Marlboro, N.J. – Following the emergence of neighborhood and community shopping centers as commercial real estate’s post-pandemic chief adapter, these retail concepts are embracing a renewed town center identity that is feeding robust leasing activity, according to Pierson Commercial Real Estate LLC. As one of New Jersey’s most-active retail-focused brokerage and advisory firms, Pierson has finalized a number of key long-term lease agreements at some of the state’s most prominent neighborhood, community and regional shopping centers during the past six months.

“The retail sector continues to enjoy a strong, enduring recovery with operators of all shapes and sizes being persistent when it comes to redefining their concepts and what they offer consumers,” said Jason Pierson, the company’s president. “Shopping is no longer an action. It is a multi-tiered experience. From online to offline, today’s hybrid retail journey ultimately leads to the store down the road or the one that is just steps from places of work. Simply put: it is the one that is most convenient.”

The firm’s recent leasing highlights include the 203,912-SF Hazlet Town Center in the all-important Central New Jersey Metro, where the firm has finalized lease agreements totaling 44,805 SF at the newly repositioned regional shopping center. Pierson also orchestrated a wave of lease agreements at The Shops at Pier Village in Long Branch with Starbucks, the acclaimed national Japanese steakhouse Koto Asian Bistro and aXd by Alba in addition to several other tenants.

From Mercer County and the Jersey Shore Region to New Brunswick and the City of Newark, where the firm counts the 100,000 SF retail portion of Junction at the Gateway Center among its exclusive leasing agent assignments, Pierson is on the frontlines exclusively representing some the state’s leading developers, owners and tenants with a local, regional and national presence.

At the Junction at Gateway Center itself, Pierson’s most recent lease signings include eight grab-and-go and full-service restaurants in addition to Mokbar, a Korean food concept founded by renowned chef Esther Choi; One Step Ahead Learning & Performing Arts Center; and Serafina, the well-known hotspot out of Manhattan. The firm also has substantially expanded its submarket expertise within Hudson County, with a focus on securing assignments in Jersey City and Hoboken.

According to Pierson, the pandemic has forever transformed consumer businesses and brick-and-mortar stores of the past. “The days of seismic shifts have given way to gradual pivoting when it comes to strategy and philosophy of local, regional and national operators,” said Pierson, who founded the company that bears his name in 2011. Prior to that, he spent six years with a global retail real estate advisory and transaction services firm in its New York City and New Jersey offices.

“It is the former – when retailers had to rapidly adjust their sails at a time there was so much unknown about the COVID-19 virus and its lasting impact – that has established the groundwork for current practices and future trends,” he said.

Here-and-Now & Future Concepts include Brick-and-Mortars

According to Pierson Commercial’s retail brokerage specialists, who provide a full scope of landlord and tenant representation services to Fortune 500 owners, REITs, private equity firms and institutional property holders, larger retailers are now eyeing shopping centers to deliver smaller-format concepts to their customers.

While buy-online, pick-up in store or at the curbside has settled into a regular practice particularly among supermarket anchors and food service providers, there is a desire among consumers for an omnichannel experience – the ability to meet and transact across multiple channels and platforms, including within a brick-and-mortar store.

“Regardless of size or goods/services being delivered, retailers recognize and acknowledge the power of local, immediate-area connectivity and how it fosters customer loyalty,” said Pierson. “In short, consumers retain the desire to engage in a store-based shopping experience and the act of making purchases near one’s home and workplace. For this reason, brick-and-mortar stores continue to provide value to retailers because they strengthen a customer’s relationship to the brand.”

Established in 2011, Pierson Commercial provides a full range of retail acquisition, disposition and leasing services. Headquartered in Marlboro, N.J., with an office in New York City, the company’s retail leasing and property marketing assignments span over 4 MSF of retail space across major downtown redevelopments, ground-up new construction and existing retail shopping centers.