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Faith Hope consolo: Queen of Retail

1st February 2015

Cityscape magazine spoke to one of the U.S.’ most successful retail real estate personalities about her secret to success and the passions that keep her going in this versatile industry.

They call Faith Hope Consolo the Queen of Retail. She is Chairman of the Retail Group at Douglas Elliman Real Estate, recognised as the foremost retail real estate authority in the U.S., and increasingly expanding the Retail Group’s international reach.

The Retail Group leads the industry in retail leasing, investment sales, and consulting.  Clients include global luxury brands Buccellati, Ivanka Trump, Cartier, Versace, Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Giorgio Armani, Fendi, Yves Saint Laurent, Bruno Magli, Christian Louboutin, Fogal, Ferragamo, as well as mass merchandisers like WHO.A.U. and Zara.

Their stores leased through the Retail Group can be found on Madison Avenue in New York and Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles and in urban retail corridors worldwide, upscale shopping malls, and hotel/casino retail. Consolo’s real estate clients are international private and public investors, entrepreneurial owners and developers with significant portfolios.

Hillary Clinton with Faith Hope Consolo in Miami at CREW convention

Hillary Clinton with Faith Hope Consolo in Miami at CREW convention

Douglas Elliman has presented Faith Hope Consolo with Top Retail and Commercial GCI honours every year since she joined the firm in 2005. She has been given Chairman’s Circle status every year since 2006 and has received Pinnacle Club Awards from 2009 to 2012. Honoured from 2006 as “Top Retail and Commercial Agent – GCI,” she received the coveted Diamond Award in 2011 and was given “Legend” status the following year.

How does she do it? Consolo says nonstop service is all-important.

“Early on, I realised that I needed to also work in tangent with my clients whether retailers, developers, owners, banks and so on to enhance their businesses as well as mine whether through media, i.e. press, advertising, touring, in-store appearances, and on-site ground breaking ceremonies. Enthusiasm, diligence and my commitment to being accessible not 24/7 but 24/24 with the help of my two close friends: Ms. iPhone and Mr. iPad. I’m always on call and ready to respond no matter the size, no matter the location, no matter the requirement, “service” is my middle name.”

Faith Hope Consolo was not an overnight success. It took a long journey to reach where she is today.

“I was a student who had the wherewithal to start a business, which was a modelling agency. It helped me and many of my fellow students earn a little extra money for school – and it was fun! When I decided to continue my studies abroad, I was able to sell the business, which made even more money. During the ensuing years, I got married and moved to Beverly Hills, where I started an interior design firm. After the dissolution of that marriage, I returned back East. 

“During that period, while trying to figure out what to do for the next stage of my life, a friend pointed out that since I love shopping – and I really do! – and had a professional understanding of space and design, I could use my education and experience to make a living. Retail real estate was a natural fit because it amalgamates so many well-honed skill sets. Nearly three decades later, I still love it!”

When the first real estate firm she worked for dissolved, Consolo could have gone independent. Instead she joined Douglas Elliman.

“The Retail Group is very entrepreneurial within Douglas Elliman, so we really have the best of both worlds – the ability to run our own division as a business-within-a business, but with the support and reach of the larger Douglas Elliman.

“Douglas Elliman may be a huge company, but its business culture encourages teamwork. It’s the embodiment of the division I head up, which is made up of experienced retail real estate professionals who enjoy working together and bring dedication and savvy to the mix.”

In the book ‘Brokers Who Dominate’ author Rod Santomassimo devotes a chapter to Consolo whom the New York Times called the “highest profile practitioner of the art of matching stores with storefronts.” She knows the secret of keeping a high profile.

“Foremost, it takes being active and successful in your field — you have to keep doing the deals, and doing good deals! Then you must remain active in other parts of the business. I began joining organisations such as the Young Men’s Real Estate Association (YMREA) from the very beginning, even before it had a women’s division, and volunteered for everything.

“As my success grew, I evolved from volunteering to speaking to leading in these organisations, which also raised my profile.

“Along the way, I have nurtured wonderful relationships with media, many of whom I’ve known for decades. When they need information, I make it a point to be responsive because I know how hard they work, especially today with non-stop news cycles and constantly looming deadlines. It doesn’t hurt that I also work on many high profile projects so more times than not, media come to me when they need answers quickly.”

Consolo believes in joining non-profit organisations and working to make them better. She’s a member of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) founded in 2001 and today with more than 9,000 members.  She served as President of the Association of Real Estate Women (AREW) and encouraged the New York Chapter of CREW and AREW to merge in 2015 to form CREW New York.

CREW has been immensely important to my career — and to me personally. One of CREW’s major goals is to encourage women in the industry to advance by doing deals together — an adjunct to the “old boys’ network” that was prevalent decades ago. I’ve done deals, learned more about other sectors and other disciplines, and made lifelong friendships. And yes, every woman should join. But so should men! We don’t limit our membership, and we do have a number of male members. The more the merrier!”

Charitable activities also play an important role in Consolo’s business and personal life.

“It’s important to any business to give back to the community, whether it’s your industry, your region or the world. And of course it’s wonderful to meet new people and make new connections. But for me, all the charitable work is important personally. I’ve gone through struggles, lost loved ones way too young, but also been blessed with great success. Sharing that to help improve the lives of others is just deeply important to me.”

Coordinating the Retail Group isn’t easy with Douglas Elliman operating 412 offices in 52 countries on six continents, and Consolo is involved at every stage of a new deal.

“We travel the globe in search of the next new concept, the unique retailer, the neighbourhoods that need our expertise to change, to develop, and to transform. Continuously putting the pieces of the Retail Puzzle together.  Yes, I am the closer – aka “the hammer.” That is the way my brokers refer to me. I am involved in every deal from opening to closing and thereafter.

“I cannot begin to estimate how many designers I have met throughout Europe and Asia and brought to New York, just because I was exploring new areas and relishing the sites.  It makes all the difference in the world. I can help my clients visualise what is possible in a space, can appreciate architectural details in major cities that can enhance a storefront. Retail is about making a space feel welcoming to a shopper while properly showcasing the store’s goods and feel. Having a sense of design and training really helps me become a partner to retailers and landlords.”

Consolo’s education and training in art is one of the reasons for her success.

“Art and design may just be the bedrocks of my current career. My art background gives me a unique perspective for our industry, and one that continues to help me identify optimal locations for our retail clients and the best businesses to place into specific areas. Early in my career, my knowledge of design gave me the acumen to market empty spaces by dressing up windows so that prospective tenants were able to see themselves in those stores. This same background continues to reinforce my passion for beautiful architecture and joy in exploring cities around the world.”

That passion she talks about may be ultimately what keeps Faith Hope Consolo going, storefront after storefront, city after city.