There’s no end in sight to American’s shopping mall crisis, according to a Morningstar research report.
Hundreds of shopping malls have shut down over the last several years amid a pullback in consumer spending on apparel and accessories and the growth of ecommerce.
But the US is still oversaturated with shopping malls, and that’s putting $48 billion in loans backed by mall properties at risk, according to the Morningstar analysts.
“The abundance of space, the growth of e-commerce, and other factors are forcing retailers to reconsider their physical store strategy,” the analysts wrote.
The US has 23.5 square feet of retail space per person, compared with 16.4 square feet in Canada and 11.1 square feet in Australia – the next two countries with the highest retail space per capita.
Department stores like Sears, Macy’s, and JCPenney have been closing stores to try and get rid of unprofitable stores, and that’s had a devastating effect on malls.
When an anchor stores closes, it often triggers a “downward spiral in performance” for shopping malls “that in some cases has led to massive losses on loans,” analysts said.
“Properties in secondary and tertiary markets, anchored by department-store chains that have shuttered locations, such as Macy’s, Sears, and JCPenney, are particularly susceptible to dramatic devaluation,” they wrote.
When an anchor store closes, shopping malls don’t only lose the income and shopper traffic from that store’s business.
It often triggers “co-tenancy clauses” that allow the remaining mall tenants to exercise the right to terminate their leases or renegotiate the terms, typically with a period of lower rents, until another retailer moves into the vacant anchor space.
To reduce losses, malls must quicklyfind a replacement tenant for the massive retail space that the anchor store occupied, which is nearly impossible – especially in malls that are already financially strapped – when every major department store is reducing its retail footprint.
That can have “grave” consequences for shopping malls, especially in markets where it’s harder to transform vacant mall space into non-retail space like apartments, according to the analysts.
“We are concerned as these anchors further consolidate amid oversupply,” the analysts wrote. “More than one third of all securitized mall loans have exposure to Macy’s, JCPenney, and Sears, while another third is exposed to two of the three anchors.”
The Morningstar report supports a recent analysis from Credit Suisse that said about 200 shopping malls are at risk of shutting down if Sears continues to close stores.