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Episode 041 : 12/16/2021

Ebere Anokute, JLL

Ebere Anokute is a writer and retail researcher based in New York. Ebere is Manager of Retail Research at JLL, a leading professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management. His breadth of experience and expertise ranges from luxury retail and commercial real estate to entertainment and media. He is a regular guest and contributor on JLL’s YouTube series, Everything We Know About Retail.

Host: Ned Hayes and Ashley Coates
Guest: Ebere Anokute

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Topics discussed in this episode

  • A closer look at what motivates people to spend their money
  • The impact of COVID on  restaurants and how they’ve been forced to adapt 
  • The many ways retail differs across a large country like the United States
  • Physical retail isn’t going away but it is changing

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Audio Transcript

Ned Hayes [00:00:01] Welcome to SparkPlug, where we talk to smart people working at the intersection of business and technology. Brought to you by SnowShoe your smarter loyalty leader, SparkPlug is happy to welcome Ebare Anokute to the podcast. Ebere is a writer and researcher based in New York, and his expertise ranges across all sorts of retail, including commercial real estate and entertainment and media. Ebere is the manager of retail research at JLL, a leading US firm that specializes in retail real estate investment management. He’s a regular guest and contributor on the firm’s YouTube series Everything We Know About Retail. So welcome Ebere to our podcast.

Ebere Anokute [00:00:46] Hey, guys. Thanks for having me. Happy to be here. 

Ashley Coates [00:00:48] Thanks so much for being here, Ebare. Will you start by telling our listeners a little bit more about yourself and how you arrived at where you are today, and maybe you can walk us through your professional journey? 

Ebere Anokute [00:01:00] Yeah, absolutely. So I guess my professional journey started right after I graduated school, so I studied biology in undergrad. I initially had intentions of becoming a doctor or entering the medical field, but once I took organic chemistry, I had to reassess, and I determined in that moment that that was not my calling. So once I graduated from school, I didn’t really have a anything lined up, and I was just looking around for different jobs. And I ended up landing at a company called ICSE at the time that stood for the International Council of Shopping Centers. But they’ve since changed their name to mean something else, but they are a trade association focused on the retail real estate field. So I was working with them in their research department where we did a lot of work specializing around, I would say, e-commerce penetration in the retail sector. We actually wrote a report that I think was pretty pivotal in shifting the conversation around, you know, the quote unquote retail apocalypse and just how big e-commerce spending was getting in total retail spending, things like that. So I was working there for about a year or so, at which point I met one of my current colleagues, James Cook. And since then, I’ve been at JLL where I’ve been researching retail with a focus on Manhattan retail, so focusing on the prime retail corridors in the city. Any notable move ins, move outs and tracking some of the KPIs and market dynamics. So anything from asking rents to taking rents to vacancy and availability rates, things like that. And that’s yeah, I’d say that’s kind of how I got here in the last couple of months or so. I was actually, I’m now going to be focusing in a new role with JLL on retail throughout the entire country. So instead of just Manhattan, I’ll be researching retail trends and different things that are occurring in major cities across the country. So very excited about that change and the broadening of the scope in that way. 

Ashley Coates [00:02:59] Fascinating. 

Ebere Anokute [00:03:01] Yeah. 

Ashley Coates [00:03:01] So you mentioned a few different areas within retail and real estate that you’ve worked on over the years. Which areas have been have interested you the most over your career journey? 

Ebere Anokute [00:03:12] For sure. I think for one area that’s always interested me is consumer behavior. Anything that centers people, I think is just the most fascinating and the easiest to get excited about, right? Especially with a topic like retail. It’s something that touches my life and the lives of every person that I know on a daily basis, right? I try as I might. I don’t think I can go one day without spending at least a dollar or somehow some way I spend money somewhere. And it’s really, really fascinating to think about what motivates people to spend their money. And, you know, on the other side of the equation, how you can kind of encourage people to come into your retail location or to shop with your brand and how brands actually think about that and orient their thinking. So that has been one of the most interesting areas of the job. But I would also say just in general, a luxury retail is something that I’ve always been very interested in. I feel like I’ve always just kind of had an interest and a passion for those sort of like luxury brands and the fashion shows and things like that. And so being able to marry that interest personally with some of the work that I do professionally has been really rewarding. 

