By US Daily Review Staff.
The U.S. retail real estate sector witnessed a moderate recovery in the first quarter of 2012 led by retail investment sales, as trades of significant retail properties increased nearly 90 percent over Q1 2011, according to Jones Lang LaSalle’s Spring Retail Forecast.
“Improving economic fundamentals continue to drive a modest recovery. However, significant risks remain, with the most critical being the European crisis and uncertainty about fiscal policy,” said Greg Maloney, President and CEO of Retail at Jones Lang LaSalle. “While retailers are faring better than we’ve seen in the past two years, we witnessed a greater number of underperforming store closings this year. In addition, there continues to be a gradual absorption of available space, but rental rates have still not bottomed out nor are they expected to do so for several quarters.”
Retail Capital Markets Highlights
“Retail real estate sales recorded a fantastic quarter with significant retail property sales totaling $12.5 billion, which represented an 87 percent increase over Q1 2011,” said Margaret Caldwell, Managing Director of Capital Markets at Jones Lang LaSalle. “Interestingly, portfolio transactions accounted for more than half of the first quarter’s volume, totaling $6.6 billion.”
Additional retail real estate investment highlights include:
- Average cap rates fell to 7.3 percent, with regional malls experiencing the sharpest decline.
- Strip center cap rates rose slightly in Q1 2012, largely as a result of higher-yield buildings in secondary markets changing hands.
- Cap rates fell significantly across most major metro areas, secondary and tertiary markets. Secondary markets in particular have seen a revival in transaction volume jumping 27 percent in the last six months. Major metros, on the other hand, only experienced a 16 percent jump in transaction volume while tertiary markets declined by 4 percent.
- Distressed properties continue to be a major factor with new inflows totaling $1.9 billion in Q1 2012. Workout activity totaled $2.6 billion, resulting in a $700 million decrease in distress balances. Outstanding distress now stands at $28.3 billion.
- The West region led retail property sales for Q1 2012 with $4.14 billion in transactions, followed by the Southeast with $2.4 billion, the Midwest at $1.83 billion, the Southwest with $1.62 billion, the Mid-Atlantic at $1.26 billion, and the Northeast with $1.25 billion.
Retail Leasing Highlights
Vacancy fell 20 basis points year over year, closing Q1 2012 at 6.9 percent. Net absorption was moderate compared to the previous quarter, totaling just over 12.3 million square feet, but consistent with the trend over the past year. Deliveries were relatively lower as well, coming in at 7.2 million square feet. Vacancy rates are approximately 50 basis points below their peak but still 60 basis points higher than their 10-year average, so it is still a tenant’s market and should continue to be through 2013.
Additional retail leasing highlights include the following:
- Retail properties serving national tenants (i.e., malls, power centers and outlet centers) are seeing the greatest compression in vacancy rates, as these tenants continue to expand their portfolios.
- Centers serving “mom-and-pop” stores – such as community centers, neighborhood centers and strip centers – have yet to recover in earnest.
- Rents are beginning to stabilize. While aggregate rents continue to fall, the rate of decline has flattened in recent quarters.
- Power center rents in major markets fell the most over the year, declining some 5.5 percent.
- Though demand levels had been flat initially after the 2011 holiday sales season, many retailers have been modestly increasing their expansion plans.
Retail Trends Affecting Real Estate
“Performance is critical as both retailers and landlords need to maximize ROI for the remainder of the year,” said Lew Kornberg, Managing Director of Retail Tenant Solutions at Jones Lang LaSalle. “However, employment levels will remain the leading indicator of what we can expect to see next year in terms of growth in the retail sector.”
Trends affecting retail leasing, marketing and performance include the following highlights:
- Urban retail and outlet centers should take center stage as more consumers move back into cities and focus on value and off-price purchases.
- Store-within-store build-outs should increase as big box retailers seek to more efficiently use excess space and diversify their merchandise to attract more consumers.
- Grocery-anchored strip centers continue to perform relatively well compared to other retail property subtypes.
- The grocery landscape will also shift as many mid-sized regional chains will close locations while high-end and niche grocers will expand. However, the trend will be toward smaller, less traditional space so the total footprint should contract.
- Creative use of big box space may be another major trend as retailers vacate underperforming locations in response to increased competition from online retailers.
- Some physical stores are already unintentionally functioning as living catalogs for online merchandise. The evolving trend of “showrooming” will affect how goods are showcased, priced and sold in stores.
- The addition of retail health clinics within existing stores continues to gain traction.
Jones Lang LaSalle Retail successfully manages the largest third-party retail portfolio in the country. Our portfolio is comprised of unique clients and a broad range of retail properties including regional shopping centers, lifestyle centers, strip malls, power centers, transportation facilities and universities along with redevelopment and mixed-use projects. Jones Lang LaSalle offers a full array of retail services to our clients including property management, financial reporting, leasing, tenant coordination, specialty leasing, marketing, research, development and receivership. For more information on Jones Lang LaSalle Retail, visit www.jllretail.com.