Retail Inventory and Vacancy: Total retail space in Greater Hartford currently totals 37.2 million square feet, a nominal increase of only 17,000 square feet from last year. In today’s environment, limiting new development should be regarded as a good thing. Much of the existing vacancy needs to be filled or demolished before any substantial new retail space can be added to the region, and the region took considerable strides this year toward accomplishing just that. Total occupancy increased by more than 350,000 square feet in 2015, lowering the vacancy rate in Greater Hartford from 11.0% in 2014 to 10.1% this year.
Size Classifications: Although the market experienced a substantial decline in vacancy last year, it was one size classification in particular that deserves most of the credit. The 25,000-49,999 square foot bracket dropped from 12.2% all the way down to 6.7%, one of the largest declines ever reported. Grossman’s Bargain Outlet now occupies part of a vacant Big Y in East Hartford, Harbor Freight replaced a portion of a former A&P space in Berlin, and Goodwill took part of a space previously occupied by TJ Maxx in Avon, all of which contributed to the improvement in this size classification. In addition, Edge Fitness will be opening in the former Border’s space in Manchester and Hartford Health Care will replace a vacant A&P in Vernon, both expected to open this fall. The 50,000-99,999 square foot classification also showed significant improvement, lowering its vacancy rate from 7.9% to 6.8%. The primary contributor was Ocean State Job Lot, which now occupies most of the space left behind by the A&P at Webster Square in Berlin. Ocean State closed its smaller store in the same shopping center. The only category to end the year with higher vacancy was the 5,000-9,999 square foot store segment, with some of the fallout coming from closings of Pier 1 in Manchester, Salvation Army in Vernon, Family Dollar in New Britain, and True Value Hardware in Avon.
Town Rankings: The top ten among Greater Hartford towns, based on square feet of retail space supply, remained the same as in 2014, with only one shift in the rankings: Farmington inched ahead of East Hartford into sixth place this year. It should be no surprise that the top three towns are Manchester, West Hartford, and Enfield, all regional retail hubs serving Greater Hartford. Manchester dominates the region with 5.4 million square feet of retail space; West Hartford comes in a distant second with 2.9 million square feet. However, it should be noted that the 1.3 million square foot Westfarms regional mall, which straddles the West Hartford/Farmington line, has a Farmington address but is very much rooted in the West Hartford retail hub. Consequently, West Hartford is effectively a 4.0 million square foot market. In terms of vacancy rates, lowest vacancy was found in West Hartford, Rocky Hill, and Newington, all under 5.0%. Last year only Rocky Hill was under that threshold. Farmington and Plainville complete the top five. Among towns with the highest vacancy rates, three towns remain above the 20% level, including East Windsor, East Hartford, and New Britain. Berlin was also above 20% last year but improved to 17.1%, but is still ranked fourth, followed by South Windsor.
Retailer Activity: Fallas, a family-owned clothing retailer, acquired Conway Stores last year and as a result now operates the former CW Price store in Wethersfield. This 39,280 square foot unit represents the most retail space added to the region by any retailer. Dave & Buster’s opened last year in Manchester and is ranked second. Close behind is Grossman’s Bargain Outlet in East Hartford, which now shares a former Big Y unit with Cardio Express. With respect to store additions, there was not much to get excited about in Greater Hartford. The leader in the region was Subway, opening only four new locations. A couple of retailers added two stores, including Menchie’s Yogurt and AT&T Wireless.
Conversely, the aforementioned Fallas acquisition resulted in CW Price leading all retailers in space contraction. Mill Stores followed, closing its only store in the region in Manchester. Digiplex Cinemas sold its one unit to Carmike, ending the year in third place. Only three retailers closed two or more stores in the region. Radio Shack led the way with six units, followed by Verizon Wireless with three stores and OneMain Financial with two branches.
The KeyPoint Report examines the retail real estate marketplace for Greater Hartford, Connecticut, with a focus on changes between August 2014 and July 2015. This report provides an analysis of changes in the region's retail activity and examines supply, vacancy and absorption, retailer activity, and market composition by store size and retail categories. The Greater Hartford market includes 26 cities and towns and represents more than 835 square miles. The complete report contains much more detailed information on these categories and more, and will be available soon at KeyPointpartners.com.
Bob Sheehan, Vice President of Research
KeyPoint Partners’ GRIID™ database maintains detailed information on virtually all retail properties in three key regions: Eastern Massachusetts, Southern New Hampshire and Greater Hartford, Connecticut. These markets encompass approximately 44% of all retail space in New England. GRIID™ has information on nearly 260 million square feet of retail space and approximately 60,000 retail establishments. The KeyPoint Reports contain a summary and analysis of market trends and activity for each studied area.The KeyPoint Report for Eastern Massachusetts/Greater Boston and The KeyPoint Report for Southern New Hampshire have been released, and are available at KeyPointPartners.com.