Industry Changing Insights from ICSC RECon

ICSC’s 2018 RECon Global Retail Real Estate Convention hosted the world’s largest global gathering of retail real estate professionals, among whom industry acumen and insights were shared and discussed. We answered questions like “What is the future of malls and power centers?” “How will technology play a role in maintaining a competitive advantage for retail real estate companies?” and ” How are internet sales impacting retailers?” From our various meetings and conversations, here is how the industry is changing, and what you can expect to see in the future:

1. Contrarians looking for power center product are finding higher yields, but are having a difficult time assessing risk. How this shows up in the market is fewer offers made, and pricing significantly off of Sellers’ expectations. There still is a truing up process going on in this part of the market, and the balance of 2018 will reflect this shift.

2.There is high competition for grocery anchored product, with pricing remaining firm in this product type. This lack of softening on pricing reflects investor sentiment that there is less risk in this area of retail.

3. Daily needs shopping is not as threatened as was perceived last year – Internet sales are enhancing sales for daily needs retailers, and not threatening them. Most shoppers still want to pick certain grocery items personally. However, some items they are pre-ordering which they pick up after shopping for non-preordered items.

4.Malls continue to seek their equilibrium point in the market – pricing for this product type remains very soft, reflective of reduced demand, lack of financing, and a collective view is that there is much more fallout in this sector – some saying that there will be half as many malls in the future as there are today. The adjustment will take many forms, ranging from partial repurposing to alternative uses, to complete scrapes.

An interesting observation from one seasoned client: The demise of malls started with the rise of the two-income family, which led to shorter and fewer shopping trips, and a higher focus on value, which fostered the development of power centers and the advent of discount retailers.

5.Technology is a key to maintaining a competitive advantage. For some it will involve AI, and for others a more robust use of existing technology. Real estate in general has been slow to adopt technology, however retail tenants are definitely embracing technology as part of their operating strategy. Mobile phone data is being leveraged in many ways including tracking consumers, spending patterns, etc.

6. There remains a disconnect between buyers and sellers on pricing overall, but that gap is narrowing, and we anticipate a high volume of transactions in the third and fourth quarters of this year.

In general, we are in a transitional market with more optimism than pessimism. Retail investors need to carefully assess the risk of their portfolio and their new acquisitions. Fears about online retailing undermining sticks-and-bricks retail are overblown; however the industry is rapidly moving further toward value and convenience, tied to the changing lifestyle of the average American. Companies investing in technology maintain a competitive advantage. Let us know how we can help you.

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