Tuesday, October 27th, 2020 October27th2020

Sell for More News: Converting retail to e-commerce delivery hubs won’t be easy

Published on October 27th, 2020

Sell for More News is a weekly blog series with interesting information from the world of commercial real estate.


For years we’ve known that the U.S. has been over built with retail properties.  Then e-commerce gained momentum…then our Government chose to force businesses to close because of a virus.  Needless to say, the situation has gotten worse.  So the question remains…what do we do with all these “extra” retail properties?

It’s a popular idea that they can be converted to delivery hubs (aka logistics) for companies like Amazon.  Even Simon Property Group, the largest U.S. mall owner, is exploring the idea.  Simon has been in talks with Amazon to possibly take over former anchor department store spaces for distribution sites.  The talks involve spaces occupied by J.C. Penney and Sears which have been closing stores around the country in the midst of Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings.

Not so fast

Despite the tremendous surge in e-commerce shopping, retail-to-logistics conversion rates will be low and time frames will be long, according to the latest Prologis study.

With demand for logistics real estate rising, it’s no surprise that some commercial real estate industry owners are considering converting struggling retail properties into distribution sites. But the retail-to-logistics trend is expected to be slow and ultimately involve only a small number of conversions, with malls and freestanding retail locations providing the best opportunities.

The latest Prologis research study stated mall anchor redevelopments have become more feasible for such a conversion and retail owners are doing due diligence and considering all conversion opportunities, but primarily multifamily. One can’t deny the explosive growth of e-commerce during the COVID-19 crisis which “has brought more than five years of evolution in the retail landscape into less than five months of time,” according to the Prologis report.

Despite the demand and growing interest among retail property owners to consider converting some or all retail space to logistics uses, Prologis said such conversions are complex and face hurdles.

Economic challenges

Some retail owners may prefer to re-tenant with other retail uses that pay more for the space than logistics. If they do consider conversion, other property types would value the space at a higher premium than logistics, including multifamily or single-family residential, office, life sciences, hotels, universities and community and municipal uses.

Political challenges

Municipalities may be reluctant to change the zoning for logistics uses, which could threaten sales tax revenues. Even for those localities that favor the conversion, “rezoning and unlocking lease encumbrances can take several years.”

Physical challenges

Some retail sites aren’t viable for logistics, with Prologis noting minimum sizes needed for conversion are generally between 8 and 10 acres.

Legal challenges

There could be time-consuming and expensive legal challenges, including from equity and debt holders. Malls are often controlled by multiple owners, and existing tenants could invoke lease provisions including reciprocal easement agreements and co-tenancy clauses.

Prologis only analyzed the top 25 U.S. markets. The analysis looked at malls, power centers, community centers, neighborhood centers and strip retail. The researchers estimated about 50 million to 100 million square feet of retail space will be converted to logistics in those markets over the next decade, primarily from mall space.


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About Beau Beach, MBA CCIM

Beau is a tenacious Commercial Real Estate Broker, author and adoring father of four. His clients appreciate his no-nonsense demeanor and his legendary work ethic.

Beau leads Beachwood which is a commercial real estate broker for sellers in the Nashville, Milwaukee and South Florida markets.

He’s the author of the books The 3 Reasons: Why Most Commercial Properties Don’t Sell and True Wealth: What Every Seller Should Know About 1031 Exchanges.

Beau can be reached at 800-721-3287, click to schedule a call or Beau@soldbybeachwood.com