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Refreshing Retail - Issue #8

August 2023
Mike Jordan, Big V Property Group Director of Research

Retail Rents Rise as Vacancies Vanish

  • Asking rents in 2Q’23 were up +2.1%, with greatest gains coming in N. Carolina, Florida
  • Overall availability fell 10 basis points to 4.8%, a record low
  • Suburban and open-air retail space is leading demand for the 4th consecutive quarter
  •

June Retail Sales Rose 1.5% vs. 2022, as Inflation Eases

  • Home furnishing sales show signs of a rebound, while department stores fade
  • Despite the continued growth in spending, this was the 2nd weakest pace since 2020
  • Cooling job market, further interest rate hikes, student loan repayments could further erode consumer spending patterns in the 2nd half of 2023
  •
Sources: Retail Dive, Chain Store Age, Creditntell
Athleta (a unit of Gap, Inc) appointed former Alo Yoga executive Chris Blakeslee as the new president and CEO of its Athleta brand, effective Aug. 7. Former Athleta CEO Mary Beth Laughton left abruptly in March, as sales at the once-fast growing activewear label faltered amid “product acceptance challenges.”
BuyBuyBaby may survive as a brick & mortar retailer after all. Dream on Me, a children’s furniture maker who won the intellectual property of the brand last month, has also emerged as the successful bidder for 11 store leases in 7 states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Though the company hasn’t commented on specific plans to reopen these stores it is believed Dream on Me has a revamped baby supply retail experience in mind.
Chick-fil-A is testing two restaurant designs: an elevated drive-thru and a walk-up design. Both are expected to open in 2024. The elevated drive-thru will open in the Atlanta metro area and the walk-up concept will debut in New York City. As drive-thru ordering has fueled the growth in QSR sales in recent years, Chick Fil A has been dealing with issues related to the volume of traffic that come through its stores, often with associated headaches for parking lots and traffic tie-ups at adjacent properties.
David’s Bridal has found a buyer for its operations in bankruptcy court. Cion Investment Corp. has closed on a $20 million investment in the business and plans on keeping 65% of the company’s stores (just under 200 locations) open once its emerges from Chapter 11 proceedings. Other bidders for the company were only interested in acquiring the trademark with no plans to buy the stores or inventory.
Lowe’s will expand the availability of same-day delivery nationwide through a newly announced deal with OneRail. The service will cost $15 and orders must be made by 2PM local time. Orders can be delivered to homes or job sites. Lowe’s also announced it will be expanding its partnership with Petco to over 300 store-in-store locations, which will also offer Vetco in-store clinics.
McDonald’s is developing a new, small-format restaurant concept called CosMc that it will test at a small number of locations in early 2024. The company said it will unveil more details at its investor day towards the end of this year. The name CosMc is a reference to CosMc the alien, a McDonald’s mascot that appeared in the chain’s advertisements in the 1980s and 1990s.
Apollo Global Management has taken a minority investment in Petsmart. The pet retailer was purchased by a British private equity firm, BC Partners, in 2015 for $8.7 billion. BC will remain the controlling ownership group. Petsmart purchased online pet supply company Chewy in 2017, which along with the rising levels of pet ownership in the United States has provided BC Partners with a 3X return on its initial investment.
Tractor Supply Co. said its updated real estate plans include 200 more stores than previously planned, for a new target of 3,000 U.S. stores. Tractor Supply plans 80 new stores in 2024, and expects to open about 90 new stores per year beginning in 2025.

