Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How Will Retail Fare in 2010?

As 2010 gets underway it is inevitable the same questions which many had in ’08 and ’09 will be asked again. Concerns about the health of our economy, specifically retail, have not been resolved. Outright recovery is not forecasted and many are now predicting an extended economic quagmire. Since it appears likely the climate will be similar to last years, the companies that do well in 2010 will likely be the same that succeeded in the previous two years.

As reported by Shopping Center Business, the top three expanding U.S. Retailers in 2009 were: McDonald’s with 1000 stores, Walgreens with 554 and Dollar General with 500. These three companies perfectly illustrate that “value” is the biggest seller in today’s market. This trend has continued into 2010. In February Walgreens agreed to buy Duane Reade (257 drug stores) and the operator of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls announced “plans to nearly double its overall store count from just above 2,700 units to 4,200 locations”, with 130 new stores planned for this year. Dollar General not only plans to open 600 new stores this year, but will feature investor friendly lease terms as it moves away from its traditional modified double-net lease to a more favorable triple net lease. This will definitely be a crowd pleaser for net lease investors, who seek no landlord responsibilities and wish only to receive a monthly check.

While the 0.3% and 0.5% increases in retail sales respectively for December and January encourage the possibility that sales will significantly increase this year, it seems likely they will generally remain flat. With an average unemployment rate of 9.8% forecasted for 2010, many families will continue to place a preference on savings and value. This plays to the advantage of companies such as McDonald’s, Dollar General and Walgreens, ensuring their expansions will continue. Furthermore, a recovery may not necessitate a return to 2005 spending practices. Many consumers were badly burned through the over-leveraging which allowed for the high level of purchases seen in the “boom years”; this could encourage a long term preference for value.

In the past two years the most successful net lease tenants have been value tenants such as McDonalds, Dollar General and Walgreens. Their focus on affordable products has not only ensured survival, but allowed for great amounts of store expansion. With no indicator to say otherwise, it is likely this trend will hold for the duration of 2010.

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