling mobile applications, including one that allows you to order pizza with an emoji.

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Ordering pizza at Domino’s using an emoji.

ANJEE: You’re touching on something so important. Datametrics and collection efforts in the past were based primarily on point-of-sale data along with some basic information from each store in the chain, but the consumer feedback, the foot traffic, the traffic patterns, sales information from competitors—all of this information was not available in a public format. Today retailers—or any client—can augment their in-house data collection efforts with rich third-party datato make well-informed decisions.

JAWARA: Exactly. All of these things that Domino’s started looking at came from studying data analytics.

ANJEE: Have they seen success?

JAWARA: I can tell you that in-store sales were up for—I believe it was 22 quarters. And in-store sales were always up 5-6 percent, and then last year, for the first quarter of 2015, domestic same-store sales were up 14.5 percent over the same period in 2014. It was amazing.

ANJEE: I think it’s also important to note that you were actually our client, so Domino’s connected with Colliers a year ago last May while interviewing a variety of CRE firms. Can you share from a client perspective how Colliers performed and, now that you’re on board, some of the important strategies we should focus on?

JAWARA: As a client of Colliers when I was with Domino’s, the thing that held Colliers out in front of the competition was the way Colliers and its brokers worked with our company, our franchisee, and corporate. Colliers provided a team structure locally, and the team members went above and beyond to make sure we were covered in finding sites, in understanding the market, and in in everything Domino’s was begging for in terms of having solid local market intelligence to overlay national, shared data.

I think the main point of the strategy moving forward is working for the client. And working for the client sounds so simple, and a lot of the times simplicity is the correct answer.

ANJEE: What are some principles that you would recommend for retailers? Where do they want to be located, and who do they want to be located with?

JAWARA: I think retailers typically want to be clustered with other retailers where they have synergy. They also want to be located near retailers who are a drawing morning, noon, and night. If a retail center is overly dedicated to entertainment, for example, that results in lost sales from morning business. So you really want a balance.

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A newly updated Domino’s storefront. Image courtesy of Ross Group.

Ultimately what they want is strong brand visibility, lots of foot traffic, and ease of access to the store by the consumer. You want the experience to be inviting—not just inside the site but also as consumers approach the store or the site. And you want frequency of visits. Once you look at all of these factors, you can identify the optimal tenant mix.

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Domino’s newly designed retail interior. Image courtesy of Ross Group.

ANJEE: What are some of the retail trends outside of data analytics you’ve been seeing? If you had a crystal ball, looking out 24 months or looking out even 12 months, what changes do you think you may see when it comes to the tenant/rep side of the retail business?

JAWARA: One major change, and to the credit of Colliers, what I’ve been seeing is that a lot of the retailers want to work with a team that applies a methodology that is aligned with their business growth strategy. First, there’s a meeting to discuss business concerns. Second, there needs to be alignment and confirmation by the leadership team to clarify the direction. Third, retailers want to work with firms that bring strategies and options to the table that are based on the concerns identified in the discovery phase. Then, you have to deliver on the promises as outlined in the strategy, and your performance should be measured based on your performance according to the strategy. It all goes back to Collier’s client-centric approach.

ANJEE: Is there a specific strategy the retailers are lacking? Is it people? Is it head count? Is it tools? Is it getting to market?

JAWARA: It would definitely be head count. I know that a lot of retailers—while they have been hiring—they’re not staffed to where they used to be, and they’re working with a leaner crew to grow larger than they’ve been in the past few years. So that is definitely a large priority for the retailers—using the brokers as an extension of themselves, as an extension of their development groups.

ANJEE: What about the types of retailers? What are the top three types of retailers that will continue to grow and expand over the next 12 to 18 months?

JAWARA: Rather than focus on specific retailers, let’s discuss categories. Food will continue to be a strong category along with wellness concepts and value-oriented concepts from other countries. Consumers are still demanding food—all types from specialty, culturally focused, and quick serve due to lack of time. Apparently 82 percent of U.S. Consumers visit fast-food restaurants at least once a week. Another segment of retailers will focus on wellness—not just your standard gym, but all things wellness, from rock-climbing walls and indoor cycling to physical wellness and consultative wellness services—skin peeling, nutritional evaluation, teeth whitening—those categories are growing faster than we’ve seen. Lastly we continue to see value-oriented concepts expanding in the U.S., such as, Primark, Daiso, Aldi and others who are seeking dense mid-tier cities for growth. Retail is ever-changing, and it’s great to be involved.

Anjee continues to be an insatiable collector of all things retail. She’s a student of culture living next door to future shoppers, whose fleeting trends constantly change the retail landscape … driving retailers, landlords and developers crazy!