Good News: Retailers Grow Despite Pandemic

Economists expect retail sales to increase approximately 1.9 percent this month. While any increase is good news, it’s a significant drop off from June’s increase of 7.5 percent. Not all hope is lost, however, at least not for some major retail tenants. Today, we take a look at some of the retailers who are making moves and shattering records, even amidst a global pandemic.

7-Eleven

7-Eleven recently entered into a definitive agreement with Marathon Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: MPC) to purchase the Speedway convenience store chain for $21 billion in an all-cash transaction. The arrangement is expected to conclude in the first fiscal quarter of 2021 and includes a 15-year fuel supply agreement for 7.7 billion gallons per year associated with the Speedway business. This large-scale deal includes approximately 3,900 convenience stores. These additional stores will bring 7-Eleven’s retail footprint to roughly 14,000 locations throughout the United States and Canada.

At Home

At Home’s CEO recently told CNBC that the company has been slowly expanding its store count by roughly 20 percent per year over the past seven years. The home décor and furnishings retailer currently has 219 locations but may expand to as many as 600 thanks to record-breaking net sales in its second fiscal quarter. Thanks to its listing as an “essential retailer,” At Home boasted net sales of $515 million in its most recent quarterly filing. What’s behind the increase? At Home is a one-stop-shop for a broad range of home goods, and the store’s open, spacious layouts and the brand’s omnichannel platform allowed the company to easily accommodate COVID-19 regulations.

Chili’s and It’s Just Wings

Brinker International, Inc. (NYSE: EAT), the parent company of Chili’s and Maggiano’s, recently introduced a delivery only-service called “It’s Just Wings.” Since launching in late June, this concept is now on track to exceed $150 million in sales during its first year. So, how does It’s Just Wings work? Brinker International is utilizing what it calls “ghost kitchens”—restaurants with a delivery service instead of a dining room. The “ghost kitchen” concept involves setting up kitchens that only make food for customers who order online, through mobile apps or via third-party delivery services. Instead of using independent kitchen space, It’s Just Wings now operates using separate, dedicated kitchen areas in 1,050 of Brinker’s U.S. Chili’s and Maggiano’s restaurants. This new concept—along with the established pick-up and delivery services already in place under the Brinker International umbrella—have generated strong bottom-line results.

CVS and Publix

Both of these leading retailers have seen a marked increase in year-over-year sales. Both companies benefitted from their status as “essential retailers” during the COVID-19 pandemic. CVS Health Corp. (NYSE: CVS) reported a 35.2 percent increase of $634 billion in the company second fiscal quarter of 2020. The company’s net income also rose to $5 billion (a 48 percent increase). Although CVS plans to close 22 underperforming stores, the remainder of its locations have remained open since the pandemic was first declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020. Publix has also remained open throughout the pandemic. Within its second quarter earnings report, Publix announced that sales have increased by 21.8 percent. Publix estimates that its second quarter sales increased by $1.5 billion due to the pandemic.

Starbucks

Although Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) saw a decline in U.S. comparable store sales during its third quarter, the company still opened 130 net new stores. This marks a five percent year-of-year unit growth. The company currently operates or licenses approximately 15,243 locations in the United States and 32,180 worldwide. As of late July, Starbucks has opened roughly 97 percent of all its company-operated stores, both in the United States and China. Temporary closures affected locations in airport and college and university locations within North America.

Navigating These Uncertain Times

Ground + Space is a leading commercial real estate firm that specializes in single-tenant and retail NNN investments. We have several listings available featuring retailers that are in a prime position to succeed in a post-pandemic economy. We are committed to providing up-to-date information and best-in-class services to clients during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The market changes daily, so please contact one of our brokers for specialized guidance during this time.

Stay Healthy and Safe

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers daily updates and other information about COVID-19 symptoms and testing in the United States. Johns Hopkins University (JHU) has created a resource to help inform the public and advance comprehensive understanding of the novel coronavirus and its effects backed by experts in global public health, infectious disease and emergency preparedness. Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to track the number and location of confirmed cases of the virus across the globe.


Shopping Centers Face an Uncertain Future

Traditional shopping centers are facing uncertain futures as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively impact store occupancy and vacancy rates. The first three months of 2020 marked the first time in over a decade that retail property writ large had a negative net absorption. What does that mean? Simply put, negative net absorption results when more tenant space is empty than filling up. The resultant change in the number of occupied square feet in shopping centers has resulted in a negative downturn for the first two quarters of 2020.

What’s causing this change?

The COVID-19 pandemic required all but the most essential retailers—like pharmacies and grocery stores—to close their doors for nearly three months. This dramatic shift has seemingly sped up the process of transformation already underway in the retail and commercial real estate industries. In response to the myriad challenges brought on by the novel coronavirus, retailers have made major changes.

Some retailers have chosen to dramatically reduce the size of their real estate footprints by closing stores, while others have begun bankruptcy filings. All of these changes have left landlords struggling to lease vacant spaces in shopping centers and traditional enclosed malls that would normally be filled with department stores and other well-known retail brands.

What does this change mean for commercial real estate?

The net absorption rate is a good way to judge the strength of supply and demand in the various sectors of the commercial real estate market. When the net absorption rate is positive, demand for space is high, rental rates are competitive and property values tend to increase. However, when the net absorption rate reverses course, vacancy rates increase and rental rates slowly begin to decline.

The effect of vacancies on rental rates and leasing will inevitably vary from market to market as the year comes to a close. Any market that depends on both international and domestic tourists will be slow to return to pre-coronavirus levels of retail activity. Large, urban markets are likely to fare better, as well as smaller emerging markets like Raleigh, North Carolina and Austin, Texas.

Is there any good news?

Single-tenant net lease (STNL) assets are still in demand for investors, especially those in 1031 exchanges hoping to take advantage of the looming IRS deadline on July 15. Investors seeking a sense of safety in a still uncertain economy are pursuing listings that feature a single-tenant property leased to a tenant that offers an essential service. Fast food and quick-service restaurants (QSR) with credit rated tenants are also in demand.

Ground + Space has several assets on the market right now that would be an ideal investment for any investor. Our CVS Pharmacy listing features a NN corporate-guaranteed lease that was recently extended by 20 years. The Tire Choice property that is currently available is situated within a dense retail corridor in The Villages, Florida and boasts a NNN lease.

How can Ground + Space help?

Ground + Space is a leading commercial real estate firm that specializes in single-tenant and retail NNN investments. We have several listings available featuring retailers that are in a prime position to succeed in a post-pandemic economy. We are committed to providing up-to-date information and best-in-class services to clients during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The IRS 1031 tax deadline is fast approaching, so please contact one of our brokers for specialized guidance during this time.

How can I stay informed?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers daily updates and other information about COVID-19 symptoms and testing in the United States. Johns Hopkins University (JHU) has created a resource to help inform the public and advance comprehensive understanding of the novel coronavirus and its effects backed by experts in global public health, infectious disease and emergency preparedness. Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to track the number and location of confirmed cases of the virus across the globe.