Commercial Real Estate, Capital, Insurance, Leasing & Management

Tampa Bay Times: Tampa Bay retailers outpacing the nation in COVID recovery, report says

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The region is among the top metros in the U.S. to buy retail property, according to the Urban Land Institute.

It’s been more than a year and a half since the coronavirus was first detected in Florida and stores had to adjust to stay in business amid the global public health crisis.

But the stressors of the pandemic are seemingly in the rearview for a number of Tampa Bay businesses, as many are performing as well as they did before COVID-19, if not better, according to a report from Franklin Street, a Tampa-based commercial real estate firm. The report also found that Tampa Bay’s retail industry is outpacing the nation in coronavirus recovery.

Part of that has to do with Florida policies, which kept businesses open through much of the pandemic, and spurred people moving into the state, as well as the back-to-back sports championships of the Tampa Bay Bucs and Lightning franchises, Franklin Street analysts told the Tampa Bay Times. Even while the delta variant slowed the pace, Florida continued to outperform much of the rest of the country.

Foot traffic around retailers nearly reached pre-COVID levels when the vaccine became readily available to Floridians in late March, cellphone location data from Placer A.I. showed. It dipped slightly during the delta variant’s surge, but has been gradually on the rise again.

Hillsborough County shopping and dining trips recovered by 97 percent in September. Pinellas County was up 95 percent and Pasco saw the largest rebound, with foot traffic up 103 percent. Local spas and beauty shops saw some of the largest gains and surpassed pre-pandemic traffic levels, according to Franklin Street.

“It’s a national trend. People are definitely wanting to care for themselves more, and they’re willing to spend more money on themselves,” said Alex Wright, the senior director of retail for Franklin Street.

The Tampa Bay metro area is ranked among the top five emerging markets for real estate, according to a report from the Urban Land Institute, for strong growth, homebuilding outlook, affordability and job prospects.

“I honestly have not seen a market like this,” said Brian Bern, managing director of retail with Franklin Street. He said there’s an influx of franchises, both new and existing, with interest in expanding into Tampa Bay. “This is unlike any boom I’ve seen.”

Despite the economic slowdown, condominium and apartment complexes are continuing with construction on both sides of the bay. Many of these complexes are outfitted with retail and office space opportunities, too. Analysts say there is more demand than space available in Tampa Bay.

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