Has Industrial Hit its Peak? Not Quite Yet

During the past two years, investors have flocked to industrial real estate. Urgent demand, high rent growth and low vacancy proved to be a recipe for success for the commercial real estate asset, recording historical growth and sales numbers. Now, as the world moves into a post-COVID-19 era, the sector still looks to be top dog, but will that change?

As markets across the country ramped up development, consumer trends started to change. E-commerce dominance slowed, pre-leasing stalled and big-box tenants abandoned expansion plans. What does this all mean for industrial real estate, and what should investors look out for?

The king of CRE

Industrial real estate throughout the U.S. performed strongly in 2021 and continued that success in 2022. Year-over-year rent growth is 11.6% and vacancy 4% as of September 2022. Demand for properties is still healthy and developers are keeping pace with demand in most major markets.

The concerns of some investors sprout from a shift of consumers pulling back from e-commerce and returning to brick-and-mortar retail. Online retailers dominated the retail space in 2020 and 2021, but shoppers are excited to be back in person, craving a more personal experience after long periods of seclusion. This consumer shift caused a decline in the expansion of warehouse and fulfillment facilities.

Another reason investors are wary is the threat of a hard-landing recession as inflation continues and the stock market witnesses volatility. Lastly, purchasing power is down, making it more difficult to buy and lease since sale and rent prices are at record levels for industrial properties.

High-level leasing

Lease rates are more expensive than ever. As of late August 2022, new industrial leases were $1.45 more per square foot than leases already in place. The gap between the average lease, market rate, and leases signed within the last 12 months is also higher than ever. The current average lease rate for the past 12 months is $8.05 per square foot, whereas the average was $6 in July 2022.

The markets seeing the most leasing activity and year-over-year rent growth are port cities, as they offer proximity to major coastal shipping terminals. The top five metros are the Inland Empire with 8.7%, Boston with 8%, New Jersey with 7.8%, Los Angeles with 7%, and Orange County with 6.8%.

Building for the future

Because of deeply constricted supply, industrial projects couldn’t be built fast enough throughout 2021, leading to a robust pipeline in 2022 and the following years. There are currently 844 million square feet underway across the United States, 70% higher than development numbers before the pandemic.

Although demand for industrial has sustained and even strengthened in specific markets, some real estate experts predict that up to 90 million square feet built will not be leased within a year of completion. As of late 2022, 62% of properties under construction have not been leased. But as others raise concerns about overbuilding, others say that it is almost impossible to overbuild industrial assets because the market is so tight for supply, and the need is not going away.

Construction is only getting more expensive and complex, meaning it would be difficult to continue the level of development long-term. The industrial pipeline needs to stay stocked in a time of great demand and limited options.

What’s next for industrial?

There may be some skepticism surrounding the overwhelming construction of industrial facilities and climbing rent rates, but all in all, industrial is here to stay. Investors will continue to pour capital into the sector in hopes of continuing low vacancies and strong profits. Absorption rates are expected to moderate; however, vacancies will remain stable, securing industrial as a top investment.

Matt Kovesdy is associate vice president for industrial with the Cleveland office of Matthews Real Estate Investment Services. Jonah Yulish is senior associate for shopping centers with Matthews’ Cleveland office.

Flocking Back to the Stores: Black Friday Weekend Sees Record Number of Shoppers

This holiday season is shaping up to be a happy one for retailers, with the number of shoppers hitting stores from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday setting a new record.

The National Retail Federation said that 196.7 million people shopped in-person at retailers from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday, Nov. 28. That’s the highest this figure has ever been.

Online sales boomed, too. Adobe Analytics reported that online shoppers spent a record $9.12 billion on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. That figure is up from $8.92 billion in 2021 and $9.03 billion in 2020.

These record-setting numbers come despite the threat of rising interest rates and persistent inflation. Why the big numbers? That’s difficult to say, but consumers have continued to spend even as the prices of everything from groceries and gas to electronics, clothing and furniture continue to rise.

Big Day for Online Sales

The Black Friday online sales were particularly impressive. Adobe Analytics said that the online sales of electronics rose 221% on Black Friday when compared to an average day in October of this year. Two of the biggest sellers were Apple MacBooks and Apple watches, according to Adobe. Consumers also spent big on the Xbox Series X gaming console and video games such as FIFA 23 and Pokemon Scarlet.

Adobe predicted that online shoppers would spend an additional $4.52 billion on Saturday and $4.99 billion on Sunday of the holiday weekend. Adobe also predicted that online sales would soar to $11.2 billion on Cyber Monday.

In-person Shopping Strong, Too

The National Retail Federation did not track the amount of money that record-setting number of in-person shoppers spent over the Black Friday weekend. The trade association did say that it expects holiday sales to rise by 6% to 8% from last year. If this happens, consumers will have spent from $942.6 billion to $960.4 billion this holiday season.

