We have commented over the past few months about the accelerating trend toward online retailing and its significant impact on the mall sector, especially in “B” locations. Champions of brick and mortar retailing challenge that the online percentages are not relevant when compared to sales in malls, strip-centers and other conventional outlets. Alas, historical conventions no longer carry weight, and REIT investors are fleeing the sector depressing stock prices by as much as 17% for the B-mall category companies. There is no doubt about it, online retailing is swinging a one-two punch to malls but we need to be careful, and not over-estimate where the trend will take us. In my view, secondary and tertiary malls are kaput, but strong submarket and premier malls will thrive, albeit with a significant modification to the mall model. Sears, Penny’s, Macy’s, and GameStop Corps have announced the closing of 510 stores over the next year. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist of recognize that many of these closings will deal a mortal blow to weaker malls, but on the premium end of the market the closings will actually provide significant upside as mall owners reposition with lifestyle, new entrants such as Amazon’s Apple-like stores and the like. As with any trend there will be the winners and losers, but for now, take a look at some of the bargains in the Retail REIT sector as investors overreact and provide a play for bottom fishers.
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