Slow tourist traffic may be Florida retailers' most pressing concern today. But bigger problems wait on the horizon for some players as the state's retail landscape grows crowded with super-regional malls, power centers and single-tenant properties. With more developers competing to create new space, same-store sales declines become inevitable.

“In terms of the market in general, Florida is one of the three most sought-after in the country along with Texas and California,” says Bernard Haddigan, Atlanta-based national director of Marcus & Millichap's National Retail Group. “It is well-positioned for appreciation and general vitality for the retail market. Drug stores, restaurants, dry goods, the Wal-Marts of the world — you can't keep that product type on the shelf.”

Mall developers Simon Property Group, Taubman Centers and The Rouse Co. have also taken a special interest in the state. All three REITs are renovating, re-tenanting and building new malls in order to corner various Florida markets and stay ahead of competing developers. The result is a fight for market share. Though mall sales have declined across the United States, analysts say some Florida centers have been harder hit due to new competitors. Simon's Miami International Mall watched sales decline 8% when Taubman's Dolphin Mall opened its doors nearby, duplicating 22 tenants.

“New competition, not slow tourism, seems to be the culprit for lower sales,” says Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. analyst Louis Taylor in a report on his recent tour of a dozen South Florida retail properties. “Yes, tourism is down, but the centers that saw the largest declines also saw new competition in their trade areas. We believe the new competition and the very aggressive defensive tactics by other properties are having a greater impact on the market.”

The state's slight drop in population is another concern for developers, particularly those banking on booming growth and rising incomes to support new centers. Population growth had already begun slowing in 2001, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It grew by only 2.6%, compared with an increase of 23.5% the previous year. But the state's growth was still significantly higher than the national average of 1.2%.

The real question for mall developers, particularly Taubman, is whether the number of high-end consumers will grow in proportion to the overall population. “It seems that Taubman is positioning itself for the growth of the high-end consumer,” says Taylor in his report. “Florida's population growth is well documented, but it seems that the success of Taubman's new assets in Orlando, Tampa and Palm Beach is more of a function of the growth in consumers who shop at tenants in the ‘upper moderate, ‘bridge’ and ‘luxury’ price points.” Taylor says all the markets Taubman is targeting have good population growth, “but we're not sure about the income.”

Florida lost a total of about 90,000 jobs between April 2001 and April 2002, according to David Marks, president of Marketplace Advisors Inc., in Orlando. The largest deficit, not surprisingly, was in Orlando, which lost 10,600 jobs. Miami, on the other hand, gained more than 9,000 jobs.

But observers see things on the upswing. Marks terms the job loss “a short-term phenomenon,” while Haddigan points out that a rising population is a better barometer for retail. And, he says, an increase in population growth is coming. “And as goes population growth, so goes rent growth,” he observes. Marcus & Millichap predicts lower vacancy rates and higher asking rents in the state's major markets as the economy slowly recovers and tourism rebounds.

Of course, every major market in this huge state has its own characteristics and demographic trends. This is borne out by the current rankings in Marcus & Millichap's National Retail Index (NRI), which ranks individual markets on forward-looking supply and demand indicators such as per capita income, vacancy rates and total retail sales. Out of 35 retail markets rated nationwide, Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach ranked number 4; Miami was 19; Tampa was 26; and Orlando was 28.

Orlando

Of all the Florida markets, Orlando is the most dependent on tourism, and a recovery of the tourist trade is the key to its continued retail success. “Orlando and central Florida have seen a tremendous amount of retail development,” says Haddigan. “If you look at total retail square footage relative to the population, it will scare you to death. But much of that space is targeting tourists.”

“Growth's going everywhere,” adds John W. Dowd, senior vice president of development, The Goodman Co., in West Palm Beach. “Tourist demand is down a hair, but the tourist dollars are here to stay. Yes, Orlando's over-retailed, but for a good reason; the population is artificially low.” Goodman is putting its money where its mouth is with the current “de-malling” of the old Osceola Square mall in Kissimmee to make way for an upscale power center.“Part of what's going on here is similar to the rest of the country — continued expansion of supercenters, with Wal-Mart and Target still pretty aggressive,” says Marks.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, upscale fashion retailers are also moving into the state. “The new Mall at Millenia, an upscale 1.2 million-sq.-ft. super-regional, will service the whole central Florida market.” The Forbes Co./Taubman project will be anchored by Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Neiman-Marcus. “It's very strategically located, right between the Orlando market and the tourist hub, and very well positioned to capture both markets,” adds Marks.

