Fall 2016 Manhattan Retail Report

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Increasing retail inventory and a slower retail sales environment in New York City have started to affect ground floor asking rents in Manhattan’s most prominent retail corridors.  The Real Estate Board of New York’s (REBNY) Fall 2016 Manhattan Retail Report shows that average asking rents declined in 11 of the 17 retail corridors surveyed, which is a shift from Spring 2016 when availability was accumulating in some corridors, but the effect on asking rents was subdued.

While the range of ground floor asking rents in these corridors started to decrease on both the high and low ends in Fall 2016, members of our Manhattan Retail Report Advisory Group identified that these asking rent adjustments are indicative of a natural correction in a market that had been soaring for a brief period following the 2008 financial crisis.

According to our advisory group, the lower asking rents recorded in Fall 2016 have brought disinterested retailers off of the sidelines and back into the market as they anticipate higher carrying costs for property owners.

However, the factors causing the decline in asking rents are not all byproducts of the state of the economy and retail demand.  In an environment of high asking rents, retailers are willing to wait longer for the ideal space to become available.  Members of the advisory group noted that more retailers are finely combing for options that accommodate their needs and are situated in locations that best suit their brands, while also becoming more cost-conscious as a means to increase profitability.  Additionally, our advisory group explained that some retailers, now looking to relocate, will sacrifice larger store size and wider frontage for ideal placement in a corridor that most effectively reflects their brand.   

Madison Avenue, between 57th and 72nd Streets, on the Eastside is one such corridor that is suffering from an increased availability of ground floor retail spaces.  As the corridor’s inventory level rose in Fall 2016, the average asking rent decreased eleven percent to $1,433 per square foot from $1,613 in Fall 2015.  Additionally, an increase in the availability for less expensive ground floor spaces in the corridor caused a 22 percent drop in the median asking rent to $1,350 from $1,728 per square foot last year. 

Increased retail inventory has also hurt asking rents Downtown in SoHo, on Broadway between Houston and Broome Streets.  The average asking rent for ground floor space in this corridor fell nine percent to $755 per square foot from $831 last fall.  

Midtown South asking rents in Herald Square on West 34th Street, between Fifth and Seventh Avenues, fell eleven percent year-over-year from $836 to $745 per square foot of ground floor space.  This decline was caused by a combination of increased supply and supply being concentrated on the south side of the corridor.  Spaces on the north side of West 34th Street typically offer wider street frontage, while spaces on the south side are usually smaller and more limited in frontage.

Despite the average asking rent drops seen in other corridors in Fall 2016, robust price growth occurred Downtown in the Financial District on Broadway, between Battery Park and Chambers Street, a corridor that has benefitted from recent transportation and retail improvements. The average asking rent for ground floor retail space in this corridor experienced a 20 percent jump year-over-year, rising from $308 to $369 per square foot.  According to our advisory group, retail spaces near Fulton Street have been the largest beneficiary of increased foot traffic from the World Trade Center complex and openings of the Oculus and Fulton Center transit hub. 

The lack of available ground floor retail spaces in Midtown South’s Flatiron District on Broadway, between 14th and 23rd Streets, caused an anomaly in Fall 2016 with higher demand leading to a statistical decline in the average asking rent, which is not indicative of a weak market.  Coupled with the withdrawal of a space previously listed on the market in Fall 2015, this corridor experienced a 23 percent decline in the average asking rent for available ground floor space, dropping from $510 per square foot to $390 year-over-year.

We must reiterate that the rents quoted in this report are asking rents for available space.  Also, please note that the physical components of a retail space factor greatly into its rental value.  Attributes such as street/avenue frontage, ceiling height, presence of below and above grade space, and locational factors can affect value. 

Consequently, in corridors with little availability, a high quality space coming to market can increase the average and median asking rents greatly.  In smaller corridors, a lack of available space may lead, in some cases, to adjacent blocks becoming of interest to retailers.  Accordingly, we have provided information about the rent range as well as asking rent information from six months and 12 months ago to provide a rich statistical context to evaluate the current market conditions. In addition, we would like to note that the surveyed corridors in the report represent the top tier retail corridors in the city and that rents on adjoining side streets may lease for considerably less than the locations we are profiling. 

Lastly, as we have learned in the decade or more that we have been preparing this report, retail brokers active in the market are an invaluable source of information and trends that cannot be fully captured completely by the numbers in our report.  We attempt to provide an overview of the market at a particular point in time that is based on the available listings of our Manhattan Retail Report Advisory Group and the REBNY Commercial Brokerage Retail Committee members, which include major retail real estate brokers and owners in Manhattan. 

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