Najla Kayyem is senior vice president of marketing for Pacific Retail Capital Partners, an operator of large open-air centers and enclosed malls throughout the nation, with more than $1.2 billion in retail assets under management, including Tivoli Village.
Are there any recent developments at Tivoli Village?
Tivoli Village is a gathering place for the community and boasts a collection of carefully curated retailers, restaurants and entertainment options. Pacific Retail Capital Partners has been brought in for active management and leadership to shift focus, evolve the offerings, drive new business and better position the asset for growth.
Opening this fall: Hamptons, a restaurant serving modern American cuisine; Canter’s, a world-famous delicatessen; and a highly acclaimed Mexican restaurant. We are pursuing opportunities with developers for multifamily, hospitality and entertainment uses.
How many people are on your team, and what is your management style?
I manage about 20 marketing executives throughout the country under the PRCP umbrella. My management style is direct, authentic and relentless. I am a pacesetter. I set high performance standards for myself and the team and epitomize the behavior sought from others. The term “lead by example” comes to mind.
Communication is key. I employ a zero-excuse policy. I expect my team to ask questions if they don’t know and meet the deadlines they set for themselves.
Before joining PRCP, you were CEO of SICFIT, a lifestyle fitness brand and social network. How did that experience shape you?
Leading a progressive startup taught me to get comfortable with the unknown, and that growth and innovation happen when you take risks. I learned to fail fast and move on from temporary defeat. Being nimble and agile allowed me to pivot and redirect my energy and resources as new opportunities came to play.
The biggest takeaway was that complacency is a disease. Even when things are good, it’s important to motivate yourself to constantly evolve and change. It’s the only way to get ahead. That same principle pertains to the ever-changing retail landscape. You have to innovate or you risk not being relevant.
Tell us about your previous background in commercial real estate, and how the market has changed over time.
I’ve been in the commercial real estate space as a marketing executive for close to 20 years, working for firms such as The Related Companies, Caruso Affiliated and Westfield.
I was responsible for launching and marketing some of the largest mixed-use developments and landmark projects in the nation, including Westfield Century City, The Grove, The Americana at Brand and The Grand in Los Angeles, Westfield San Francisco Centre in Northern California and CityNorth in Phoenix.
Over the years, I have had my hands on more than 50 shopping centers or mixed-use entities across the country. I have seen it all from the days of the development boom to the financial crash.
The story of America is the history and evolution of retail. It’s the recycling of thoughts, experiences, programs and collections that have surfaced throughout the years. What works today might not work tomorrow, but might work again next year. The current shift is with digital — specifically mobile. We need to be where the customer’s attention is, and that is predominately within their mobile activity. Mobile devices become engagement tools on property and facilitate a transaction or interaction.
We’ve also seen a resurgence of customer service. Those who invest in human capital will have an edge. A good salesman knows how to sell, and a better one motivates customers to return.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
Cross-train and learn it all to become more valuable; know numbers — metrics don’t lie; you don’t ask, you don’t dance — don’t be afraid to ask for what you want; your network is your net worth; and insert yourself — don’t be afraid to speak up in a meeting.
What has been your most exciting professional project?
The redevelopment of Westfield San Francisco Centre. The award-winning, half-billion-dollar historical preservation project is a landmark.
A recent execution was a series of carefully curated murals featuring world-renowned artists prominently displayed on the façade of Eastridge in San Jose, Calif. The energy and excitement around the shopping center changed immediately, and we were reminded how art can transform perceptions, fuel urban revitalization and become an economic stimulus.
What is the future of American malls?
Retail is evolving, but good real estate never goes out of style. ... Humans are social online and in person. We need to give people something they can’t have online — a place and a platform to connect, spend time together, engage in eureka moments and be entertained. People will always buy stuff. Shopping is America’s No. 1 hobby, but the ways in which purchases are being made are evolving. Retailers need to stay relevant, or they should go away.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I like mentoring and connecting people. Passion breeds passion in others, and it will amaze you how as you begin to let your energy shine, others truly will feel liberated to do the same around you.
I want to be engaged in opportunities to develop my skills, take on interesting challenges, work with people I can really learn from and be surrounded with some of the most revolutionizing thinkers in the industry.
What are some things that people might not know about you?
I was a semifinalist on “The Apprentice.” I read at least two books a month. I make shoe contact before eye contact.