Ned Hayes [00:04:21] I’m really interested in your change in role. So moving beyond Manhattan, moving the retail trends, trends throughout the country. What do you think we’ve lost, maybe by focusing just on one metropolitan area? How do you plan to expand coverage there? 

Ebere Anokute [00:04:37] Sure. So it’ll be interesting to see especially with regards to maybe other parts of the country that have different climate, you know, one thing that you know with, especially in the past two years or so with COVID, we’ve seen in New York a lot of restaurants and food operators go out of business as a result of mandated closures from local and state governments. And just seeing number one, how again, those like the different restrictions and laws and rules differ from state to state, but also with regards to climate, right? One of the ways that New York restaurants were able to sort of weather the storm of COVID and being close and having occupancy restrictions on indoor dining and things like that was to introduce outdoor dining. Right. So throughout the city, I don’t know where you guys are located, but in New York, throughout the city, you’ll see now the outdoor seating with like the heated lamps is a common occurrence or something that you see it almost every restaurant on every block. And it’s funny that in areas like Texas or Florida or anything, you know, it’s in the south that never really was something they had to contend with because the weather was nice enough where either outdoor seating was always in, it was always a thing, or they were able to very quickly ramp up in that way. So I think that’s just an example of a way that broadening the scope of my research has been really fascinating just to see how different states and people in different parts of the country are able to address the similar challenges that we all kind of face. And especially, I think for America, it’s such a large country. There’s so you know, you put I think if you put this are the size of our country. Unlike Europe, it would probably stretch from like, you know, Portugal to probably into Asia, like it’s and there’s so many countries over there that make up that space. And over here, we’re just one. So it’s very fascinating to see how our fellow countrymen are dealing with these sorts of things in their various regions. 

Ned Hayes [00:06:35] Right, right. Well, the U.S. has a diversity of cultures and a diversity of weather types,

Ebere Anokute [00:06:42] Of course. Yeah. 

Ned Hayes [00:06:44] So I’m curious what’s different about retail across the country? I know you just talked about restaurants, but is retail different as well? 

Ebere Anokute [00:06:51] Well, yeah. So some of the retail types themselves differ a little bit, right? So for in Manhattan, for example, most of the retail is in mixed use properties, right? So it’ll typically be ground floor retail, maybe one or two floors, maybe a basement inside at the bottom of a building that is, you know, a totally different use. So it could be an office. Typically, it could be multifamily, it could be a hotel. Whereas I think in other parts of the country that are not so densely urban, the retail takes a different shape, right? So we’re seeing a lot more shopping centers, a lot more open air power centers, things like that. Malls obviously are very popular outside of these dense urban areas. So that’s just one of the ways in which retail differs in different places. And obviously, everything about that is different, right? So what it costs, how it’s maintained, you know, the loops that the retailers have to go through in order to enter those various places and then also the business model, right? Street retail is a very different game than, you know, in a mall or in a power center and things like that. And when you talk about some of the factors that retailers are really concerned with, like code tendency or, you know, their position on on the street, whether it’s mid block or the corner, that’s a very different consideration than if you’re in a mall or whether you’re next to, you know, what floor you’re on. If you’re near the food court, things like that, those are just way more important on the street than it is in the mall in that way. So yeah, it’s definitely been an eye opening to become more aware of that of those differences because there aren’t too many malls in New York City, right? There’s, you know, the shops in Hudson Yards was just opened up. And then there’s like the Manhattan Mall, which has been around for a while and isn’t super heavily trafficked. But obviously, you know, in the suburbs, which is where I’m at and other parts, we do have malls and shopping centers, but from a research perspective, focusing on different geographies that’s way more popular in other parts of the country than it is in New York. So it’s been very cool to to learn about that. 

Ned Hayes [00:08:45] Right, right. And we’ve also seen some real huge changes in retail during the pandemic. 

Ebere Anokute [00:08:51] Of course.

Ned Hayes [00:08:52] Since this is one of the last podcast episodes for us 2021, what do you think we’re leaving behind in 2021? And I’m sure Ashley has some follow ups on next year, but as we look at 2021 in the rearview mirror, what’s being left behind? 

