Saturday, December 8, 2012

More Promises on Market East

With the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust consolidating ownership of the Gallery at Market East and City Council's approval of digital signage at our city's once prominent commercial corridor, a marketing campaign on behalf of the forlorn real estate has begun.

PREIT recently provided a brochure on their website complete with a rendering of a new Gallery at Market East, turning its retail space inside out to compliment its sidewalk. While the retail climate on Market East hasn't progressed, evident in a mind boggling absence of Christmas shoppers, the consolidation of the property has opened up marketing opportunities and is a huge step towards revitalizing the district.

PREIT's rendering of a new Gallery at Market East

Many may look at the Gallery and see a lost cause, but the grim state of affairs isn't that old. While the mall never was and never will be King of Prussia, it was never intended to be. Not even a decade ago, Strawbridge & Clothier anchored a mall full of mid-market retailers such as The Gap, Aldo, Limited, and Guess. And while it may not be an orgy of consumerism, it still serves a practical purpose.

That fact, despite overwhelming negative public opinion, says more about retailers' understanding of Philadelphia's customer market than it does about PREIT's inability to attract those retailers. K-mart continues to profit as the only discount department store catering to a vast amount of Center City residents without cars or Philadelphia residents dependent on public transportation. Target's lack of interest in the Center City market is based solely on the fact that other Targets already exist within the city limits.

Target continues to do business under the delusion that Center City's K-mart is in the same market, when in fact K-mart competes with large Center City drug stores and local hardware and electronics stores. As successful as the discount department store located in South Philadelphia and the Northeast is, corporate Target fails to understand that Philadelphia is a densely populated downtown city.

Of course Philadelphians are the collateral damage of any retailers' ineptitude. Have you ever taken public transportation to Target? It is literally faster to walk to Target than it is to take two buses and a subway. If Market East can attract one successful upscale, or even mid-market retail attraction that puts people on the street and in the mall, smaller retailers dependent on an anchor store will follow.

Market East is home to anchor outlets which compete and feed off each other, and that competition has recently attracted Marshalls. Sure, Burlington Coat Factory and Ross aren't glamorous, but the fact that they profit is proof that consumerism and competition is still viable on Market Street. The same environment can foster the upscale market.

PREIT's marketing campaign is aimed at changing the misunderstood impression held by large national retailers. While locals have known for years that a downtown Target would thrive, the expansion of the Convention Center, the growing success of Reading Terminal Market, a bevy of new hotels, and more apartments being developed north of Market, large retailers like Target will be forced to take another, more comprehensive look at Center City.

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