Wednesday, December 16, 2020

KeyPoints 2020 Review: A Year Like No Other

It’s our habit in December to publish a Year in Review, with excerpts from commentaries we’ve published throughout the year, with follow-up comments. But that’s a normal year, and this is 2020, when “normal” took the year off. How do you follow up now on a trend you noted last January? The pandemic upended retail and our reporting on it - not to mention our work situations. For one thing, we’ve switched to an every other month publishing schedule. However, we’ve continued to present insightful commentary. Here then is our Year in Review:

January: Trying to Predict a Brick-and-Mortar 2020 It was a challenging 2019 for brick-and-mortar. You’ve all read about the record-setting store closings: more than 9,300 units closed in 2019, which trumped the previous record of 8,000 in 2017. So what should the retail industry expect as we move into the new calendar year? 

February: Malls: Getting Near The Edge? Macy’s announced that it will close 125 stores over the next three years, app. 1/5 of its more than 600 stores. The initial round of 31 closings is expected to take place early this year. Furthermore, a new location strategy was announced which will focus on smaller stores in off-mall environments. If we take a closer look at what all this means to the mall sector in general, we can see that it means a lot.

March: The Last Domino? Life has been tough on all retailers in recent weeks, particularly the distressed ones. First restaurants and bars were ordered to close, then major retailers elected to close, and then entire malls followed suit. The response to COVID-19 threatens to impact retail foot traffic in ways never before experienced – and exacerbate slowing sales trends at brick-and-mortar stores as shoppers continue to shift dollars online.

April: Entering Uncharted Waters Shopping center landlords have done a respectable job filling vacancies in the wake of the Great Recession, in large part with Amazon-proof tenants such as restaurants, cinemas, trampoline parks, bowling, adventure parks, and fitness centers. These efforts were enough for many centers to survive. But now the industry has been plagued with COVID-19, maybe the most impactful watershed moment that retail veterans have experienced in their lifetimes. 

May: Easing Back to the Mall: May 11-15 As an area resident, I decided to stop by Pheasant Lane Mall, in Nashua, NH on three different occasions to see if shopper enthusiasm would build after 8 weeks of stay-at-home orders. Stores were in no rush to be the first, and shoppers were in no rush to experience the new normal; at least that’s the way Week 1 looked at New Hampshire malls following the lifting of restrictions at stores.

June: A Look Back
Bob Sheehan, the primary author of this column for the last 16 years, is moving on. I asked him to think back to some of the trends affecting retail during the last 16 years and share them. As I listened, I couldn’t help but think of a heavyweight boxer from the 1970’s, Chuck Wepner. Mr. Wepner would take punch after punch, earning the nickname The Bayonne Bleeder, but would seemingly recover and fight another round. Like Chuck Wepner, retail has fought on, at times bloodied and a bit bruised. But it’s important to remember that retail is evolutionary.

July/August: Meeting Change With Intuition How do you make real estate decisions - your feel for the market, or are you data driven?  Most investors I’ve spoken with use a combination. Some are guided by “feel” and let the data confirm (or not) what they believe. Others use data to drive them to markets, and use their “feel” to select the best property. We use demographics to assess demand, market studies to assess supply, and leasing comps to gauge revenue potential. But what happens when historical data is no longer applicable?  Such is the case today, and it began in March as the country started shutting down in response to the pandemic.

September/October: A Masked Halloween This is Halloween 2020, when everyone’s wearing a mask, and the only thing more frightening than a face-to-face meeting is a crowd. Across the country many municipalities are canceling traditional trick-or-treating outright, or at least discouraging it. It’s hard to imagine a Haunted House attraction in this environment, and Halloween parties at schools or community centers will look very different, if they happen at all. What does this mean for retail?

All of which brings us to the close of a retail year like no other. Thank goodness that’s over; now let’s all move forward. There are reasons for hope – vaccines are here, for one thing. Thanks more than ever for your readership and support. Stay with us in 2021; we’re certain there’ll be a great deal to talk about!

