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.


COVID-19 CRE News: July Updates

Thanks to a surge of COVID-19 cases in new hotspots across the country, commercial real estate investment activity has slowed considerably. The Ground + Space team have been hard at work tracking the effects of the novel coronavirus on the commercial real estate industry, both in our home state of North Carolina and beyond. Below, we take a look at some of the top headlines from the first half of the month of July:

Decline in National Investment Activity

Owners and investors remain cautious regarding sales of retail assets. This trend has permeated markets across the country, especially those in fast-growing cities. Some locales that have seen steep drop-offs in commercial sales activity include Raleigh, Seattle, Nashville, Atlanta and even Washington, D.C. Historically, major markets such as New York, Miami, San Francisco and Los Angeles are the first to recover in terms of sales volume following economic downturns. That may not be the case this time around.

Any future increase sales activity will likely be tied to areas that can sustain recovery from both a public health and economic standpoint. There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon: Most markets around the country saw an increase in deal volume in the month of June. This could signal an uptick in deal velocity in the third and fourth quarters of 2020.

Retail Spending Increased in June

Retail sales in the United States rose approximately 7.5 percent in June. This is due to the increase in store openings across the country as retailers welcome back guests to their brick-and-mortar locations. In June and July, consumers have been spending more in four key sectors: automotive, clothing, furniture and electronics.

Although increased retail activity is a welcome harbinger of good news, continued recovery in this sector will be determined by the ability of cities and states to remain open in the face of rising COVID-19 infections. Something important to keep in mind: Despite this increase in activity, total retail sales for the second quarter of 2020 were still down by 8.1 percent.

Retailers Continue to Downsize Footprints

National retailers continue to downsize their retail footprints, and some have even turned to Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings for protection. New York & Company parent RTW Retailwinds is just one of many clothing retailers to join the likes of J.C. Penney, Brooks Brothers and Neiman Marcus in filing for bankruptcy.

Banking giant Wells Fargo recently announced a proposed $10 billion cut in annual expenses. This move will shrink the brick-and-mortar footprint of the nation’s third-largest bank substantially. In the short term, Wells Fargo plans to consolidate its brick-and-mortar locations, which would include not only bank branches, but field offices and corporate sites as well. The move comes as more and more Americans move to digital and mobile banking.

A Bit of Good News

While it’s disheartening to hear that many retailers are shutting their doors permanently, others have found a way to pivot their business models to align with recent events. One such retailer is Tropical Smoothie Café. Since March 1, 2020, the fast-casual café concept has opened 35 new locations. Additionally, the company has signed at least 103 new franchise agreements in 2020.

Chipotle is also looking to expand its footprint and plans to hire as many as 10,000 new employees during the next few months. The concept now has a presence in 32 states, and many of its new restaurants feature a drive-thru lane (dubbed “Chipotlane”). Chipotle expects that more than 60 percent of its new restaurants will feature this “Chipotlane”—a measure that will allow more locations to remain open during the pandemic.

Ground + Space is Here to 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 less that one week away, so please contact one of our brokers for specialized guidance during this time.

Stay Safe and 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.


Pandemic Reshapes Commercial Real Estate Market

Since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused dramatic changes in the way individuals do business and buy goods. These changes have not only affected the retail sector—every aspect of the United States economy has been impacted in some way. Here we take a look at some of these changes and how they will influence the future of the commercial real estate market.

Physical Versus Economic Vacancies

Retailers deemed nonessential during the COVID-19 pandemic are facing a dramatically different economic outlook than their essential retail counterparts. Experiential businesses, buffet-style restaurants and retailers facing financial hardships before the pandemic began currently face an uncertain future. Although many businesses have begun opening their doors as nationwide restrictions have been partially lifted, some retailers might be forced to close their doors for good.

Higher vacancy rates are expected as a number of retailers reassess their position in the marketplace. Although more and more storefronts have shuttered, a number of leases still remain in effect. This, in turn, has expanded the gap between physical and economic vacancy. According to some reports, the average physical vacancy rate will jump to between 5.6 and 6.8 percent by the final quarter of 2020. The economic vacancy rates are expected to be even higher as retailers grapple with new regulations, depleting cash reserves and lack of financial assistance.

Construction Projects Slow and Rent Prices Fall

As a result of the pandemic, developers and retailers are slowing down the rate of construction and expansion projects. Completed projects during the first three months of 2020 dropped to just 8.3 million square feet. Inventory additions are expected to decrease to levels not seen since 2000 by the end of the year. Although some projects have been cancelled altogether, many others have simply been put on hold and are expected to resume in 2021. There is a silver lining, however: Single-tenant net lease (STNL) properties will account for the largest portion of this year’s construction projects at nearly 17 million square feet.

Less new available space and rising vacancy rates will have a negative effect on asking rent prices for commercial real estate assets. During the first quarter of 2020, asking rent climbed to an average of $20.50 per square foot. Some experts believe asking rent prices will fall as much as 9.4 percent by December 2020.

STNL Assets Are Still Going Strong

Long-term security is just one of the reasons investors are targeting STNL assets now more than ever. Discount retailers like Dollar General and Dollar Tree have attracted a wide range of investment offers, along with other essential retailers like CVS Pharmacy. Quick-service restaurants (QSR) with drive-thru service windows are also being targeted as these retailers have generated near pre-pandemic sales. For now, buyers are less interested in fitness centers, department stores, sit-down restaurants and strip centers with a number of nonessential tenants.

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.