Simon's Florida Mall, which clocks $490 per sq. ft. in annual sales, is gearing up to fight The Mall at Millenia to maintain its market share. New Nordstrom and Lord & Taylor anchors will open at the mall this year, bringing its total GLA to 2.4 million sq. ft. Florida Mall, which depends on tourists for half of its traffic, saw sales drop about 8% in 2002, according to Deutsche Bank.

Tampa

The Gulf Coast city of Tampa is repositioning itself as a cultural mecca in an attempt to boost retail spending in its downtown by residents and tourists alike. In June, the city began the final phase of a five-year, mixed-use redevelopment of its CBD that has brought in $6 billion in new construction, including a 28-block cultural zone that includes a $47 million art museum. To get locals into the new “Circle of Development” zone, the city is spending $53 million for a new light rail system.

Tampa improved its standing by three places on the Marcus & Milli-chap NRI this year, due to “a lull in new retail construction and only a moderate increase in vacancy.” Rent growth, however, has dipped over the past 12 months. Marcus & Millichap expects retail completions in the Tampa area to fall by nearly 30% in 2002 as developers delay projects in the planning stages until the local economy picks up.

Retailers such as FAO Schwarz and Dillard's have closed stores in the region, but others are expanding. “Wal-Mart just moved into Tampa and Orlando with its 55,000-sq.-ft. grocery stores,” notes Marks. “They continue to make regional grocery stores pretty nervous.”

“One area that is exploding is the northeast corridor,” says Dowd. “There are 30,000 units planned in that corridor, and as fast as they put them up the homes are selling. The retail demand will come very quickly. It started with the grocery stores; now we're starting to see big-box retailers like Super Target, Super Wal-Mart, Lowe's and Home Depot.”

Fort Lauderdale/Palm Beach

There's no mistaking it: This market is strong, retail-wise anyway. Marcus & Millichap predicts that asking rents will rise to $16.51 triple net in 2002 from $16.20 in 2001, while vacancy increases will slow as the economy rebounds. Newer properties continue to attract investors despite steep price premiums.

“The hot news in Broward is the Wal-Mart and Target supercenters,” says Beth Azor, president of Miami-based Terranova Corp. “Two Wal-Marts have opened in Coral Springs and new Targets have opened in Lauderhill and North Lauderdale — all in the past 12 months.”

Another recent trend, says Azor, is the wave of big-box expansion up and down Federal Highway between Sunrise and Commercial Boulevard. “What's unique is that developers and retailers had to put together parcels using old motels,” she says. “Now we're seeing big box after big box — Barnes & Noble, Circuit City, Comp-USA and Bed, Bath & Beyond buying. The land is very expensive, but the retailers believe sales will justify the rents they had to pay — and so far they are.”

FLORIDA STATISTICAL SUMMARY
MSA Vacancy rate (%) Annual asking rents ($) Total retail completions (sq. ft.-000s) Employment growth Unemployment rate
99 00 01 02* 99 00 01 02* 99 00 01 02* 99 00 01 02* 99 00 01 02*
Ft. Lauderdale/W. Palm Beach 9.0 8.4 10.2 10.8 15.4 15.9 16.2 16.5 4,121 3,709 4,156 1,689 2.3 4.8 3.3 0.1 4.5 4.0 4.8 6.4
Miami-Dade 7.5 7.0 7.7 8.2 17.4 18.1 18.6 19.0 1,175 1,208 2,097 1,597 1.2 2.6 2.0 -0.5 5.8 5.3 6.3 8.5
Orlando 10.0 10.0 11.0 12.0 13.1 13.6 13.8 14.0 3,805 6,092 3,931 3,100 4.6 3.8 0.3 -0.7 2.7 2.6 3.6 5.5
Tampa 11.0 10.0 11.0 11.5 14.3 14.9 15.1 15.3 3,040 3,941 3,532 2,500 3.2 5.2 2.0 -0.4 2.7 2.6 3.4 4.4 Source: Marcus & Millichap

Geographically in Broward County, leasing is hot in the east (Fort Lauderdale), and hot in the western suburbs, “But in the middle market along I-95 it's not doing well,” says Azor. “This is due to residential growth heading east nearer the coast, where it has always been desirable and very expensive, or further west, where more attractive housing could be found for less money.”

To the north, in Palm Beach County, “I would say the retail environment is healthy,” says Dowd. “There's explosive growth in the Wellington State Road 7 corridor. Three years ago, we had to coax potential tenants for the 250,000-sq.-ft. Coral Sky Plaza to even look at the area. Now, we are completely full and there is close to 1 million sq. ft at that intersection.”

The area's newest regional mall, Taubman's upper-moderate-income-focused Mall at Wellington Green, “may be a little ahead of its time,” Dowd says, but he predicts it will ultimately be successful. The 1.1 million-sq.-ft. center — anchored by Burdine's, Lord & Taylor, Dillard's and JCPenney — started off the year 75% occupied and plans to pass 80% by the holidays.