We wish you Happy Holidays and a peaceful, prosperous, hope-filled New Year!


 Team News: Chris Domos has been promoted to Property Manager in the Burlington office. Administrative Asst. Kiersten Fuller transitioned to the Property Management team in the Burlington office. Jacques Juslin returned to the Boston office as Assistant Property Manager. Tiernan Pardue has joined the Brookline office as Assistant Property Manager...New Leasing Assignment: VP of Leasing Don Macewill handle North Town Center, Stratford, CT.


 Retail sales rose 0.3% in October, the Commerce Department said. Non-store sales, such as online purchases, jumped 3.1%, probably largely due to Amazon Prime Day. Retail sales fell 1.1% in November. Non-store sales, such as online purchases, fell by 0.5% See sales reports below..


 P.F. Chang’s will open 20 pop-up carry-out locations in NYC & Chicago in the coming months...Amazon has opened its 2nd Amazon Fresh store, in Irvine, CA... Ross Stores opened 30 Ross Dress for Less and 9 dd’s Discounts stores across 9 states in October, completing its growth plans for fiscal 2020 with the addition of 66 stores. Ross Stores operates 1,594 locations in 41 states, and 275 dd’s Discounts stores in 21 states...Avon has opened its 1st physical location, in LA. The 19,000 s/f store, called Studio 1886, is designed as an immersive experience for the brand...Nordstrom will open 2 more Nordstrom Local stores in LA, one of Nordstrom’s largest markets with 14 full-line stores, 30 Rack stores and 3 Nordstrom Locals…Tuesday Morning  will not seek a sale of its assets in Chapter 11, but will seek approval to reorganize as a standalone entity and exit bankruptcy...Inspire Brands has entered into an agreement to acquire Dunkin’ Brands for $11.3 billion. The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2020. With this deal, Inspire grows from over 11,000 restaurants to more than 31,000 with the addition of Dunkin’s 20,000 restaurants...Home Depot has signed a new retail lease in Manhattan for a 120,000 s/f, 4-level space that is is currently home to Bed Bath & Beyond, whose lease expires in 2021...Shake Shack plans to open 35-40 stores in 2021.. Men’s Wearhouse has unveiled a new, 3,000 s/f remodeled store with a reduced merchandise mix and contemporary design...Ulta Beauty has entered into a deal to open Ulta shops inside hundreds of Target stores nationwide. The initiative will roll out at 100 Target stores in 2021.  Terms of the agreement were not disclosed...Bluestar Alliance has signed an agreement to acquire Justice from its parent Ascena Retail Group. Bluestar’s portfolio includes Hurley, bebe, Tahari, Brookstone, Limited Too, and others, with more than 250 stores worldwide...Bed Bath & Beyond has completed the sale of Christmas Tree Shops, its Linen Holdings business, and a distribution center in NJ for app. $250 million…Green Thumb Industries Inc., a cannabis goods company and owner of Rise retail stores, opened Rise Kendall, its 50th retail location…Grocery Outlet will open 3 to 5 stores on the East Coast next year, and expects to open 35 total stores next year... Dollar General opened its 17,000th store, and has launched its first 2 Popshelf stores, a