Baton Rouge’s retail real estate sector survives 2020, but not unscathed

    When the state was shut down in March 2020 in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the retail sector was hit particularly hard. Though essential businesses like supermarkets and hardware stores were allowed to remain open—as well as businesses in a handful of other retail categories including clothing and shoe stores—the restaurants, gyms and salons that increasingly comprise the bulk of the tenants in strip centers were forced to shut down and stay closed for months.

    While the situation appeared dire for several weeks, it quickly became clear that banks were willing to work with property owners, property owners were willing to work with tenants, and federal stimulus money—however imperfectly administered—would help tenants keep their doors open.

    Now, one year later, the local retail sector has emerged intact, though not unscathed, according to local brokers, who say that while the pandemic did not decimate the retail sector as much as one might have predicted last year at this time, it hastened trends that were already underway: Vacancy rates in local shopping centers increased to more than 10% for the first time since 2014, and the growth of online shopping exploded at an unprecedented pace.  

    Read the full story from the latest edition of Business Report.