Retail Outlook Through Cutting Edge GIS

– Patrick Sullivan


The Phoenix retail market is sizzling hot, with vacancy rates hovering at around 5% and new construction booming. But how do landlords and retailers know exactly where to place their bets in this competitive landscape? Enter the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analyst—trained to gather and analyze real estate trends and demographic data and then relay that information through maps and reports. Infused with insightful data integration, these materials paint a vivid picture of the hottest retail spots in Arizona and help guide decision-making for brokers, landlords, and tenants alike.

As the Director of GIS and Graphics for Western Retail Advisors, I work at the intersection of technology, strategy, and design. By leveraging data and software, I equip our team of retail-specific brokers with up-to-the-minute intelligence that they couple with their expert insight to navigate intricate site selection, leasing, and expansion opportunities. From my vantage point, GIS is revolutionizing commercial real estate.

Being a full-service commercial real estate brokerage, our primary responsibilities at WRA are to help clients analyze and predict market trends, identify favorable locations, and complete successful transactions. For our tenant clients, this means opening profitable new stores or restaurants faster and easier than they could have without us. For our landlord clients, it means filling their vacant spaces efficiently, at higher rents, and with a more compelling tenant mix.

In Arizona, where rapid population growth is reshaping communities at breakneck speed, the kind of knowledge that GIS contributes to this process is indispensable.

The Power of the Map

As the saying goes, “retail follows rooftops,” and Arizona’s rooftop counts are skyrocketing. At its most fundamental, GIS can help our industry stay ahead of the competitive curve by mapping out where rooftops are being built and, in turn, where demand for new retail will rise. Visuals produced by GIS technology can, among other things, pinpoint competitor locations, analyze population shifts, and plot where new construction is happening. This helps to identify transactions that minimize competition and maximize success.

GIS can, for example, show us that Central Phoenix and Tempe are currently experiencing the highest level of housing unit growth. It can also highlight that Buckeye has the most retail space in development while central Tempe has the most hamburger restaurants.

This gives local and regional clients information that exceeds the common knowledge they might be able to uncover independently. It is also critical when dealing with national retailers that often have internal GIS experts of their own. These large retailers expect to be able to compare their data with that of their broker —both as a validation point and to uncover new market insight.

Know Your Customer

Another advantage: GIS can transform data about consumer dynamics into actionable insights. By harnessing technologies like mobile location data, GIS can decipher shopper foot traffic, define a center’s trade area, and create a general profile of its customers, from age to income. That holistic understanding leads to tailored strategies that resonate with retailers and landlords.

It can also offer game-changing clues about what everyone in our industry wants to know…the success potential of a future store. While GIS can’t forecast the future, its data can help us form educated guesses that mitigate risk as we craft strategies.

Quality In, Quality Out

For all its benefits, GIS’s efficacy hinges on the quality of the data input into its system. If your data is less than ideal, your insights will be less than ideal and will likely degrade with each iteration. On the flip side, if your data is strong, your results will be strong.

Thoughtful GIS specialists know that good data is the foundation for our most valuable commercial real estate insights.

They also know that when used correctly, it can provide an edge in the competitive Arizona retail market where every advantage counts.

The Phoenix retail landscape is dynamic, and success hinges on innovation. By leveraging GIS, we can empower our industry to confidently navigate the ever-evolving Arizona retail market. As our state continues to experience rapid growth, GIS can keep us on the cutting edge of intelligence so that we can fully capitalize on the many opportunities that lie ahead.