April 8, 2021: -The vacancy rate for regional malls in the U.S. hit a record 11.4% in the first quarter of 2021 from 10.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to Moody’s Analytics’ commercial real estate division.
The 90 basis-points rises marked the high the firm has seen to date, crossing the record 80 basis-point spike in 2009, in the thick of the Great Recession.
The U.S. has nearly 1,000 malls, according to the commercial real estate services firm Green Street. Moody tracks nearly 700 of them for its analysis.
Shopper traffic to many enclosed malls has steadily dropped over the years, with Americans spending more online. The global health crisis only accelerated this pattern.
While other commercial real estate sectors such as multifamily apartment buildings show progress, retail remains the pressured one, Moody’s found in its latest quarterly report.
Industrial real estate has been the most resilient property type, with much-demanded warehouses in which goods can be stored and fulfill e-commerce orders surging. Warehouse rents and distribution properties across the country are positive, till now, in the pandemic duration, Calanog said.
Office space, like retail, continues to see increased vacancy rates and rents going down. Many businesses are still grappling with what the future of workspace is going to look like. Companies consider culling their office footprints and allow employees to embrace work from home.
Forty-eight of the 79 U.S. metro areas that Moody’s tracks suffered effective office rent declines in the first quarter. In the hardest-hit areas included Charleston, South Carolina, down 3.5%, New York, down 1.8%; and San Francisco, down 1.6%.
In the retail sector, 40 of the 77 metros recorded the declines in effective rent during the first quarter, Moody’s found. Here, retail is the only representative of neighborhood and community shopping centers, not indoor malls, the firm noted.
Store growth in retail today has primarily been concentrated in the off-price and discount space, with businesses like Dollar General, Lidl, TJ Maxx, Burlington, and Five Below plotting more significant expansions. Beauty businesses Ulta and Sephora are also still opening shops, anticipating a solid post-pandemic rebound in visits to brick-and-mortar stores.
But that growth won’t always be enough to offset decay elsewhere.