When it looked like e-commerce would threaten the existence of brick & mortar retail a decade ago, people debated whether consumers would ever truly abandon shopping in a culture that had long made consumerism a national pastime. What few people would have predicted however, was that not only would physical stores thrive in the 2020s, but that online shopping itself would be one of the catalysts for its revival. Buy Online Pickup in Store (BOPIS) emerged during the pandemic as a safe way to get essentials but has turned into a must-have convenience for millions of shoppers. For retailers, this behavior shift is not only welcome, it has become an essential tool for driving repeat visits. Read more in this story from the Wall Street Journal’s Liz Young >>

Forgive the shameless self-promotion, but it is always an honor to be a guest on JLL’s Where We Buy podcast with host and fellow retail researcher James Cook! I sat down with James and his associate Ebere Anokute at ICSC ReCon in Las Vegas in May to discuss how smaller markets with can be attractive places to invest in retail real estate. Take a listen at the link here >>

Video of the week: Primark may not be a household name in the US yet, but with over 20 stores in the Northeast and planned expansion to Maryland and Virginia this year, that probably won’t be true for long. Find out why this Irish import is succeeding at affordable fashion while others have struggled to keep up. Watch this video from the Wall Street Journal here >>

The answer to whether Americans would ever return to the movies in an age of streaming and endless sequels to existing IP was answered in a big way this month with the viral sensation that was “Barbenheimer”, which juxtaposed two important but tonally opposite approaches to filmmaking. “Barbie” untapped endless lore around one of the most successful toy brands of all time with a witty, off-kilter script and direction from indie film veteran Greta Gerwig, who scored the biggest opening weekend for a female director in movie history. Meanwhile, Chrispoher Nolan’s biopic of atomic bomb builder J. Robert Oppenheimer couldn’t come at a more important time in modern history with geopolitical tensions at their most pitched since the Cold War. The winner? Movie goers and theater owners who packed multiplexes from coast to coast to see these two groundbreaking films. However, with the ongoing labor strife in Hollywood, will studios be able to capitalize on this newfound affinity for moviegoing?

When new technologies emerge, they have a tendency to change the landscape far beyond whatever old technology they were intended to replace. Take electric vehicles for example. Once thought of as exotic, sales of EVs are up 50% vs. last year and now account for nearly 8% of all vehicles sold in the US. If current projections hold, by the end of the decade EVs will represent up to half of all vehicles sold in the US and as much as 60% globally.
What does this have to do with shopping centers? That’s where the externalities of electrification come into play and smart landlords can use this trend to drive more traffic to their shopping centers.

Recently, I had the opportunity to drive an EV for the first time as a rental car. Apart from the fun of driving one of these cars, one thing that I noticed was how conscious I was of the charge the entire time I had the car. While it never got anywhere close to zero, I stopped twice to charge the car before I returned it. And where did I end up charging? A shopping center parking lot of course. The first was at a Walmart-anchored power center and the second time was at a mall. Both times I got out of the car and went into the stores while I waited for the car to charge. I’m not alone in this, approximately 90% of EV drivers make a purchase while charging at a retail destination.

What’s more, many charging stations have video screens that can be used to help cross-market the shopping center. Would you be more likely to buy something in a shopping center if you could scan a QR code for a coupon to get discounts on your shopping that day? With plenty of space in parking fields, EV chargers add extra convenience and incentive for consumers to shop and eat with your tenants.

Convenience stores and traditional gas stations were built around the idea of quick grab-and-go commerce for long road trips. With an EV, the need to power your vehicle can happen in more places and as a result more people will be looking to charge their vehicles at a place they already do their shopping and eating. The charger becomes the amenity, not the destination in and of itself. It’s a lesson the c-store industry will have to learn the hard way, but only if smart landlords get there first.

Mike Jordan
Listen to the Song of the Month
Bethany Cosentino debuted as one half of the indie rock duo Best Coast in 2010, and after 4 albums of tuneful California-centric pop/rock she branched out this year as a singer/songwriter under her own name with her first solo album Natural Disaster. Recorded in Nashville, the title track evokes upbeat 90s rock hits by the likes of Sheryl Crow and Liz Phair, while also showing the influence of the original queen of LA – Linda Ronstadt and a few Adam Duritz-esque “sha la las” thrown in for good measure. Lyrically, the song resonates as it chronicles what it feels like to come of age in these tumultuous times. Most importantly, its so catchy I’ve declared it my official song of this summer!

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