new concept offering non-consumable products and targeting primarily middle-class women. The first 2 stores are in the Nashville area. Dollar General expects to open 30 Popshelf stores by the end of fiscal 2021, and plans to open 1,050 stores in 2021, remodel 1,750 stores, and relocate 100…uBreakiFix has opened its 600th location…The Spice & Tea Exchange opened 5 stores. The company has more than 70 US stores...Ahold Delhaize entered into an agreement, along with Centerbridge Partners, to acquire online grocer FreshDirect for an undisclosed sum. FreshDirect delivers fresh groceries to customers in 7 states...Ascena Retail Group, parent of Ann Taylor, LOFT, and Lane Bryant will be bought out of bankruptcy by private equity firm Sycamore Partners, which owns Talbots, The Limited, and Staples. The company plans to keep a substantial portion of the stores, and expects the deal to close by mid-December…Goldfish Swim School Franchising, LLC signed 20 agreements, on track to surpass last year’s 17 openings...Tropical Smoothie Café opened its 900th cafe, signed 214 franchise agreements, and opened 87 US locations...Aldi opened a 3rd Miami location. Aldi now has 42 stores in Florida, part of a strategy to add 70 locations this fall alone. With over 2,000 stores in 36 states, Aldi will become one of the largest US grocers by 2022…Kohl’s announced a partnership to open 200 in-store Sephora shops by next fall, and expand into 850 Kohl’s stores by 2023. The shops will average 2,500 s/f...Retail Ecommerce Ventures won a bankruptcy court auction for the intellectual property of Stein Mart Inc., with a bid of $6.02 million. REV plans to relaunch the brand, which declared bankruptcy in August and shut down operations, as an online-only retailer in 2021. REV owns various assets of Dressbarn, Franklin Mint, Linens ‘n Things, Modell’s Sporting Goods, Pier I Imports, and Radio Shack…Tailored Brands, whose brands include Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank, Moores Clothing for Men, and K&G, has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and completed its restructuring. Under the terms of the plan, Tailored Brands has eliminated $686 million of debt. Tailored Brands filed for bankruptcy in August, after it announced plans to close 500 stores...J.C. Penney has exited Chapter 11 and completed its sale agreement under which Simon Property Group and Brookfield Asset Management acquired substantially all of Penney’s retail and operating assets. The deal was approved by a bankruptcy court in early November. Penney, which closed stores throughout the bankruptcy process, exits Chapter 11 with close to 700 stores nationwide...Walgreens and VillageMD will open 40 primary care clinics by next summer...Twist Brands LLC, parent company of Painting with a Twist, has acquired Color Me Mine and Chesapeake Ceramics, a ceramics supplier. Color Me Mine has 140 units. Painting with a Twist has 300 studios open or in development in 39 states...Nonantum Capital Partners is purchasing Ross-Simons for an undisclosed sum. Ross-Simons sells jewelry online and has 2 Sidney Thomas stores…Starbucks plans to increase its store count to about 55,000 by 2030, up from 33,000 today


