If you’re a SiteSeer client, chances are you’ve probably interacted with our VP of Business Development Sam Lowder before. Although Sam is the guy to talk to when you want to take a SiteSeer demo or learn how the tool can help you make more intelligent site selection decisions, he has an extensive background in research and analytics. Here’s our Q&A with Sam, including a few little-known facts!
How did you start your career in retail real estate?
I went to college at Boise State University and worked full time to put myself through school. I started working at Albertsons in Boise in the video department, back when those still existed! Throughout college, I worked my way up to become a general merchandise manager at a store in Nampa, ID.
A few months before I earned my degree in business economics, Albertsons posted a job opening in the economic development department, and I realized that my Albertsons operations experience and economics degree might make me a good candidate. I graduated on a Saturday and started in business economic research on Monday. And guess who hired me? Danielle Yanskey!
So, your background is research, not sales.
Yes. I moved up through corporate Albertsons for about six years. I started as a research associate, became an analyst, and was a senior analyst when I left. I was forecasting for new and remodeled stores, doing field work, analyzing markets, and forecasting for all those locations. I presented my research to our real estate department. Albertsons was in acquisition mode during that time and was the second-largest supermarket chain in the country.
You have extensive grocery industry experience, but where did you go from there?
I left Albertsons in 2004 and took an opportunity with a real estate developer in Park City, Utah. From there, I went to Phillips Edison, a developer/property owner and one of the country’s largest owners and operators of grocery-anchored shopping centers to start the research department. I built a team that supported development, single-tenant development, acquisitions, leasing and all areas that required research.
How did you get to Denver?
In 2009, my wife and I moved to Denver, and that was the start of the Great Recession and the real estate market taking a nosedive. I was going to move into single tenant development for Phillips Edison, but ended up going out on my own for a while before reconnecting with Danielle, who had founded ROIC analytics a couple years prior. I came on board with the company, always working out of Denver, to do analysis for things like single-site grocery studies and community development projects. I started helping ROIC analytics in a business development realm too, taking on not only grocery and supermarket clients, but also retailers and chain businesses.
How did SiteSeer come to be in 2016?
At ROIC analytics, we built models and did analysis for retailers, brokers, developers, communities and other types of businesses. But we often partnered up with software companies that could deploy the results of our work in their systems. When we met Andy (Straker, SiteSeer co-founder), who ran x-span results, a site selection software company and the creator of SDS software, it was clear that clients wanted a one-stop shop for models and analysis. We decided to team up so that we could continue to offer retailers, brokers and developers, and others analysis if they wanted it and a tool that they could use on their own. For the retailers, SiteSeer is a powerful tool to make smarter location decisions. For brokers and developers, SiteSeer helps them be way more thorough and proactive with their leasing process, so that they can do the same kind of analysis that retailers and chains do when they consider where they want to open locations.
Working with clients, you’re the “ears and eyes” of SiteSeer.
I’ve been on the other side of this desk before, the person doing the analysis, working with real estate teams and helping develop shopping centers. I worked for a large grocery chain for 12 years, both in operations and on the real estate research side. So, I have been in the shoes of retailers and real estate brokers and developers, and I often bring back what I hear to our software development team so that we can add in functionality that clients need. Along the way, I got my broker’s license too, which keeps me apprised of what is going on in the industry.
What’s changed the most in this area of site selection/retail research from your viewpoint?
A lot has changed and a lot has stayed the same. At Albertsons, we used to hire pilots to provide aerial photos of every site. Now, you can click a button and get aerials. And now, data is king. There is far more data available to do deep analysis, but research has always been important since I’ve been around. Retailers want to know who their customers are and what matters to them. There are far more data points to figure that out now, and the research process is probably more in-depth, but it still comes down to retailers identifying their customers, and brokers and developers trying to attract tenants. SiteSeer is a tool that helps with that and provides much more accurate information.
As the “boots on the ground: for the SiteSeer team, how do you see retail/commercial development changing in the post-pandemic era?
Retail is changing, but that’s not new. E-commerce consumer goods companies that swore they would never open bricks-and-mortar locations a few years ago are opening retail space. They’re now seeing that value. But we’re also coming off a time when everyone has been ordering clothes from their computers and doing takeout for so long that they’re tired of it. I think we’re going to see a resurgence of retailer and restaurants for those that have survived—we already are. People are eager to get out of their houses and enjoy the buying and dining experience again. It will be interesting to see how things evolve from here.
Questions about the SiteSeer platform? Sam is your man! Contact him for a demo, a question, or a great (okay, maybe a passable) joke!