Ebere Anokute [00:09:08] That’s a good question. What’s being left behind? I think I think we’re leaving. What I’d like to see us leave behind is the notion that physical retail is going anywhere right. I think when I first started to research retail and real estate in depth, that was a lot of the language was about, you know, physical retail becoming obsolete. Everyone’s buying everything online. Everyone, you know, no one goes to stores anymore. And I think, you know, just based on even you want to look at the results from like Black Friday this past of this past year, people are still going to stores, right? A lot of online brands. Have been opening new stores are brands that originate online, digitally native companies have seen the value in opening physical real estate, and so I I hope that that’s something we can leave in the past and hopefully move forward into a more nuanced conversation about omnichannel strategies and just the reality of life, which is that physical retail has an important place and is a touchstone in our life and technology is a ways away from being able to recreate the physical experience online. So for that reason, I just don’t want to see anymore apocalypse headlines. I don’t want to see, you know, stores are closing. I think the market is very cyclical, especially retail, you know, and it can be it can be what sort it can be easily affected by other sort of economic factors and dynamics. But I don’t I cannot personally right now envision a world in which, you know, there are no physical stores, you know, so I just I hope that we can evolve the language more creatively in 2022 and beyond. 

Ashley Coates [00:10:44] Yeah. Well, and so on that note, how was retail foot traffic in 2021 compared with years prior? 

Ebere Anokute [00:10:51] Yeah. So retail foot traffic in 2020 one was I mean, it was up from 2020, right? I think 2020 we saw some obviously very historic lows. If you look at the graphs that start maybe in January 2020 and go to now, the dip that that seen, you know, at the end of March into April is, you know, I mean, we were all we all experienced it and it’s a very it’s very drastic. So in 2021, people started to return to return to stores more. Right. When you compare the two years, you know, 2020, the vaccine didn’t come until maybe December, if not January, right? I know myself, I receive the vaccine in April of this year, and I think that gave consumers a lot more confidence to return to stores and to feel like it was safe and it wasn’t something that was going to be life threatening for them. So for that reason, foot traffic definitely increased in 2021, and it’s not yet back to pre-COVID levels, and it’ll it’ll be a while until that happens. But it definitely is up from 2020 numbers, and it’s definitely trending in that direction as well. We were still waiting on the return of international tourism, right? That is especially when you think about a city like New York that is a big component of the consumer base of the shoppers and the prime retail districts. And that is not something I’m pretty sure. You know, Canada and Mexico, we’ve opened the borders for those two countries, but I don’t believe that internationally we are fully back to, you know, the fully porous borders that we had before or so. Until that happens, it’ll be difficult for foot traffic to these stores to fully return to 2019 levels, but it’s been encouraging to see them trending in that direction. 

Ashley Coates [00:12:29] Absolutely. Yeah. So are there any big things that are already emerging? What do you expect to see in the world of retail as we look at 2022? 

Ebere Anokute [00:12:38] Yeah, I think two things in 2022, I expect to see a lot of a lot more digitally native brands and companies breaking into the physical retail space. There’s been a lot of research that’s come out over the past couple of years that shows that there’s a real, tangible benefit for an online brand as it pertains to their web traffic when they open a physical store in a certain location. So I think that sort of research and just the success stories that we’ve seen, whether it’s Warby Parker or Avocado, Mattress, or Parade, which just opened the pop up in Soho in Manhattan. There’s so many success stories there that I think that is going to be one of the major categories going forward in 2022. Also, because of some of the, you know, as a result of COVID, there are so many decreases in rents throughout major cities and major retail districts in the country. And also some a lot of companies went out of business. So there were some more availability. And I think those that those sort of dynamics make for an optimal entry point for some of these brands that are newer to the physical space and are really just kind of testing it out. So that’s something that I expect to see a lot and something that I’m reading a lot about that I think is going to become really popular going forward as well are these buy now, pay later platforms. So companies like Klarna, Affirm, Afterpay, they were, you know, when I was reading all these articles post Black Friday, their traffic on for those services was up something like 400% for some of them, like they’re seeing really, really intense increases in the use of those services. And I think that’s only going to be become more popular going forward. I know for myself when I shop online here and there, which I do go to the store, you know, don’t get me on record saying that I always shop online. I do go to the physical store whenever I can, but whenever I shop online now, there’s always the option for Afterpay, you know, paying for with Klarna, paying for with Afterpay. And I think that’s something as well that’s going to be become more popular going forward, especially because for those business models, they don’t require the consumer to pay interest rate, my knowledge the brands themselves work with the with those services to offer that to their consumers. And so the consumers themselves are paying the same price just in four spread out payments, which for a lot of people who may have been sold, who may have had large financial burdens during the pandemic and thereafter is really beneficial. So I think those two things buy now, pay later platforms and more direct consumer digitally native brands. Opening physical storefronts are some of the trends I expect to see in 2022. 

