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JLL's Secret Behind Successful Retail: An Evolving Customer And Brand Experience


At MGM National Harbor, visitors not only flock to the 125K SF casino floor but also its 18K SF mix of shopping experiences. The resort was a testing ground for Sarah Jessica Parker’s first physical boutique, and imported affordable men’s clothing store Stitched from Las Vegas.

JLL’s retail brokerage team was behind the leasing process. The company worked to create a resort experience tailored to the demographic of the Greater Washington, D.C., area. 

MGM National Harbor’s retail spread speaks to the growing experiential retail trend sweeping the country. Consumers want shopping centers that offer immersive, personalized and local experiences. 

“Typically, in an environment like MGM, the retail is exceedingly high-end,” JLL Retail Senior Vice President Greg Ferrante said. “That wasn’t the case at MGM National Harbor. Here you had to have some brands that were more approachable, brands that appealed to every segment of the population that would be visiting the resort. It allowed us to work on a creative merchandise mix for the tenants.”

In D.C., popular retail hubs offer that variety. The 14th Street corridor, which cuts through Logan Circle and Columbia Heights, was named the Best Neighborhood for Dining in 2014. Boutique clothing and furniture stores fill the gaps between restaurants, offering a seamless transition between dining and shopping. 

The mix plays a crucial part in placemaking, the process of creating a distinct and localized environment that stands out among other shopping centers and attracts new retailers and customers. 

When Shinola, a luxury watch retailer, wanted to open a flagship store in D.C., the Detroit-based company relied on JLL’s Mid-Atlantic Retail team to identify where the store would reach the company's key demographic. JLL’s Research and Strategy group created a thematic heat map of target customers in order to find the ideal store placement.

Shinola selected a location along 14th Street, based on JLL’s research. 

JLL’s breadth of services allows for a more consultative role with clients looking to apply these strategies. In addition to retail brokerage and research and strategy services, the company also practices lease administration, debt restructuring and project management of store and shopping center construction. 

Following JLL’s acquisition of Big Red Rooster last January, the company has added brand experience and design to its arsenal. 


Big Red Rooster specializes in leveraging consumer insights to reshape marketing strategies. The company's roster of clients includes household names like American Express, L.L. Bean and GNC. Combining the experience of architects, designers and brand strategists, the agency works with clients to redefine everything from storefronts to corporate culture.

Storytelling becomes a fundamental part of the process. 

Big Red Rooster worked with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey to incorporate the brand’s rich local history in Lynchburg, Tennessee, into a redesign of the Lynchburg General Store. The strategy remained faithful to the establishment’s history but also created an improved merchandise mix and product presentation that showcased the Jack Daniel's brand. 

Big Red Rooster’s attention to detail and corporate culture made the company a match with JLL’s team, Ferrante said. 

“It’s not enough to walk into the store and have racks of merchandise in front of you. What Big Red Rooster is doing is drawing you in, making you a part of it, making it interactive. The experience is what is going to make it.”

JLL’s international scope also attracts global tenants looking to test their stores in U.S. markets. Ferrante counts trendy Swedish apparel company Fjällräven and luxury mattress retailer Hästens among his clients. Both plan on opening stores in D.C.

"JLL works with retailers to tailor their experience to American consumers," Ferrante said. "Creating a unique experience in retail environments is the secret behind the sustained success of a shopping center or individual store. Keeping product offerings fresh keeps retail exciting for consumers."

Above all, retailers need to think creatively. 

“Be innovative in your thinking,” Ferrante said. “Make sure your center is always attractive, and it won’t hurt to spend a little bit of money for an upgrade, because that will come back to you exponentially in increased rents. Keeping your merchandise mix or your tenant mix fresh is what will continue to keep the center relevant.”

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