America has too many malls.
I’ve recently blogged that many traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are being threatened with “economic destruction” by their advantaged online competition. In an interview with Bloomberg TV, anchorwoman Nicole Lapin asked about the implications of this dynamic on retail real estate. I said I hadn’t studied it, but I thought the ramifications would be very big and very negative (I believe the phrase “apocalyptic” was used).
I’ve since had the opportunity to spend some time looking at this issue, and I believe we’re seeing clear signs that the e-commerce revolution is seriously impacting commercial real estate. Online retailers are relentlessly gaining share in many retail categories, and offline players are fighting for progressively smaller pieces of the retail pie. A number of physical retailers have already succumbed to online competition including Circuit City, Borders, CompUSA, Tower Records and Blockbuster, and many others are showing signs of serious economic distress. These mall and shopping center stalwarts are closing stores by the thousands, and there are few large physical chains opening stores to take their place. Yet the quantity of commercial real estate targeting retail continues to grow, albeit slowly. Rapidly declining demand for real estate amid growing supply is a recipe for financial disaster.