PARAMUS—According to the results of The Goldstein Group’s year-end survey of 22 retail corridors in Northern and Central New Jersey, totaling over 4,250 properties and 98 million sq. ft., the State’s retail vacancy rate dipped below 8.0 percent to 7.9 percent, the first drop below the 8 percent rate since January 2009. The State’s vacancy rate has continued to inch downward since 2009, as retailers continue lease up retail space at attractive rental rates and secure locations not available in years.

“The Northern/Central New Jersey retail real estate market continues to stabilize and improve as evidenced by the slight decrease in the vacancy rate,” noted President Chuck Lanyard of The Goldstein Group. “Optimism is much improved among retailers who see consumers returning to spending and shopping, as the economy slowly improves and hiring picks up.”

The strongest retail submarkets with the lowest availability rates include: Route 4-Paramus (6.4 percent); Route 46-Parsippany-Rockaway (5.8percent); Route 1 – Woodbridge-Edison (6.3 percent); and Route 37-Toms River (6.3 percent). Most of these submarkets experienced positive net absorption and decreasing vacancy rates since the July 2011 survey. Submarkets with the highest vacancy rates include: Route 46 – Totowa-Fairfield (9.2 percent); Route 10 – Livingston/East Hanover (12.9 percent); Route 18-East Brunswick (17.8 percent); Route 35-Shrewsbury/Ocean (10.1 percent); and Route 17 – Paramus (11.9 percent). The majority of these submarkets also experienced a small increase in their vacancy rates since the July 2011 survey.

Fitness clubs continue to be popular medium and big box users, and have leased large blocks of space throughout the marketplace, in several cases taking large box vacant space. 24 Hour Fitness signed leases in Paramus and Ramsey, while Planet Fitness opened clubs in Toms River and Woodland Park. Local clubs such as Ledgewood Fitness opened in Ledgewood and Edge Fitness in Oakland.

Notable retailer transactions and activity include 7-Eleven, a client of The Goldstein Group, recently opened stores in Fair Lawn, Bridgewater, Old Bridge, Marlboro and Pompton Plains. Musclemaker Grill is moving into Lodi, Clifton and other markets. Five Guys leasing in West Caldwell, Hackensack, Harrison, Lodi, Springfield and East Hanover. Smashburger, another of the fast casual restaurants and a client of The Goldstein Group, is opening restaurants in Paramus, East Hanover, Morris Plains and Ramsey. New restaurant concepts continue to be introduced and proliferate in the New Jersey market.