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Retail Vacancies Spike in South Jersey as Prospective Tenants Remain Skittish on New Leases

Retail vacancies are rising across South Jersey as ripple effects of Covid-19 continue to grow nearly a year after the pandemic first hit the region. 

A new report from Wolf Commercial Real Estate on the South Jersey market found that Burlington County’s retail vacancy rate jumped to 10% in the fourth quarter, up from 7.6% in the prior three-month period. The increase marks the largest consecutive quarter-to-quarter jump in the past three years. 

At the same time, Camden County hit 10.5% retail vacancy, up from 9.7% in the third quarter. It started 2020 at about a 6% retail vacancy rate. 

In Gloucester County, the rate is up to 13.7%, from 11.7% at the start of last year. 

The rising number of vacancies in the region reflect the financial hardships many businesses, especially independently owned restaurants, faced earlier in 2020, said Jason Wolf, managing principal of Wolf Commercial in Marlton. 

“We’re finally starting to see the true numbers come to light,” he said. 

While South Jersey saw an impact from big-name retail store closures, Wolf said it’s the closure of small “mom and pop” operators driving the vacancy increase. 

Throughout 2020, South Jersey lost independent restaurants like Collingswood staple El Sitio Grill & Cafe, Haddonfield’s Villa Rosa pizzeria and Vitarelli’s Italian restaurant in Cherry Hill. The Smith restaurant group, which operates five concepts across New Jersey and Pennsylvania, permanently closed its Brickwall Tavern in Burlington City. Charlie Brown’s last two South Jersey locations also shut down in Woodbury and Westampton.

“My heart bleeds right now for these restaurant operators,” Wolf said, adding the ones still holding on are struggling to survive. “These people all had thriving business and they’re all on the verge of going out of business, battling revenues being down 50%, 60%.” 

Clothing stores have also suffered. One operator of a men’s clothing store told Wolf that “suits are the new tuxedo,” as demand for professional attire sank during Covid-19.

When retail vacancies are filled, Wolf said it’s often with an alternative usage like a health care office. Empty big-box stores are being used for warehouse and distribution space. While not filling a vacancy, the Moorestown Mall’s owner, Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, also recently secured approvals to build more than 1,000 apartments and a hotel at the shopping center.

“I think you’re going to see these retailers evolve into a more diverse strategy,” he said. 

Wolf is cautiously optimistic about what 2021 has in store for the South Jersey commercial real estate market, especially later in the year when there’s more clarity into the future of the pandemic. People are calling, he said, but they’re just not ready to make a move just yet. 

“The demand is there, we just have to get people through making decisions,” he said. “There’s a lot of tire-kicking going on.” 

On the retail side, he said quality retail locations in high-visibility areas will come out fine on the other side. Mom and pop retail fronts in peripheral areas Wolf believes may face more of a challenge. 

“I worry, yes,” he said. 

*Article courtesy of Philadelphia Business Journal

For more information about New Jersey or Philadelphia office space, New Jersey or Philadelphia retail space, and New Jersey or Philadelphia industrial space or other New Jersey and Philadelphia commercial properties, please call 856-857-6300 to speak with Jason Wolf (jason.wolf@wolfcre.com) at Wolf Commercial Real Estate, a leading New Jersey and Philadelphia commercial real estate broker that specializes in both New Jersey and Philadelphia office space, New Jersey and Philadelphia retail space, and New Jersey and Philadelphia industrial space.

Wolf Commercial Real Estate, a full-service CORFAC International brokerage, and advisory firm, is a premier New Jersey and Philadelphia commercial real estate brokerage firm that provides a full range of New Jersey and Philadelphia commercial real estate listings and services, property management services, and marketing commercial offices, medical properties, industrial properties, land properties, retail buildings and other New Jersey and Philadelphia commercial properties for buyers, tenants, investors, and sellers.

A New Jersey and Philadelphia commercial real estate broker with expertise in New Jersey and Philadelphia commercial real estate listings, Wolf Commercial Real Estate provides unparalleled expertise in matching companies and individuals seeking new New Jersey and Philadelphia office space, New Jersey and Philadelphia retail space, or New Jersey and Philadelphia industrial space with the New Jersey and Philadelphia commercial properties that best meets their needs.

As experts in both Philadelphia and New Jersey commercial real estate listings and services, the team at our commercial real estate brokerage firm provides ongoing detailed information about Philadelphia and New Jersey commercial properties to our clients and prospects to help them achieve their real estate goals.  If you are looking for New Jersey or Philadelphia office space, Philadelphia or New Jersey retail space, or New Jersey or Philadelphia industrial space for sale or lease, Wolf Commercial Real Estate is the New Jersey and Philadelphia commercial real estate broker you need – a strategic partner who is fully invested in your long-term growth and success.

Please visit our websites for a full listing of South Jersey, Philadelphia, and New Jersey commercial properties for lease or sale through our Philadelphia commercial real estate brokerage firm.

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