Retail REIT CBL Says Malls Moving to Include Customer Experiences Alongside Shopping

Stephen Lebovitz, president and CEO of CBL & Associates Properties, Inc. (NYSE: CBL), joined REIT.com for a CEO Spotlight video interview at REITWeek 2016: NAREIT’s Investor Forum at the Waldorf Astoria New York.

CBL owns enclosed malls and open-air shopping centers across the United States.

Lebovitz discussed the main changes occurring in CBL’s portfolio.

“The mall is really evolving. With the current state of the retail environment, it’s transitioning to more of a customer experience-based model and not just a shopping-based model,” he said.

Lebovitz also discussed the retail bankruptcy environment. He noted that 2015 was “a tough year for the malls,” with five high-profile bankruptcies. This year has been more muted, he noted.

Lebovitz stressed that in the long-term, bankruptcies present an opportunity to bring in new retailers, but short-term there is clearly a financial impact to deal with.

Turning to the impact of technology on the retail sector, Lebovitz said he sees challenges and opportunities. The challenge is that online shopping is taking market share from bricks-and-mortar retailers, and is causing them to change their business model.

On the opportunity side, technology has led to new retailers entering the mall that started online only, he noted. Another positive aspect is that retailers are innovating and finding new ways to communicate with the customer, Lebovitz said.

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