Major retailers now have to compete on two fronts — the online world, and the traditional brick-and-mortars. The former is growing by leaps and bounds at the expense of the latter. Because of this dramatic shift in consumer shopping behavior, multiple companies are forced to close their doors. Why have them open and incur steep overhead costs when you can make better sales online?
From a business perspective, it makes perfect sense. But as more companies wake up to this trend, the retail market risks fracturing. That’s because when the big shops close for good, they eliminate the foot traffic that was once there. This siphoning inevitably spells trouble for already embattled retail real estate investment trusts, or REITs.
Mall REITs control the vast properties occupied by major shopping centers and strip malls. For decades, business was good. Anybody that wanted anything in the pre-internet era had to go to a retail establishment, and retailers were willing to pay top dollar for prime real estate. Mall REITs were making money hand over fist.
But all that changed with e-commerce. Physical location no longer carried the magnitude of advantage it once did. As consumers began buying discretionary items through their computers, the brick-and-mortars fell below their break-even point. When they closed, they took the cash flow of mall REITs with them.
The initial closures were the mom-and-pops. But when the majors started collapsing, mall REITs suddenly found themselves in a sea of red ink. And that’s exactly why so many publicly-traded variants have fallen underwater. There’s no one to pick up the slack. Worse yet, in the retail market, nobody wants to.