Since October, the retail industry has shed 89,000 jobs nationwide. There are now more newly unemployed retailers than the entire U.S. coal industry’s workforce, for perspective. But aside from the job losses, millions of square feet of retail space is being placed back on the market.
In Jacksonville, there’s the about 200,000-square-foot Sears location at the Regency Mall. A JC Penney at Lem Turner Road and Dunn Avenue that will be closed sometime this year will add another 100,000 square feet of retail space. And as other retailers continue to be impacted by the e-commerce revolution and the consumers’ shifting preference to buy independent or local, vacant retail space is likely to continue to ballon available inventory in certain Jacksonville submarkets.
This shift has been building for years, but recently the effects of shifting customer shopping habits has caused retailers to react in a big way with department stores across the country shuttering stores that were no longer profitable.
In 2017, store closures are on pace to eclipse the number of stores closed during the depths of the Great Recession.
What will happen with these now dark blocks of space?
Real estate brokers from across the First Coast expect that like with any retail trend, location will dictate which spaces are backfilled quickest.
Carrie Smith, a managing director with Franklin Street, said that any deals to back fill a vacant retailer will come down to three things: Location, the landlord’s appetite or ability to land an anchor deal and timing.
“The better located empty boxes can get filled if the landlord has the wherewithal to make it happen,” she said. “The poorer located ones will take a lot more time and patience and comes down to the ownership.”