Certainly a major attraction of adding residential to retail uses is the provision of a built-in customer base. Unfortunately, convenience isn't everything. Shoppers won't necessarily go to the store down the block simply because it's there, especially if they've already built relationships with other merchants.

That's why Lewis Retail Centers created a cross-marketing program for the residents and tenants of its Southern California projects. Part of the Lewis Group, a 47-year-old development company based in Upland, Calif., that today specializes in building master-planned communities, Lewis Retail owns some 2 million sq. ft. of existing shopping space and has six centers totaling 3 million sq. ft. in development, all in California's Inland Empire. Most are part of Lewis Group residential developments.

The cross marketing begins at the time Lewis Retail launches its leasing effort, according to Randall Lewis, the company's principal and executive vice president. The marketing staff collects extensive demographic information on the planned community's targeted residential base, then uses the data as an inducement to retailers to locate there. Once retailers are signed, it then uses their tenancy to attract prospective residents.

The company takes the effort several steps further, however, beginning with what it calls its VIP program, in which participating Lewis merchants give Lewis residents, and some neighbors as well, a card good for a 10% discount on all purchases and transactions. In one community, approximately 60 retailers signed on to the program. Every resident receives a booklet and card once a year or at move-in. The company also sends residents a regular newsletter for each center, with promotions and coupons.

Though the program has been running for eight years, Lewis considers it still in its infancy. “We think we're just at the beginning of all the potential. We're looking for new ways to provide our retailers with a steady stream of customers and benefit our residents at the same time,” he says.