Commercial Real Estate, Capital, Insurance, Leasing & Management

What will replace Toys “R” Us and Winn-Dixie stores around Tampa Bay?

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Brian Bern, senior director of retail leasing, discusses the future of Toys R Us and Winn-Dixie locations in Tampa.

Excerpted from story.

Aldi and Target are both eyeing a Toys “R” Us location in Miami-Dade County.

It could be a bidding war in Indianapolis, where Big Lots and PGA Tour Super Store both put in offers on the same Toys “R” Us lot.

Only a handful of the roughly 800 to-be shuttered Toys “R” Us locations are up for auction by a New York law firm. Most of the bankrupt stores, like the ones in Tampa Bay, will be left for landlords to fill.

Brokers aren’t worried about that task. If anything, retailers have been starved for space.

“I’ve got a whole page of prospects already for a Babies “R” Us,” said Jim Kovacs, managing director of retail services with Colliers International.

Retailers are jumping on that Babies “R” Us on U.S. 19 in Clearwater, not far from the Clearwater Mall.

There’s six other Babies or Toys “R” Us stores that will be empty by the end of the month. Add on a Harveys and five Winn-Dixie supermarkets closing at the same time, and there’s upwards of 500,000 square feet of retail space that’s about to be up for grabs in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties.

“In most cases, the landlords are going to be in a better position with these boxes vacant because of the prospect of new tenants. Period,” Kovacs said. “Given the vintage of Winn-Dixie and Babies and Toys “R” Us leases, many rents are below current market conditions.”

So what could be moving in?

Chains putting in bids at the Toys “R” Us auction could be an indication: Ashley Furniture, Raymour and Flanigan, Shoe Station, Food Bazaar and Fit Factory have all made offers.

Local experts suspect discount stores also will be players.

“Probably leading the pack on expansion are the TJ Maxxes of the world, the Bed Bath & Beyond, the Ross Dress for Less,” said Franklin Street senior director Brian Bern.

Just because Winn-Dixie is struggling, Bern wouldn’t count out other grocery stores taking the spaces.

“You’ve got smaller grocery concepts like Aldi, organic grocer Lucky’s and Sprouts that are continuing to expand at a fast rate,” he said.

In general, retailers have been seeking out smaller spaces than the traditional big box storefronts.

Winn-Dixie stores, on average, are about 47,000 square feet. Bern said the open spots likely will need to be split into multiple storefronts to meet the current market’s demands.

“The retailers that are expanding are smaller than these places,” Bern said. “So they have to find a user that’s going to be on the other side. That’s going to slow down the process.”

But when it’s completed, Bern said, the fresh retail space will likely reinvigorate the surrounding shopping center.”

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