Things are looking up for the shopping center industry this year, after a challenging 2017, says CBL Properties CEO Stephen D. Lebovitz.
“2017 was a tough year, with all the [retailer] bankruptcies, but 2018 is off to a better start,” Lebovitz told CNBC's Power Lunch, noting that retail sales at his properties were up by 4 percent during the first quarter and that retailer bankruptcies are easing.
The company has shed about 30 of its less productive properties and is working to revamp the rest by bringing in fresh tenants and uses, he reports. The firm now holds 119 properties across 27 states.
“In the fourth quarter, 70 percent of our leasing was nonapparel,” Lebovitz said. “So we’re bringing in entertainment, fitness, value, service — all types of new uses that are going to create experience for the customer [and] that will bring them off their couch and into the property.”
“It’s always been a business where there [were] changing uses. Most of the retailers [here] when I started don’t even exist anymore”
Many of these newcomers are e-tailers that have realized they need physical stores if they are to thrive, Lebovitz said. CBL is now working with 25 such prospective e-tailer tenants.
No one need overplay the challenges facing the industry, Lebovitz opined. “It’s always been a business where there [were] changing uses,” he said. “Most of the retailers [here] when I started don’t even exist anymore; [there are] always different types of uses going in.”
By Edmund Mander