Ned Hayes [00:15:17] Right? Well, speaking of physical storefronts, I’m really curious if you can distinguish what you think makes a luxury shopping experience because one thing that we’ve heard repeatedly is that in-person retail is all about the experience. It’s no longer about just walk in, grab that thing, walk out. People actually go to a store to have an experience. So what’s a luxury store experience in your estimation? 

Ebere Anokute [00:15:42] Yeah, that’s such an interesting question and such a fun question to to think about. I think what differentiates a luxury store experience? There’s a lot of different aspects of it. So I think for one, it’s the the interaction and relation that you have with the store associates. I think in stores that are not luxury, you are kind of allowed to are not necessarily allowed, but you are more or less, you know, doing the shopping yourself, finding what you need and engaging with the associates when you need their help, right? They might be offering their assistance, but more often than not, they might, they’re probably working on something else and so you have to kind of engage them for bigger sizes or extra inventory, whatever the case is. For  luxury, I feel like the store associates there are more like concierges right. There they are, you know, address, you know, greeting you as soon as you walk in and they are more or less guiding you throughout the entire experience in the store until you make the purchase right? And so it’s a much more personal sort of interaction. They typically tend to offer, you know, refreshments, right? So I think if you walk into any luxury store, it’s not uncommon for them to offer you a glass of champagne or some water or some tea or something like that just to try to make you feel more comfortable and spend more time there. I also think that what differentiates luxury stores, at least in my film from what I’ve seen having visited some and versus other stores, is the amount of inventory that’s displayed in a luxury store. Obviously, these are very expensive items and they’re very carefully crafted and, you know, use the finest materials. And so for that reason, typically you only see one, maybe two of a certain item hanging outside it at a certain time. Obviously in the back, they would probably have more sizes and ranges and things like that. But outside in the store hanging, you know, the esthetic is so much more, is so much more heightened and way more careful and thoughtful and curated, right? As opposed to and not to disparage any known luxury stores, but as opposed to this is what we have. You know, everything we have in that size is right here on the on the rack there. It’s like, you know, engage us, talk to us a little bit and tell us what you need and we’ll tell you what we have. And so they only have a couple of items. You know, I was shocked to see that myself when I started visiting luxury stores for work, I was like, Wow, they have one shirt of every variation taking out here as opposed to, you know, seeing that and then going back to, you know, a non luxury store, I’m like, huh, that there’s a notable difference in the way that the inventory is displayed, right? It’s way more of a an artistic endeavor, I think, for those luxury stores as opposed to the non-material. And so I think that some of the ways to differentiate those two. 

Ashley Coates [00:18:28] And what about the merchandise, Ebere, what distinguishes an item as luxury from an item that’s not luxury? 

Ebere Anokute [00:18:38] That’s a good question, and I think so. I think what differentiates a luxury item from a non luxury item in its essence is most likely the materials, right? I think that, you know, the materials that are used to make these luxury items cost a lot more to procure. Maybe they’re from a different part of a remote part of the world that logistically takes a lot of money to transport to the factory to be able to craft into the item that you’re looking for. Whereas for other stuff, you know, for a non luxury items, they are a lot more, I don’t want to say common, but materials that we’ve heard of and we see often so cotton, wool, polyester, things like that. And I think though the materials themselves are what in essence can differentiate these two items because you could also argue what differentiates them is the brand that’s pasted on them, right? Like it should be two similar white T-shirts, one from H&M, one from Burberry, and they should be made from the exact same material. But the brand, the one that’s from Burberry, has, you know, either the Czech insignia somewhere or the Plaid, I should say Insignia or they have the TB somewhere, and that’s going to cost ten times as much as the shirt H&M just because of the of the the branding right? And the I think for the luxury side, the connection to a like a broader seasonal vision for that brand, right? I like I said, I mentioned I wash a lot of these, you know, high fashion like runway shows from all of these fashion weeks, right? Milan, Paris, London, New York Fashion Week and those collection that they present, there are not always the same items you’re able to buy in the stores themselves, but they are all part of the same. You know what the designer had in mind for that season, right? So when they’re presenting in September, they’re showing their spring summer collection for the following year and whatever you go to the store and see will be with that same essence, whereas, you know, not that the non luxury stores don’t do the same. If anything, I think they follow what the luxury ones do and kind of, you know, recreate it for their price point. But I don’t see the same sense of curation in those brands as I do with the luxury ones, right? 

