9 reasons the retail real estate industry can give thanks
Despite the economic challenges that have continued to impact the retail real estate industry this year, we’ve also experienced positive developments that have strengthened our businesses, reduced some concerns, and given us optimism about continued growth in 2014. This upward momentum has impacted organizations throughout the industry — REITs, retailers, and institutional investors alike. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we wanted to reflect on some of the biggest events and trends that we as an industry have to be thankful for.
1. Lack of new development has helped improve shopping center metrics. The lack of new construction this year has kept retail supply down and increased competition and demand for premium, well-located space. According to a recent Green Street Advisors report, strip center annual completions for 2013 and 2014 are estimated to be at 0.3 percent of existing stock, down from 1.6 percent in 2005-2008 – a drop of over 80 percent. This, in turn, has driven up the value of high-quality shopping centers, enabling landlords to maintain higher rental rates and increase leasing spreads. In Kimco’s portfolio, for instance, these trends have helped us deliver stronger financial and operating results throughout the year, which led us to raise our full-year guidance and increase our quarterly cash dividend by 7.1 percent in the third quarter.
2. The federal government shutdown did not cause widespread economic damage. Retail sales climbed 0.4 percent in October, despite the 16-day government shutdown. This increase reflects the general consumer spending growth we’ve seen throughout 2013. Retail and food service sales rose from $416.6 billion in January to $428.1 billion in October, an increase of 2.8 percent. This positive trajectory indicates economic resiliency and sustained growth momentum.
3. The Marketplace Fairness Act has moved through Congress. The U.S. Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act in May, and the bill is now pending in the House. Brick-and-mortar retailers, the ICSC, Kimco, and many others have been major proponents of the Marketplace Fairness Act since it was introduced in November 2011. The act gives states the authority to collect sales tax from online retailers, just as they do from brick-and-mortar retailers, which will level the playing field between the two sellers. The Senate’s passage of the bill is a crucial step forward, and we’re optimistic the House will follow suit.
4. Social media and mobile continue to be a boon for retailers. Retailers are continuing to capitalize on mobile and social media to foster customer relationships, build their brands, and drive purchases. Retailers have been responsible for devising some of the most creative and engaging social media campaigns and pages on the Internet. We can see examples from retailers of all sizes – from nationals, such as Walmart and Whole Foods; to regionals, such as hockey equipment provider Pure Hockey; and small businesses, such as Dallas-based consignment shop Clotheshorse Anonymous.
5. Redevelopment strategies have helped REITs overcome tepid economic recovery. Redevelopment has been a tremendously successful way for many REITs, including Kimco, to overcome economic challenges this year. That’s because the benefits of redevelopment can be far reaching, helping improve the value of shopping centers, increase occupancy rates, drive foot traffic, strengthen retail sales performance, grow renewal rents, improve tenant retention, and generate greater shareholder returns.
6. Consumers are increasingly health conscious. This trend has continued to help fuel an entire retail umbrella in 2013, with specialty grocers, healthy restaurants, gyms, fitness studios, sports equipment providers, and athletic clothiers strengthening their footprints across the country. In a similar vein, we’ve also seen a rise in medical care centers, driven by high obesity rates, greater participation in endurance sports, and the aging population. These tenants have high growth potential, and can quickly strengthen a tenant mix and add value to shopping centers.
7. Shopping small is a big trend. Consumers have also become increasingly focused on shopping local, authentic purveyors, which has helped fuel the success of Small Business Saturday and small business shopping all year long. Small Business Saturday in particular has grown rapidly over the three years since its launch. Consumer spending reached an estimated $5.5 billion during Small Business Saturday last year, and the level of media attention alone this year is indicating that another strong event is on the horizon.
8. Showrooming is less of a concern. Showrooming became a thorny issue for many brick-and-mortar retailers last year. But as ICSC President and CEO Michael Kercheval mentioned in a podcast with us, showrooming started to peter out this year with retailers finding ways to improve and promote the benefits customers can only get from shopping at a physical store. Brick-and-mortar retailers are competing on value-adds such as increased customer engagement, memorable in-store experiences, and on-the-spot assistance — in addition to price.
9. Sustainability is more closely tied to financial performance. The industry has sharpened its focus on improving sustainability performance to deliver compelling financial, environmental, and community benefits. The ICSC is launching its new Property Efficiency Scorecard in December (which Kimco helped create) to let landlords better measure and manage their energy use, water use, waste, and green operations practices. This scorecard complements established disclosure reporting forums, such as the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), which have provided institutional investors greater transparency into landlords’ sustainability performance.
That’s just some of the major developments and events that have brought strength and optimism to our industry. Every organization and every professional probably has some other specific things in mind that have impacted them in a positive way this year. What are you most thankful for in your business?