The Coronavirus Pandemic Reshapes Retail

As many states look to reopen portions of their economies in the coming weeks and months, the team at Ground + Space are diligently tracking the effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on the commercial real estate industry across various sectors. Although the idea of returning to work is a welcome one in this uncertain economic climate, it’s important to acknowledge that companies will return slowly to an environment forever changed by this virus.

Post-Pandemic Outlook

According to reporting by the Swiss money manager UBS, the retail industry in the United States is heading towards a major shift. Current estimates show that the country stands to lose anywhere between 11 percent to 17 percent of its total store count by the year 2025. (This estimate is based on projections that e-commerce penetration will rise to 25 percent by 2026.)

Companies and retailers that already boast strong online operations and logistics networks—like Amazon, Walmart and Target—have continued to thrive during this pandemic as more and more consumers shop online. These powerhouse retailers are poised to take over market shares left behind as brick-and-mortar retailers close their doors.

The Continued Rise of E-Commerce

E-commerce sales have steadily risen over the past decade. As of the third quarter of 2018, e-commerce sales reached approximately 16 percent of total retail sales in the United States. This trend of rising e-commerce sales has accelerated considerably in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. Stay-at-home orders across the country that have stopped all non-essential business. These conditions have forced retailers both large and small to quickly adopt online marketplace platforms to service customers.

As households across the country make the shift to more online spending, struggling retailers will be forced to either pivot towards an omnichannel approach or rationalize their store counts and future brick-and-mortar expansion plans. Retailers like Macy’s, Inc. and JCPenney Company, Inc. have already made plans to close stores, and other vulnerable retailers are likely to do the same throughout the remainder of 2020.

COVID-19 Impact Across Retail Sectors

Each segment of the retail market landscape is feeling the effects of COVID-19 in different ways. If the UBS estimates are indeed correct, the loss of stores and revenue will be most pronounced in the following sectors: apparel and accessories; consumer electronics; and home furnishings. Because retailers like these make up a large portion of tenant rosters in enclosed shopping malls, many struggling regional shopping centers are expected to close. The retailers expected to weather the storm include essential businesses that are allowed to remain open during the global pandemic, as well as non-essential retailers like home improvement stores and automotive parts stores. Ground + Space has several listings available featuring retailers that are in a prime position to succeed in a post-pandemic economy.

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.

How can Ground + Space help?

Ground + Space is a leading commercial real estate firm that specializes in single-tenant and retail NNN investments. Our team is 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.


COVID-19 Impact Across CRE Sectors

The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) across the United States has caused all but the most essential businesses to shut down temporarily. Although designations often vary from state to state, the life-sustaining businesses that are currently operating across the country include: supermarkets and grocers; farms and food manufacturers; restaurants (take-out and delivery only); hospitals; healthcare providers (like dentists, veterinarians and physician offices); pharmacies (including CVS); banks and post offices; gas stations and convenience stores; and automotive repair shops.

Many of the strategies being implemented by these retailers—like curb-side pick-up—will most likely continue as customers return to work in the coming weeks and months. Large national tenants are better positioned to weather the storm of COVID-19, but the same cannot be said for neighborhood retailers. Each sector of the commercial real estate market has been affected in different ways. Let’s take a look at how the pandemic is affecting three key sectors: convenience stores, dollar stores and shopping centers.

COVID-19 Impact: Convenience Stores

Due to “shelter in place” orders, many consumers are looking to their local convenience stores for fuel, food and grocery items. Convenience stores have become a go-to for shoppers who want to avoid crowded areas and understocked grocery stores. According to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), 52 percent of convenience store grocery sales have increased during the pandemic, despite the fact that fewer people are leaving their homes.

Convenience stores are resilient assets during economic downturns. Additionally, convenience store retailers were quick to address changes related to COVID-19 in their stores. These retailers continue to pivot and adjust as needed, from offering more items that can be taken home (pre-assembled meals, bulk items and toiletries) to removing self-service stations.

COVID-19 Impact: Dollar Stores

Rural and suburban communities have long relied on retailers like Dollar General and Dollar Tree for affordable, convenient household essentials. Because of this, the discount retail market has proven resilient throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Their unique real estate footprint, coupled with lower price points, put discount and dollar store retailers at a competitive advantage during times of economic downturn.

Because of COVID-19, many consumers are flocking to discount retailers due to strained finances. Dollar stores are a vital, consistent source for inexpensive staple items, and most accept SNAP benefits. While many retailers are struggling to combat the negative effects of “shelter in place” orders, dollar stores have seen a rise in sales. The market for these discount retailers is strong as tenants see continued demand from both new and existing consumers.

COVID-19 Impact: Shopping Centers

Shopping centers have seen a decrease in foot traffic and an increase in vacancies over the past decade due largely to a change in consumer spending habits. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new set of challenges for both large and small shopping centers. “Shelter in place” orders mean that foot traffic has become virtually non-existent within shopping centers that do not feature essential businesses like grocery stores or pharmacies.

Open-air shopping centers anchored by grocers, drug stores or home improvement stores should expect gains during the pandemic as these tenants have all been deemed “essential.” Customers have begun to visit their local brick-and-mortar grocery stores because of disruptions to the supply chain for many online and warehouse club retailers. In contrast, regional indoor malls and unanchored strip centers will likely experience the most distress during this economic downturn.

How can Ground + Space help?

The team at Ground + Space 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.

Are you interested in maximizing your return on a commercial real estate investment? Ground + Space is a leading commercial real estate firm that specializes in single-tenant and retail NNN investments. Contact Michael Zimmerman or Brett Sheldon today to find out more about our current listings and our superior services.