A conversation with Gary Mansfield, president and CEO of MyShoppingCenter.com.
SCW: How did the idea for MyShoppingCenter.com originate?
Mansfield: Based on the `identify-a-void-and-fill-it' theory, we recognized the need for shopping centers to adapt to and engage in Internet strategy. Doing so benefits shopping centers, tenants and consumers by allowing them to stay abreast of innovative technology in today's `wired' world.
SCW: Could you explain the system and its benefits?
Mansfield: We provide three solutions to today's shopping center problems. The first is the B2C (business-to-consumer) offerings. MyShoppingCenter.com creates a website for each center and each tenant within, thereby enabling them to better communicate with one another and consumers. This provides a place where coupons, sales, promotions and events are presented to consumers in the community. Shoppers, for example, can order a pizza online and make an appointment with a beauty or barber shop.
The second solution is the B2B (business-to-business) network. It involves broadband infrastructure options made available by connectivities that create efficiencies in the marketplace and reduce operating costs. This can include technologically advanced in-store and in-center security. A tenant with six stores, for example, can view each store from one location. Optical disks connected to the site record activity in the stores so criminal acts can be played back and criminals identified. At the same time, landlords can promote safe shopping centers - and this automatically helps increase center traffic which, in turn, drives product and service sales.
Third, also a broadband advantage, is the enabling of a variety of next-generation services. These include `always on' high-speed Internet access, video conferencing, cost-effective multi-telephone line services, web-based computer applications on tap, local and long distance telephone services and virtual private networks. All of these web-based technologies and infrastructures assist landlords in further monetizing their physical assets and capturing new revenue streams, since upgraded facilities attract and retain higher quality tenants.
Likewise, tenants have access to communications and business services allowing them to better manage and market their operations, hence bringing greater value and convenience to their customers. National chain retailers have the advantage of sending more information and, payroll services, credit card information and other cost-saving advantages.
SCW: Why haven't shopping centers embarked on such systems independently?
Mansfield: Even large national centers can not afford to bring in the size and complexity of technical equipment required to run an operation of this size and scope. We build the infrastructure for the centers and parcel it out to the tenants. We create and build the broadband infrastructure each merchant would otherwise have to develop, build and pay for themselves. Our system reduces the cost of these solutions on a pro rata basis, thereby making it affordable for everyone.
SCW: When did the company begin, and where is it in place today?
Mansfield: The company was founded in February 2000. Its first operation site was The Shops At Sky Lake in North Miami Beach, Fla. As of September we had more than 30 centers online. By November we'll have another several hundred contracted, and by the end of 2000 we expect more than 500 to be engaged in the operation. We'll begin rolling out the broadband by the end of the year. Our immediate goal is to have several thousand shopping centers around the country on the site, with a continual rollout of broadband activities and solutions.
SCW: Today, it's a privately held company. Do you anticipate a public offering in the future?
Mansfield: Our plans are to continue our tremendous and expedient growth. So far we've had no trouble raising capital and providing the utility. At this time we have no plans to go public.
SCW: What types of shopping centers are you focusing on?
Mansfield: We can bring the most benefits to large centers with a lot of tenants. We'd like to help every center drive traffic to all its merchants, but a 12,000-sq.-ft. shopping center may not make broadband services financially beneficial. Clearly malls are our primary focus.
SCW: You have some impressive names on your board of directors. What enticed this group of people to come onboard with the company?
Mansfield: We feel it's an impressive organization with great potential. That fact alone drew positive responses from those we wanted on our team. Chaim Katzman, our chairman of the board, has served as president, COB and CEO of Equity One Inc., a publicly traded REIT, since its formation.
Other board members include Jack Smith, former CEO and chairman of The Sports Authority Inc., which he founded in 1987; Odie Donald, president of DIRECTV; Joseph Antonini, who served as chairman, president and CEO of Kmart Corp. from 1986 to 1995; and Dr. Arthur Laffer, the founder and chairman of Laffer Associates, an economic research and consulting firm. I also serve on the board as a director, and bring twenty years of specialty retail industry experience, including senior management roles for specialty retail chains in the pharmaceutical, tobacco and gourmet coffee sectors.
SCW: What's your vision of MyShoppingCenter.com's future?
Mansfield: The future necessitates a transition from brick-and-mortar retail space to virtual online space. MyShoppingCenter.com is the gateway to that future. Our B2C plan offers retail partners new ways to strengthen relationships with existing customers while generating new customer awareness. Our in-house web development team handles the fulland integration of clients' MyShoppingCenter.com websites, including content, implementation, ongoing maintenance and customer support.
MyShoppingCenter.com will be bringing shopping centers online in the following markets by January 2001: Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Richmond, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and the tri-state metropolitan New York area.