 Gap expects to close some 350 stores, approximately 30% of its Gap and Banana Republic stores in North America, by the end of fiscal 2023 (early 2024), with 75% of closures to be completed by the end of fiscal 2021. ..Carter’s will close 25% of its 850 stores as leases come up for renewal or where there is a kickout provision. Carter’s will continue to open stores in more densely populated areas. It plans to open nearly 100 co-branded Carter’s-OshKosh stores during the next 5 years...Pet Valu will close all its 358 US stores and warehouses in the U.S., as well as its corporate office in Wayne, PA...Francesca’s plans to close 234 stores by Jan. 30. The retailer runs about 700 locations, mostly in malls...Caleres plans to close 133 stores under its Naturalizer  footwear brand by the end of fiscal 2020…Guitar Center has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with plans to reduce its debt by $800 million. The company plans to keep its nearly 300 US stores open during the process, which it expects to complete by the end of the year...Francesca’s has filed for filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with intention to sell its business. In November, Francesca’s revealed plans to close 140 of its 700 stores. As of Dec. 4, 558 stores were open...Bed Bath & Beyond has entered into an agreement to sell Cost Plus World Market to Kingswood Capital Management. Financial terms were not disclosed. The agreement includes 243 stores.


 Paris Baguette announced its 2nd MA location, a new franchise in Quincy. Paris Baguette operates more than 82 corporate and franchise bakery-cafés throughout the US...Streetwear retailer Concepts opened a global flagship store in Boston on Newbury St...Friendly’s has declared bankruptcy and has an agreed to be sold to Amici Partners Group for app. $2 million. Amici is affiliated with Brix Holdings, a company that owns Red Mango, Smoothie Factory, Souper Salad, Redbrick Pizza and Greenz. The company said nearly all of its 130 locations are expected to remain open... Online beauty brand Madison Reed is opening its first retail store, The Madison Reed Mini Bar, in Boston, part of Seaport’s retail incubator The Current…Citizens Bank will close 26 MA Stop & Shop branches, to begin in January...Chef/restaurateur Jason Santos will open a 2nd Buttermilk & Bourbon restaurant at Watertown’s new Arsenal Yards development...99 Restaurants closed its pubs in Braintree and West Concord. Restaurants in Seekonk and Worcester are also expected to close soon, though no date was given. 99 has more than 100 locations in New England and New York, including 60 in MA...Stonewall Kitchen has opened a store next to the Boston Children’s Museum. The 3,000 s/f  location features a curated assortment of the brand’s offerings along with a PB & J Café. There are 10 Stonewall Kitchen stores in New England...Berkshire Bank will close or sell more than 20 branches. The move will cut Berkshire’s branch network by nearly a 5th...Webster Bank plans to close 27 branches across CT, MA, and RI over the next 6 months...Market Basket’s newest store opened in Maynard, MA…Furniture shop Mill 77 Exchange, local candy shop The Candy Dish, and women’s fashion boutique Style Snoop will open at MarketStreet Lynnfield


 Rug merchant Safavieh has purchased the Stamford Town Center mall in Stamford, CT from Taubman for $20.15 million. The 750,000 s/f property now becomes part of Yaraghi Realty, a Safavieh unit that owns or is developing nearly 15 million s/f of commercial property... J.C. Penney has entered into an asset purchase agreement with Brookfield Asset Management, Simon Property Group, and a majority of the company’s first lien lenders. Penney expects to operate outside of Chapter 11 before the holiday season. Under the agreement, Brookfield and Simon, Penney’s two biggest landlords, will acquire substantially all Penney’s retail and operating assets through a combination of cash and new term loan debt. The agreement includes the formation of separate holding companies, made up of 160 of Penney’s real estate assets and all of its owned distribution centers, which will be owned by a group of the company’s lenders. Brookfield and Simon will enter into master leases with the lenders for the properties and distribution. The deal is still subject to court approval and other conditions...Mall owner PREIT has filed for Chapter 11 protection to gain access to an additional $150 million to extend its debt maturity schedule and allow it to follow through with planned strategic moves...Wayfair’s first-ever retail store, in the Natick (MA) Mall, is closing after 1 ½ years.


 NOTE: Because of the pandemic, many chains have reported net sales, not comp store sales, or company revenue - or postponed reporting.

Notes: figures gathered from individual company websites, press releases, and Federal filings.  Not all companies report all figures; results not reported will be marked “n/r”. Quarterly results will be updated when available; quarterly figures are shown in italics. Figures from companies not calculated to one decimal point automatically received an ending digit of 0. 


 October: Retail sales rose 0.3% last month. Excluding autos, gas, building materials, and food services, sales rose 0.1%. November: Retail sales fell 1.1% last month. Excluding autos, gas, building materials, and food services, sales 0.5%.

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce -



Treasury Yield Sources:;


 November: The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® declined slightly in October, after increasing sharply in September. The Index now stands at 100.9, down from 101.3 in September. December: The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® declined in November, after remaining relatively flat in October. The Index now stands at 96.1, down from 101.4 (an upward revision) in October.

Source: The Conference Board -


November: Manufacturing grew in October, as the Manufacturing PMI® registered 59.3 percent, 3.9 percentage points higher than the September reading of 55.4 percent. 

December: The PMI registered 57.5 percent, down 1.8 percentage points from the October reading of 59.3 percent.

Source: Institute for Supply Management - Manufacturing Report on Business -