Retail REITs TRIPLE Whammy: House Bubble Burst, Online Shopping, COVID

It is tough to operate a retail Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) in the face of the triple whammy that hit retail shopping. First, there was the housing bubble/subprime crisis of 2008-2009. Then there was the advent of on-line shopping, then COVID.

I look at the NAREIT retail index and two retail REITs for comparison: Simon Property Group and Washington REIT. And as a proxy for online shopping, I compare them to Amazon. Both Washington REIT and the NAREIT retail index were at loft valuations at the peak of the housing bubble, but crashed with the onset of the housing bubble burst and ensuing financial crisis. But following The Great Recession, both recovered by 2016 (along with Simon Property Group which actually far exceeded their pre-Great Recession peak.

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But then retail mall disaster struck. In the form of on-line shopping. I use Amazon to represent on-line shopping. While NAREIT Retail and Simon fell from their 2016 peak, Washington REIT got clobbered.

Then Covid struck. When combined with on-line shopping and fear mongering by Anthony Fauci, retail REITs got hit hard. But all three have rebounded slightly since their nadir in 2020.

An interesting case study is Glimcher REIT, a formerly privately-held commercial real estate development company from Columbus Ohio. Like other retail REITs, Glimcher was crushed by the financial crisis and Great Recession. Glimcher’s share price fought back to $14.06 per share (down considerably from $29.28 in February 2007).

Washington Prime Group Inc. acquired Glimcher Realty Trust for $4.3 Billion in stock and cash Including the assumption of Glimcher’s debt. Right as on-line shopping took off. And the Covid struck a death blow leaving Washington Prime trading at $0.98. Washington REIT is transforming into a multifamily REIT given the overbuilding of DC area office space and the triple whammy of retail centers.

Retail REITs have almost recovered from Covid, thanks to the massive monetary stimulus from The Federal Reserve. Not to mention fiscal stimulus from DC.

Yup, a triple whammy has hit retail REITs with some faring better than others.

But the NAREIT RESIDENTIAL Index has exploded with Fed stimulus.

Well done, Pazuzu Powell!

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