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  • Chris Seher

Virtual Reality Expedites Re-leasing of Vacated Big Box Retailers

Exacerbated by the increasing trends of online shopping, many property managers and owners of shopping malls across the country are experiencing increasing vacancies caused by the recent closure of thousands of anchor stores. As of last week, Sears Holdings Corp., survived bankruptcy by announcing its intention to reduce its presence to 400 locations from the 2,000 Sears and Kmart locations as of just five years ago. While some are stand-alone properties, many are anchor mall locations. With these recent closures, new methods of marketing and property listing are being sought to draw the appropriate retail brands to occupy these properties.

Given the demographics of these locations and the building specifications for these properties, it can be very difficult to find a single tenant to easily occupy these larger properties. It is much more likely that these spaces will need to be demised into three or more units (about 20,000 sf each) while retaining the proper amount of store frontage required by smaller-store retailers (e.g. TJ Maxx, Ross, Barnes and Noble, Michaels Arts & Crafts, Planet Fitness and PetSmart to name just a few).

However, whether a landlord is seeking to turn a 60,000 sf vacated space to a new single tenant, or three 20,000 sf retail tenants, it can be difficult for potential tenants to visualize the opportunity. Not all people can readily imagine the demised space from a standard listing or even architectural renderings. Sometimes the leasing reps lack sufficient intuitiveness to visualize the suitability of a larger space that is a candidate for subdivision.

In an ultra-competitive industry, commercial brokers and owners have been stepping up their marketing efforts by offering 3D imaging and virtual reality (VR) tours to spark more interest. In the same way that the internet changed the real estate market by allowing potential buyers and renters to see pictures of properties all over the world in seconds, VR places a potential buyer into the space. Additionally, VR can be used to tour properties that have yet to be built, upgraded or subdivided.

VR, which can be delivered over the web (WebGL), has helped address the issue created when large anchors vacate by providing a potential tenant a virtual experience of the subdivided space. Previous efforts to apply VR to visualize unbuilt or unfinished spaces has often been perceived as cost prohibitive, complicated and cumbersome. Furthermore, photography, spherical images and video-based tours are not feasible for a property that has yet to be demised, remodeled or upgraded.

With recent advances in the creation of 3D content, as well as the distribution of interactive user experiences over the web, these hurdles are being overcome. Often costing less than traditional renderings, an interactive VR experience can be developed and distributed globally – through a link or embedded window on a website or property listing, or via a QR Code on marketing brochures and other traditional collateral.

VR is being used to depict multiple configurations, display detailed property specifications, and assist potential tenants to recognize suitability and overcome the leasing conundrum associated with large vacant properties.

Click Here to experience a retail property in its prior and demised configuration. Freely navigate around the property using simple mouse click-and-drag to rotate or pan the view and use the scroll-wheel to zoom in/out.

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