Ned Hayes [00:20:44] Well, speaking of craftsmanship, one thing that we’ve seen in the Pacific Northwest because we’re based in Portland is we’ve seen a lot of focus on craftsmanship by individuals. You know, somebody making something that is utterly unique, you know, a candle that you buy at a farmer’s market you can’t find in any store because somebody just made it. You feel like this sense of craftsmanship and really unique items is beginning to pervade luxury stores. 

Ebere Anokute [00:21:09] Definitely. And I definitely think that that is something that is pervading. I think maybe the retail industry as a whole, right? I think with the advent of platforms like Etsy, where creators themselves are able to make these one of a kind items and have direct access to consumers who want to buy these things, I think that has exploded that sort of desire for more unique pieces over the course of the past few years, so that we’re just seeing a general greater appreciation for more unique items, which I think has sort of contributed to, you know, the quote unquote retail apocalypse people we’re talking about, right? Because there were a lot of companies that prior to e-commerce and in fulfillment and being able to reach consumers anywhere they are really in the world, they are benefiting off the fact that they were the only people in the Pacific Northwest that made white T-shirts. So if you wanted a white T-shirt, you had to come to me. And once we were able to buy those things online, then it was like, OK, what makes your white T-shirt special? What makes the white T-shirt that you all sell, something that I need to buy? And for that reason, we saw a lot of companies that weren’t making an effort to make unique products go out of business, you know, and I think that’s just sort of the I don’t know. There’s I’m sure there is an economic term for, you know, the hand of the market or something that that led to that because that’s where I think a lot of in order to be successful now, that’s kind of what you have to do. There is no those companies that were just kind of benefiting from proximity to their consumer base. A lot of them have gone out of business over the course of the past five years now, and there is a greater emphasis across the retail industry on very unique, one of a kind moments and items and things that people can become conversation topics. 

Ashley Coates [00:22:55] Well, so when we think of the difference between paper towels and a Birkin bag, let’s say sure, luxury is seen as something that’s outside of what we consider to be essential purchases. So get your thoughts on how luxury retail survived and even thrived during the pandemic. How did that happen? 

Ebere Anokute [00:23:14] Sure. And it’s actually been a really interesting phenomenon that we’ve researched a lot. At JLL and my fellow researchers in New York, especially. And I think it has a lot to do with the profile of jobs that were lost during the COVID recession as compared to jobs that were lost during previous recessions, like the after 9/11 or the financial crisis, obviously so during the financial crisis, as you can tell by the name. Most of the jobs that were lost were office using finance jobs, right? Lehman Brothers went out of business. These were white collar jobs that were lost. Whereas when you compare that to the COVID recession, what most of the jobs that were lost were hospitality jobs. So they were either people that worked at hotels or restaurants, things like that. And I don’t mean in any way to trivialize that, though those jobs being lost are just as important to the individual people that work them as the other jobs that were lost. But because those white collar workers, those you know, financial services law, real estate, those, you know, high earning high income people didn’t lose their jobs this time they had money to spend on the items that they like. And so we saw as a result that luxury did fairly well throughout the pandemic. You know, in New York specifically, we saw maybe six or seven, almost 10 luxury retailers open new stores this year alone. Right. So we’re talking about a Mary La Perla, Bottega Veneta Chanel. They all opened or renewed their leases in New York City this year because they had done so well during throughout the pandemic. So it’s been really a fascinating phenomenon to observe and not what you might expect just during a general time of economic downturn. But again, when you look, when you dove more deeply into the people that actually lost their jobs, we see that, yeah, the high income people still had that money. And so as a result, those luxury categories are still did well and are still doing well. You know, I have a lot of colleagues that tell me often that if you want to get a luxury watch right now, whether it’s like a paycheck or a Rolex, you’re on a wait list for over a year because the inventory is so low. Because there’s so many, there’s so much demand for those those products. So really, really interesting way that the, you know, the retail market has reflected the general shifts during this economic time. 

