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Friday, October 03, 2014

Reis: Mall Vacancy Rate unchanged in Q3

by Calculated Risk on 10/03/2014 02:31:00 PM

Reis reported that the vacancy rate for regional malls was unchanged at 7.9% in Q3 2014. This is down from a cycle peak of 9.4% in Q3 2011.

For Neighborhood and Community malls (strip malls), the vacancy rate was also unchanged at 10.3% in Q3. For strip malls, the vacancy rate peaked at 11.1% in Q3 2011.

Comments from Reis Senior Economist Ryan Severino:

[Strip Malls] The national vacancy rate for neighborhood and community shopping centers was unchanged at 10.3% during the third quarter. This is similar to last quarter when the vacancy rate did not change. The national vacancy is now down 80 basis points from its historical peak during the third quarter of 2011. Of course, this means the pace of improvement is slow and consistent.

Completions during the quarter were low, even by the standards of this tepid recovery. Construction has yet to mount any meaningful recovery since the recession. Most of the construction occurring is small and almost always predicated on preleasing. There is still virtually no new speculative development five years removed from the start of the economic recovery.
Ecommerce remains a potent threat to many retail centers, but at this point, that is not what is holding the market back. The overwhelming majority of retail sales activity, roughly 94%, still occurs in physical retail locations. Surely that has imperiled some centers, but not the majority. Though ecommerce's share of the market will continue to grow and pose a larger threat over time, it will not prevent a recovery in the retail sector.

[Regional] Much like with neighborhood and community centers, the regional mall vacancy rate was unchanged this quarter at 7.9%. Although this is down 30 basis points from the third quarter of 2013, that was the last quarter during which the national vacancy rate for malls declined. Malls have been stuck at 7.9% for a year.
Mall Vacancy Rate Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the strip mall vacancy rate starting in 1980 (prior to 2000 the data is annual). The regional mall data starts in 2000. Back in the '80s, there was overbuilding in the mall sector even as the vacancy rate was rising. This was due to the very loose commercial lending that led to the S&L crisis.

In the mid-'00s, mall investment picked up as mall builders followed the "roof tops" of the residential boom (more loose lending). This led to the vacancy rate moving higher even before the recession started. Then there was a sharp increase in the vacancy rate during the recession and financial crisis.

Mall vacancy data courtesy of Reis.