Dowd also notes a trend back to urban areas up and down the coast, with projects such as City Place in Palm Beach and similar developments in Del Ray Beach, Lantana and Boynton Beach.

Azor is not that sanguine, however. “Everybody wants to copy what City Place has done, but it won't work everywhere,” she says. “Three are planned in the PGA Gardens area alone; they can't all get Barnes & Noble!”

Still, the demographics of Palm Beach are compelling. “You have less population, but more money,” Azor explains. “In Palm Beach you can have the same amount of retail square feet. per person but make more money.”

In addition to Barnes & Noble, other active retailers include Circuit City, PF Chang, Panera Bread and two newcomers to the area — Hair Color Express and Jamba Juice.

Miami-Dade

The current demographic trends have clearly been a boost to the Miami area retail market. “The new Census shows a larger amount of Hispanics — maybe 30%-40%,” says Azor. “The Hispanic population loves to shop, and this has been evident in certain submarkets where there is a high percentage of Hispanics, like Hialeah. Retail sales have been very high.”

Simon's 1.4 million-sq.-ft. Dadeland Mall, which maintains market dominance in South Miami with $720 per sq. ft. in sales, is undergoing a $30 million redevelopment and renovation to keep up with new competitors Dolphin Mall and The Rouse Co.'s upcoming Village of Merrick Park.

“Dadeland still seems to be the mall of choice for the moneyed Latin community in South Florida,” says Deutsche Bank's Taylor. “Dolphin has opened up as an alternative, but it seems to have made only limited inroads so far, having done better with the crowd looking for discounted goods.”

Taubman's Dolphin Mall is currently 80% leased, with a recent anchor position taken by Borders. “It was proposed as a knockoff of Sawgrass Mills, but things have been tough with the economy down and tourism off,” Azor observes. That has decreased the amount of people they expected to be there, so now they may try to add more restaurants and entertainment for the locals.”

With The Rouse Co.'s Village of Merrick Park in nearby Coral Gables set to open in September, Taylor says competition for top tenants could get ugly. The 435,000-sq.-ft. project, to be anchored by Neiman-Marcus and Miami's first Nordstrom, has already cleared a competitive hurdle in settling a federal antitrust suit against the locally based owner of the nearby Bal Harbour Shops.

Management at the 480,000-sq.-ft. Bal Harbour shops had a radius clause in its tenants' contracts forbidding them from leasing space at Merrick Park. “While the legal threat from Bal Harbour is technically over, all the landlords are taking aggressive steps to keep their tenants,” Taylor says. “This may slow the leasing of the unleased space at Merrick or result in a less desirable tenant/credit.”

A shortage of developable land has hurt retail expansion, Azor notes, with companies such as Lowe's and Home Depot unable to find sites for new stores. The land shortage has also required developers to become more creative. “We've seen a lot of renovation of existing properties, as well as more vertical projects,” she says. “One new trend is that car dealerships that were in highly populated areas on very expensive land are selling out to developers, who then build multi-level developments. The couple that have been built are getting rave reviews from the public and from retailers.”

The submarkets of Aventura, Coral Gables and South Miami are all reporting “unheard-of rental rates,” Azor says. “There are strip centers getting close to mall rents and operating expenses, and retailers' sales are justifying those rents. It's very exciting.”

In Miami proper, “They are really trying to develop the Brickell area, get projects out of the ground and see how they perform,” says Claude Chandonnet, managing director of leasing with Urban Investment Advisors in Washington, D.C. “They are going for diversity, trying to bring great retail and high-end hotels there.”

Retailers active in Dade County include Roche Bobois, Baja Fresh, Atlanta Bread Company, Premaman, Hair Color Express and Jamba Juice, he says.

The only soft market in Dade is its southernmost area, Cutler Ridge and Homestead, which incredibly are still suffering the after effects of Hurricane Andrew. “But it will be the next growth area,” Azor predicts.

Marcus & Millichap expects retail completions in the Miami market to fall by 500,000 sq. ft. this year, with demand beginning to increase in the second half of 2002. The company says vacancy rates will rise slightly to 8.2%, allowing owners to push rents up slightly and leading to end-of-year growth at the bottom of the market's typical rate range of 2% to 4%.