Ned Hayes [00:25:35] During the pandemic, too. I wonder if access to luxury goods also changed. I’m thinking of places like rent the runway that made it possible for people to get luxury goods on the spot and and have it for a limited time. 

Ebere Anokute [00:25:50] Absolutely. I do think that those services, like Rent the Runway, Far Fetched is one, I think Railed is another one. They definitely close that gap and almost democratize the luxury space. You know, I think before you might have had to either go to have one of those luxury retailers located approximately near where you live or otherwise go to like a Nordstrom or a Neiman Marcus to access that. And again, as e-commerce and the ability to buy and sell anything that we want on the internet has exploded in the past 10 years post Amazon. I think those sorts of services have really made that easy for consumers who are interested in learning more or, you know, even just planning for purchases. Right now, I can look online and see how much, you know, a Birkin bag costs and I can start to, you know, plan ahead for that as opposed to before where it might have been more of a purchase that’s made on a whim. When you’re visiting New York City and you walk past the Hermes store right now, it’s something that only a certain type of person can buy something like that on a whim. But a lot of people are able to plan and to know how much it costs. The information is more democratized, and so they’re able to plan ahead and make those purchases for themselves and for their loved ones. So definitely, I would agree with those. Those services have have made it a lot easier to access luxury items. 

Ashley Coates [00:27:08] So turning to this year’s holiday retail traffic, did we see a return to pre-COVID levels, do you think? 

Ebere Anokute [00:27:16] So we did not see a return to pre-COVID levels just yet. But again, you know, one of the brokers I work with, you always says we’re we’re in the if we’re in the business of selling positivity. So I’m always looking on the bright side of things and we’re trending in the right direction, definitely. So whereas foot traffic was up 48% from 2020, again, when we think about this time in 2020, there was no vaccine. It was still very uncertain time in the pandemic and in the world, and a lot of there were still a lot of mandated closures of physical stores as a result. So foot traffic definitely increased from 2020 by almost 50%, like I said, but it’s still down around 30% from 2019 levels. So we’re again trending in the right direction. And I think that as you know, we continue to go on and more people get vaccinated, and it just is safer for people to go back into stores. And to have that experience will see that foot that foot traffic number approach 2019 levels again. And I will also mention again that the lack of tourism makes it hard for foot traffic numbers in any context, whether it’s in Times Square or, you know, any major retail area we’re missing a lot of the key consumers, international consumers that also contributed to our our retail economy here in the states. So we’re not back there, we’re not there yet, but we’re, you know, tip toeing in the right direction. 

Ned Hayes [00:28:42] That’s great. Any other key findings from this year’s holiday shopping season? 

Ebere Anokute [00:28:46] Yeah, I think it was. It was just one of the key findings that was most interesting to me. I mentioned already the buy now, pay later platforms. That was something that really blew my mind as far as the popularity that they were seeing and the proliferation we’re seeing in that space. I think even PayPal has started their own buy now, pay later sort of system to, I don’t know if compete or to get into the ring with, you know, Afterpay and Klarna and Affirm. So that’s one key takeaway from the season that I think was really interesting for everyone. And also the, you know, overall e-commerce spending. I think one thing that’s been really fascinating is the way that that has started to trend because back in the second quarter of 2020, we saw overall e-commerce spending has been as a percentage of total retail sales. E-commerce or non store retail, has hovered around 11%, 12% for a while, right? And then in the second quarter of 2020, it increased up to maybe 16% or so. Naturally, everything was, for the most part, shut down, so it made sense. Most things are being ordered online, and at that same time, we saw an explosion of grocery delivery and fulfillment services start to break into the retail, you know, conversation as well. So that contributed to that observed uptick. But since then, it’s been declining pretty steadily and, you know, normalizing closer to where it was pre-pandemic. So I think that’s been really interesting to see just the fact that e-commerce spending is not exploding in the way that people make it sound like, or that the media has sometimes made it sound like it is. And in fact, it’s back down to about 13% of overall retail sales. So I think that’s something that we saw reflected in the holiday numbers as well. I think total spending that was done online during Black Friday was roughly the same in 20 this past year as it was last year. Right. And what this time last year, we did most of our shopping online. Right. So it’s it’s interesting that that has kind of tapered off a little bit and to see the way that it’s kind of followed our behavior as humans has been fascinating too. 

