National commercial real estate developer SimonCRE is experiencing a surge in shopping center projects already this year with a 85 percent revenue increase in the first quarter compared to last year. Having just inked its sixth shopping center purchase and renovation venture this quarter, the firm is on track for a record-breaking year. SimonCRE is a preferred developer for national retailers including Dollar General, Verizon Wireless’s largest national independent dealer and EZCorp retail shops. Joshua Simon, president of SimonCRE, has made large gains for his company by closely monitoring consumer economic trends then taking efficient, decisive action. He partners with retailers that he feels deliver value to customers, whether through competitive pricing structures or specialty service offerings.
According to Simon, the retailers that will experience the highest levels of success are the ones that are currently right-sizing their spaces then catering to the needs of their consumer base. “As the shopping center real estate market slowly picks back up, there are two predominant trends that are emerging across the country,” says Simon on the future industry outlook. “Commodity and product retailers are downsizing their space in an effort to shed costly overhead, then are utilizing less expensive online sales tools. At the same time, retail space is transitioning from product focused venues to experiential retail. Coffee houses, wine bars and shopping malls are continuing to see increased customer traffic because they offer the consumer an encounter they cannot get at home.”
Market statistics support Simon’s assessment as the numbers indicate slow growth. The total vacancy rate for strip malls is slowly improving since it hit the peak in the third quarter of 2011 at 11.1 percent. As of the fourth quarter in 2013, the vacancy rate is down 70 basis points to 10.4 percent nationally. Consistent with the vacancy rates, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) notes that the commercial real estate market remains oversatured with 23.8 square feet of retail shopping center space for every person in the United States.
Last month, commercial-mortgage backed security delinquency rates were at 5.77 percent compared with 7.83 percent in 2012 and 8.11 percent in 2011. Mortgages being paid on time suggests that retail space is in use by productive tenants. These numbers help to account for the overall sentiment within the industry. According to the ICSC Shopping Center Executive Survey, business is now expanding although it is at a slower pace than in previous years. This survey also pointed out that over the next six months, business is expected to increase.
“The industry is adjusting from the roller coaster of the past few years and is now coming into a new equilibrium. I’ve found that it is important to seize an opportunity when it presents itself,” says Simon on his business philosophy. “Understanding the reason behind market fluctuations is key to successfully preparing your company for the future.”