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.