Ned Hayes [00:30:59] Right? Well, one thing that I found really fascinating because I’m a writer and I read a lot of books is the fact that even in the age of Amazon, when Amazon took on the whole book category, independent stores kept exploding. So there’s more independent bookstores now than there were before before Amazon came on the scene. 

Ebere Anokute [00:31:18] Sure. 

Ned Hayes [00:31:19] So do you think that will happen to other categories, too? I mean, Warby Parker has opened physical stores. Other places are opening physical stores. Do you think that online commerce actually builds appetite for in-person commerce? 

Ebere Anokute [00:31:31] I think so. Absolutely. And there is something that researchers have termed the halo effect right where an opening a physical store in a certain geography results in a noticeable uptick in retail traffic for, you know, that brand in that area. Right. So just the way that you’re saying with Warby Parker, I’ve seen a lot of companies like Zenny Optical, that have, you know, exploded as a result that are also in that same sphere, but are capitalizing off of this appetite that’s been shown for being able to order these things online. And I’m sure that they’re going to break into the physical space sometime soon, too. So yeah, I think again, the the desire for new and unique items is what’s fueling all of this and the ability for companies and brands to access their consumers from the internet and fulfill their orders, you know, in a timely fashion is what’s helping them to, you know, that’s like the first step. And then later on, the next step would be like a pop up, and they would test that pop up store in one of these major markets. And then from there, if that works well, they would go into, you know, actually expanding into know physical footprint throughout the country. So definitely there there is some synergy happening there. 

Ashley Coates [00:32:43] Very cool. Also, as a research rebar, you’re such an expert, you see so many different stories and stories. And I’m wondering if you can tell us about a few of your favorite stores and shopping experiences. If we were to go next year, which stores should we make sure to all visit? 

Ebere Anokute [00:33:00] Wow, very fun question. Let me think. I think. So you mean like a store anywhere in the country or like a certain brand, like anybody? 

Ashley Coates [00:33:12] Anywhere in the country, which which stores are really exciting you right now in which in-store shopping experiences are particularly exciting? 

Ebere Anokute [00:33:19] Absolutely. I think I’ve always thought very fondly on my visit to the Burberry store in Chicago. They opened a flagship I want to say two years ago might have. I don’t want to say where it was because I’ll probably be wrong, but they opened a flagship store in Chicago that I was able to visit, and it was just such a lovely layout. You know, when I walked in, I was immediately greeted by one of the sales associates who took me in an elevator to the top floor. It was like a five story store, and he told me that typically when people come there, they start at the top floor and work their way down, and that’s how they sort of traverse the space. And so I did that with him and we went from, you know, like the jackets to the shirts to the, you know, accessories to the sunglasses, to the all these all the different items that they have. And I just remember it being such a fun experience. Again, I had recently watched, you know, this was about two years ago. So the most recent runway collection had come out right before I went to go visit the store. And so to see those pieces on YouTube when I watched the show and then to go see those same pieces in person and then even a month later to see Beyoncé courtside at a basketball game wearing one of those coats, you know, it was just a really, really just really fun for me. So to be able to see the trajectory of of those things. But yeah, I would say the Burberry store in Chicago is somewhere that people should definitely visit. It’s a really fun experience. The items obviously are beautiful. I didn’t buy anything. I was trying to be, you know, conservative and not, you know, go crazy in there. But there was a lot of stuff that I wanted for sure. So I would say that, and I would also say, if you’re in New York, you should go over to Hudson Yards, the shops and restaurants at Hudson Yards. It’s again one of the only enclosed malls in New York City, right? There’s very few. And it’s just, you know, it only opened in the past two years or so as well. And it’s just a beautiful space to be in, right? I think they’ve done a lot of work to make Hudson Yards as an area of New York City accessible and interesting. There is, you know, the the vessel, which is kind of like a structure, like a, I don’t know, it’s like an upside-down beehive, almost like you can climb and like walk around and get really cool views from there. But then the restaurants, the shops and restaurants are Hudson Yards, which is the retail portion is just so beautiful, a really nice place to grab lunch or to hang out. And the stores there, you know, they have a really wide range of of, you know, price points, right? So there’s a Zara, but there’s also like a Dior right there. There’s anything that might be that runs the gamut from those to, you know, retailers from discount to super luxury. They have it there. So that’s another retail experience that I’ve enjoyed and I would recommend people visit. 

