Center City is a premier dining destination. But the shopping there is good, too.
That's the message that Paul Levy, chief executive officer and president of the Center City District, and his agency's partner, the Philadelphia Retail Marketing Alliance, aim to drive home through new ads showing true Philadelphians in various stages of retail indulgence while out and about on the town.
Flanked by officials from agencies geared to attract business and tourism, including Harold Epps, director of the city Commerce Department, and Angela Val, chief administrative officer of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, Levy unveiled the new marketing initiative — called "This Is In," as in Center City – at the Shops at Liberty Place, 1625 Chestnut St., on Thursday.
Based on the Center City District's spring survey by mail of 76,000 people who either live or work throughout the region, Levy said, 79 percent of the roughly 2,000 respondents — the majority of whom work in greater Center City — said they shopped online, and 76 percent said they shopped downtown.
Dining is the most popular activity for those coming to Center City, followed by shopping, the survey found.
"That's reality," he told the small crowd gathered in the mall's rotunda. "It's not either/or. This campaign is to promote the story."
Levy said the campaign's goal is "to tell the story – the narrative with personal stories — and aimed toward customers – with print, transit, online and interactive media."
The new marketing tool was based on input gathered early this year from retailers, developers, and retail real estate brokers on the best way to continue to build on retail's resurgence in Center City.
Listening to Levy was CBRE executive vice president Larry Steinberg, listing agent for the Shops at Liberty Place.
"If CCD can help bring attention to the great density, walkability, nightlife, and live/work character of Center City, then the new generation of retailers should take notice," Steinberg said. "And there are a great many retailers that are establishing their brick-and-mortar store strategies right now. Important internet sales companies like Amazon and Google are rolling out stores. Center City needs to be high on their target lists."
Revival of Market East should be high on that list, too, said John J. Connors, president of Brickstone Realty Corp., which is behind the project on the 1100 block of Chestnut Street that will provide residential, office, and retail spaces.
"This area has come such a long way," Connors said. "It's primed for a revival."
Levy said that Center City wasn't competing with King of Prussia, and that was why retailers like Indochino and Bonobos have recently opened stores in both locations.
Coincidentally, about three hours earlier, a panel discussion was taking place at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Valley Forge to dissect King of Prussia's appeal among tourists, shoppers, and businesses in the area.
Those include soon-to-be restaurants at the year-old, $100 million King of Prussia Town Center like Founding Farmers, which will debut in less than two months at its first Pennsylvania location in a deal brokered by CBRE.
Dan Simons, owner of the eatery, which serves American cuisine with farm-fresh ingredients, agreed with Levy.
"I see them as clearly, distinctively separate markets," Simons said. "If an opportunity opens up in Center City with a landlord that loves us and a specific neighborhood that loves us, then I would go for it, be it in six months or six years."
Simons gushed about adding to "Center City's vibrant dining scene" — underscoring the need for the "This Is In" campaign reaching out to some brokers charged with selling the urban center to retailers.
"We kind of forget the retail and the shopping, so I'm glad we are putting [them] in the [marketing] mix," said senior sales associate Amanda Walker of Metro Commercial, the real estate firm that brokered the deals for Target's smaller-store format locations in the city, as well as deals for PetSmart and T.J. Maxx. "I see that retail follows dining."