Of course, some of the increase in spending must be attributed to high inflation: Consumers are paying more when they are buying holiday items this year.

“The Thanksgiving holiday shopping weekend is a tradition treasured by many American families,” said National Retail Federation president and chief executive officer Matthew Shay, in a written statement. “As inflationary pressures persist, consumers have responded by stretching their dollars in any way possible. Retailers have responded accordingly, offering shoppers a season of buying convenience, matching sales and promotions across online and in-store channels to accommodate their customers at each interaction.”

According to the National Retail Federation, the holiday shopping season runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 32. The federation said that consumers spent an average of about $325 on holiday purchases from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday. Last year, shoppers spent an average of $301.

A Miracle on Michigan Avenue

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sales Shatter Records

Another Black Friday in the books. Gone are the days, it seems, of waking up at 5 a.m. to get a jump on the day’s deals, but that doesn’t equal less activity. In fact, 2022 saw the highest numbers in a while.

The National Retail Federation estimated that 166 million people shopped from Thanksgiving through Monday, the highest estimate since 2017, but reports concerning consumers’ weekend spending vary.

The Sun Times reported that shoppers carried on as they usually would, without regard to inflation or a looming recession, many even increasing spending. Residents in Chicagoland have estimated they’ll spend around $719, compared to $580 in 2021.

And the holiday hype checks out—no pun intended.

The last few years have been strange, to say the least, but as we continue to regain a sense of normalcy this season, shoppers have taken advantage by starting early. The Sun Times and Accenture found that of 1,500 Americans, 45% admitted to starting to shop in August.

But the forward-thinking mentality isn’t limited to consumers. Proactive retailers also seized the opportunity to kick start their in-store deals weeks—even months—in advance, especially those in areas that have struggled to regain foot traffic post-pandemic, and the strategy has proven successful thus far.

Shoppers swarmed Chicagoland from Michigan Avenue to Old Orchard in Skokie to Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, and many people reported it was the largest in-person turnout they’d seen in a while. More than 122.7 million people across the U.S. visited brick-and-mortar stores over the weekend, up 17% from 2021, according to the National Retail Federation.

Welcome news for businesses of all sizes. Mainstream chains like J. Crew, Neiman Marcus, and J.C. Penney were not spared from pandemic suffering, after all.

“It is important to note that while some may claim that retail sales gains are the result of higher prices, they must acknowledge the historic growth in consumers who are shopping in-store and online during the holiday weekend and into Cyber Monday,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “It is consumer demand that is driving growth.”

The group predicted the rise of holiday sales by 5% YOY and retailers will pocket 6% to 8% more than in 2021. Nationwide spending in November and December will near $960 billion, according to the Sun Times.

People Need More Space, Fortunately for Self-storage

City living comes with cons—and for many, it’s sacrificing square feet. Fortunately for the self-storage sector, less space in the home means more is needed outside of it, causing an increase in storage units near multifamily hotspots.

The decade marked high construction volumes across the U.S., with almost 350 million square feet of storage space delivered from 2012 to 2021, 22% of overall existing inventory. Over the same time, 3.1 million new apartments in 50+ unit buildings were added, and 427,000 new rentals were added to the national market last year alone. But not all metros were created equal—RentCafe and YardiMatrix recently analyzed the country’s largest metros to identify the places self-storage is doing the best, in correlation with a growing apartment market. Chicago was No. 4.

From 2012 to 2021, Chicago added 11.5 million square feet of storage space and almost 72,000 multifamily units, reaching a peak for self-storage construction in 2016 with 2.1 million square feet of space delivered. Yet it’s just the start of what’s to come.

Developers are currently amping up their construction efforts to keep up with demand, despite economic challenges, with 2.6 million square feet of storage space currently planned and under construction.

Still, Chicago’s numbers are low in comparison with metros like Dallas and Houston. People continue to relocate to the Lone Star State from hubs like San Francisco, New York City, and even Chicago, bolstering its economy more and more.

One of the most popular relocation destinations in the country—Dallas-Fort-Worth-Arlington—saw a 17% population growth over the past decade, based on the report, leading, naturally, to increased demand for both housing and self-storage, and the market was quick to respond. Nearly 200,000 new apartments and 20+ million square feet of storage space was delivered during the decade, the most in any metro across the U.S.

Of course, Dallas’s quick recovery post-pandemic allowed for the resuming of construction much sooner than other markets. Almost 2.4 million square feet of new storage space and 26,000 new apartments delivered in 2021, according to RentCafe.

As for Houston, RentCafe also found that young professionals continue to flood in with the likes of Hewlett Packard, Maddox Defense, Axiom Space and Sun Haven relocating to the metro in the past few years alone, resulting in 15 million square feet of new storage space and 142,000 apartments delivering during the decade.