Ned Hayes [00:36:11] Fantastic, thank you. 

Ebere Anokute [00:36:13] Sure. 

Ned Hayes [00:36:13] Well, if there were younger people who wanted to take your path, become an Ebere in future, what do you think they should do? Any words of wisdom or advice? 

Ebere Anokute [00:36:24] Sure. So I would recommend networking and being, I guess, kind of shameless in doing that right? Something that I’ve done a lot since I graduated was to tap into my alumni database through LinkedIn, and I truly reached out to any person that was working in the same industry as me. And I asked them if they had time for a quick phone call. I’m located in New York’s over some of them. I would ask if they had time to get coffee and my friends can attest to this. I’ve probably done this one over 100 times over the course of the past seven or eight years. I’ve had a number of these sort of chats and oftentimes there was nothing I was necessarily trying to get out of it. I just want to share their expertise and hear what they had to say, how they got to where they are and see what little things I could pick and choose from or take from their stories and apply to my own story that would help me, you know, in my own career. You know, I’ve always been someone that believes that the hard way is the only way to learn some lessons. But I also don’t necessarily have to make every mistake that everyone before me has made, right? So very often I’ll I’ll try to ask very pointed questions and get glean information from them, from them. These people that I connect with, whether they’re alumni from my school or people that I work with and just I just I would recommend being, you know, shameless not having any ego with that right? I think everyone that I’ve reached out to, for the most part is willing to talk and willing to give, you know, 30 minutes of their time to someone who actually seems interested in the work that they do. So I would recommend, you know, drawing from the expertise of the elders that you have access to and keep trying to learn. You know, I’m a big reader. I don’t know. You can. You guys can maybe see I have a couple of books here. I have a big bookshelf over there. I just very much don’t believe that education ends when school ends, you know? So I made it a point to I was always a reader. Being in school made it difficult with like schoolwork and stuff like that. But once I graduated and I had a lot of free time, I made it a point to make sure I was reading something new every week, whether it’s on my commute or my free time, something like that, and it could be a book, could be a news article, could be a magazine, but just like constantly trying to get smarter. There’s so much to know and and be accepting that you don’t know everything is the first step in in learning what you can. 

Ashley Coates [00:38:44] Thank you, that’s all really great advice. So we have one last question for you, which is what is your legacy, Ebare and what do you want to be remembered for? 

Ebere Anokute [00:38:53] That’s a big question. I want my I want my legacy to ultimately be my words, the words that I write and the ones that I say because I put a lot of thought into those and so into the words that I put out into the world. And so that is where I’m hoping that my legacy will be, will be in the written things that I create and the words that I’m able to say out loud. And I hope I’m remembered for being thoughtful. I try to be thoughtful in everything I do. So I hope that when people think about me, they that’s one of the words that they use to describe me and I hope that I’m remembered for. I mean, this is going to sound so weird, but my smile, honestly, because I think I lead with my smile, honestly. So I hope that when people think about me, they remember me as being upbeat, you know, positive. 

Ashley Coates [00:39:50] Thank you so much. 

Ebere Anokute [00:39:50] Thank you. 

Ned Hayes [00:39:51] Thank you for being with us, Ebere, great great words, great insights and all sorts of dimensions. 

Ebere Anokute [00:39:57] Thank you so much. This was really fun, guys. 

Ashley Coates [00:40:02] SparkPlug is a wholly owned property of SnowShoe, all content and copyright 2021 SparkPlug Media.

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