FLORIDA PROJECT LISTINGS
Project Name/City, State Developer-Manager/Headquarters Center Type Project Type Current GLA/(Planned Addition) Completion Date* Anchors
Downtown at the Gardens
Palm Beach Gardens
Menin Development Cos. Jupiter, Fla. MU N 351,000 sq. ft. Spring 2004 Cobb Theaters, Whole Foods Market
Clearwater Mall
Clearwater
The Sembler Co. St. Petersburg, Fla. M N 790,578 sq. ft. October 2003 Super Target, Costco, Lowe's, Ross Dress for Less, Linens ‘N Things, Borders
Riverside Market Square
Jacksonville
The Sembler Co. St. Petersburg, Fla. S RD 42,448 sq. ft. June 2003 Publix
Cobblestone Village
St. Augustine
CBL & Associates Chattanooga, Tenn. C N 305,000 sq. ft. TBA Beall's, Publix, Michael's, Pier 1 Imports Ross Dress for Less, Bed Bath & Beyond
Southland Shopping Center
Fort Lauderdale
Morbitzer Group Inc. Maitland, Fla. S RN 159,238 sq. ft. Complete Winn-Dixie, Big Lots Beall's Outlet
Casselberry Exchange
Casselberry
Morbitzer Group Inc. Maitland, Fla. N E 165,355 sq. ft (+26,500 sq. ft.) October 2002 Kash N' Karry, Staples, Eckerd, Donatos
Gateway Shoppes
Florida City
Baumgard Development Corp./IMA, Coral Gables, Fla. S N 25,000 sq. ft. 2003 To be announced
Miramar Crossings
Miramar
Baumgard Development Corp./IMA, Coral Gables, Fla. S N 45,000 sq. ft. 2003 To be announced
The Loop
Kissimmee/St. Cloud
The Wilder Cos. Boston F N 320,000 sq. ft. 2004 To be announced
Carrollwood Center
Tampa
IRT Property Co. Atlanta S RD 92,756 sq. ft. Fall 2002 Publix
Lutz Lake Crossing
Tampa
IRT Property Co. Atlanta S N 67,985 sq. ft. Summer 2002 Publix
Drew 19 Shopping Center
Clearwater
Colliers Arnold Clearwater, Fla. P N 650,000 sq. ft. Fall 2002 Marshall's, Babys R Us
The Walk
Coral Springs
Amera Properties Inc. Coral Springs, Fla. L RD
E
240,000 sq. ft. Complete Barnes & Noble
Village of Merrick Park
Coral Gables
The Rouse Co. Columbia, Md. M N 435,000 sq. ft. September 2002 Neiman-Marcus Nordstrom
Mall at Millenia
Orlando
Forbes/Taubman Centers Bloomfield Hills, Mich. M N 1.2 million sq. ft. October 2002 Neiman-Marcus, Bloomingdale's Macy's
Mall at Wellington Green
Palm Beach
Taubman Centers Bloomfield Hills, Mich. M N 1.1 million sq. ft. Complete Burdine's, Dillard's Lord & Taylor, JCPenney
University Center/Consumer Square
University Park
Benderson Development Co./Dorsky Hodgson+ Partners C E 242,000 sq. ft. (+115,000 sq. ft.) Spring 2003 BJ's Wholesale, Home Depot
Lakewood Shopping Center
Margate
Courtelis Co. Miami C RD
RN
350,000 sq. ft. November 2002 Linens ‘N Things, EXPO Design Center Pier 1 Imports
Veranda Park
Orlando
Veranda Partners Orlando, Fla. MU N 350,000 sq. ft. 2003 To be announced
Destin Commons
Destin
Turnberry Associates Aventura, Fla. L N 400,000 sq. ft. 2003 Belk Resort Store, Bass Pro Shops Marquee Cinema
Aventura Crossings
Aventura
Turnberry Assoc. & Gadinsky Real Estate, Aventura, Fla. P N 220,000 sq. ft. Spring 2003 To be announced
Miracle Mile
Coral Gables
Starwood Urban Retail Washington, D.C. MU RD 39,400 sq. ft. Spring 2003 To be announced
Pier Park
Panama City Beach
St. Joe Commercial Orlando, Fla. M RD 200,000 sq. ft. Spring 2003 To be announced
Unnamed center
Lynnhaven
Regency Centers Jacksonville, Fla. N N 63,870 sq. ft. August 2002 Publix
Center Type: S=Strip Center, N=Neighborhood Center, C=Community Center, M=Regional/Superregional Mall, P=Power Center, O=Outlet Center, L=Lifestyle Center, F=Fashion/Specialty Center, MU=Mixed-Use Development. Project Type: N=New Project, E=Expansion, RN=Renovation (updating look, refacing, common area or amenities upgrade), RD=Redevelopment (demalling or remerchandising). Completion Date*: Subject to change. Existing/Planned GLA (Expansion GLA): GLA=Gross Leasable Area. TBA=To be announced/unavailable.