A Bit of Cheer: Holiday Travelers Returning to Hotels This Year

Another sign that the hotel industry is on the mend? The number of holiday travelers this year who plan to stay in hotels is on the rise, according to the Hotel Booking Index Survey from the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

The survey, conducted by Morning Consult, also says that hotels are cited as the top lodging choice among those who say they are certain to travel for leisure in the next three months.

The lodging association’s Hotel Booking Index (HBI) is a new composite score gauging the short-term outlook for the hotel industry. The 1-through-10 score is based on a weighted average of survey respondents’ travel likelihood in the next three months (50%), household financial security (30%) and a preference to stay in hotels for travel (20%). Based on the results of the survey, the AHLA Hotel Booking Index for the next three months is 7.1, or very good.

The survey found that the share of those who plan to stay in hotels during their holiday travels this season is on the rise. According to the results, 31% of Thanksgiving travelers plan to stay in a hotel during their trip, compared to the 22% who planned to do so last year. A total of 28% of Christmas travelers plan to stay in a hotel during their trip, compared to 23% who planned to do so last year. Among those absolutely certain to travel for leisure in the next three months, 54% say that they plan to stay in a hotel, according to the survey.

The survey didn’t bring only holiday cheer, however. The lodging association reported that overall holiday travel levels will likely remain flat, with 28% of Americans reporting they are likely to travel for Thanksgiving and 31% likely to travel for Christmas this year – compared to 29% and 33%, respectively, in 2021.

The survey also found that concerns about COVID-19 are fading among travelers but are being replaced by economic challenges like inflation and high gas prices. The survey found that 85% percent of respondents reported that gas prices and inflation are factors they are considering when deciding whether to travel during the next three months. That compares to 70% who said the same about COVID-19 infection rates.

The survey of 4,000 adults was conducted Oct. 14-16. Other key findings:

59% of adults whose jobs involve travel said they are likely to travel for business in the next three months, with 49% among them planning to stay in a hotel during their trip. In 2021, 55% of adults whose jobs involve travel said they were likely to travel for business during the holiday season.
64% of Americans would be concerned about delays or cancellations if they traveled by plane right now, with 66% of these respondents reporting a lower chance of flying this holiday season as a result.
61% of Americans say they are likely to take more leisure/vacation trips in 2023 than they did this year.
58% of Americans are likely to attend more indoor gatherings, events or meetings in 2023 than they did this year.
66% of Thanksgiving travelers and 60% of Christmas travelers plan to drive to their destinations, compared to 24% and 30%, respectively, who plan to fly.
“This survey bolsters our optimism for hotels’ near-term outlook for a number of reasons,” said AHLA president and chief executive officer Chip Rogers, in a statement. “The share of holiday travelers planning hotel stays is rising, plans for business travel are on the upswing and hotels are the number-one lodging choice for those certain to travel for leisure in the near future. This is great news for our industry as well as current and prospective hotel employees, who are enjoying more and better career opportunities than ever before.”

Still Quitting? Waiters and Fast-food Workers are Seeking Greener Pastures

Fast-food workers, chefs and waiters are quitting their jobs at a faster rate than are any other workers, according to a study released last week.

The study, from document-management tool SmallPDF, analyzed numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to score every industry’s quit rates, the percentage of total workers quitting an industry every month, and quit levels, a measurement of how many employees quit in total each month.

According to SmallPDF, the accommodation and food services industry saw an average of 5.8% of its workforce quit between April and August of 2022, the period in which the study was done. That industry includes chefs, waiters and fast-food workers.

More than 773,600 of these employees left every month on average during SmallPDF’s study. In August of 2022, 128,000 more workers in the accommodation and food services industry left their jobs than did during the same month a year earlier. It’s little surprise, then, that fast-food and other restaurants are struggling to hire enough workers.

In second place in the survey was the retail trade industry, which includes jobs such as customer-service representatives, cashiers and stock clerks. An average of 600,400 employees quit these jobs every month from April to August of 2022. In good news for this sector, though, about 109,000 fewer employees quit these jobs this August compared to the same month in 2021.

The arts, entertainment and recreation industry ranked third on the list, a sector that includes fitness trainers, recreation attendants and musicians. About 7,000 more employees quit these industries in August of 2022 compared to August of 2021.

Fourth place goes to the professional and business services industry, including lawyers, accountants and architects. About 754,000 employees quit every month between April and August. The quit rate was, on average, 3.36% during these months. In a sign that workers are holding onto their jobs a bit more in these fields, August 2022’s quit number came in at 63,000 fewer employees than the quit level of August 2021.

Rounding out the top five is the transportation, warehousing and utilities industry, which includes pilots, bus drivers and truck drivers. An average of 199,400 quits took place in these industries every month from April and August of this year. August 2022’s quit level in these industries came in at 32,000 employees higher than August 2021’s level.