The CEO of Whitman Family Development shares the vision behind Bal Harbour Shops ‘retail carnival’ tour

Bal Harbour Shops, a luxury retail destination, is preparing for the launch of its Bal Harbour Shops Access Pop-up Tour, in Sarasota.

Or the “retail carnival,” as Matthew Whitman Lazenby describes it.

Lazenby is the president and chief executive officer of Whitman Family Development, the owner and operator of Bal Harbour Shops, a 60-year-old shopping center, just north of Miami Beach, in the village of Bal Harbour.

The Shops have high-end retailers like Neiman Marcus, Tiffany’s, Prada, Gucci and more, with a mission of creating, and maintaining, an experience for shoppers that goes beyond the typical retail exchange.

“Within the last four or five years, we have launched a loyalty program called Access, with the idea that landlords, like us, for too long have relied on tenants to create the emotional connection with customers to create something vibrant and special that brings customers back time and time again,” says Lazenby. “That really doesn’t cut it anymore, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is it used to be when my family business began, back in the mid-sixties, there was really only one place in town where you could find any of these luxury goods.”

Today, retail centers must compete with the Internet, but what they have that the World Wide Web lacks is an experience that goes beyond click and pay.

“You can buy most anything you want online and never have to leave your living room. So, the idea of Access was let’s connect with the customer directly, let’s get to know what she, or he, wants, let’s understand what her, or his, needs and desires are and then try to meet that,” Lazenby says.

That is how the pop-up concept came to be.

The pop-up shopping experience is an open-air concept with designer boutiques. Participating brands include Tiffany & Co., Balmain, Etro, Gianvito Rossi, Addict, Santa Maria Novella and many more, during the limited-edition event.

In addition, the pop-up features “The Whitman” restaurant, where guests can indulge in two distinct experiences, every week: High Tea, hosted weekly, on Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., featuring a selection of fine teas accompanied by finger sandwiches and pastries and Après Golf Happy Hour, hosted Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. featuring handcrafted cocktails prepared by the restaurant’s expert mixologists and complimented by a curated selection of seasonally inspired small plates.

Due to the limited run the experience is slated for, permitting led to the “retail carnival” reference, which is both clever and practical.

“These are shipping containers. And furthermore, it’s going to take us, maybe, a week to assemble them, but we are only going to be operating for eight weeks. They are not a ‘building.’ And it really can’t comply with building standards because it’s only going to be in this parking lot for eight weeks. So, what we said was, this is a retail carnival. Give me the person who approves the state fair,” Lazenby says.

In addition to the fun shopping experience, there is a charitable component to the pop-up spot.

Bal Harbour Shops has teamed up with Forty Carrots Family Center, a charity dedicated to providing safe environments for children’s development. Serving families in Sarasota and Manatee Counties, regardless of financial means, Forty Carrots focuses on parenting programs, mental health services and a nationally accredited pre-school.

“What we’re trying to do is establish a meaningful relationship and an emotional connection with the end customer. Coming into communities that are new to us, like Sarasota, we rely on a local ambassador, or ambassadors, who can help us understand the market better,” Lazenby says.

The grand opening celebration is scheduled for March 8, outside University Town Center Mall. This stop marks the second destination, on a multi-city tour, following a pop-up in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Bal Harbour has plans to bring its pop-up concept to cities across the Southeast including Walton County, Florida and Greenville, South Carolina.

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