Rating Agencies, Remodels for Old Navy, Filene's Finds a Buyer: Take Two, Outlook for Malls (Monday's News & Notes)

Here are some news and notes on retail and retail real estate from around the Web today.

  • Syms and Vornado won the second bidding for Filene's Basement. The price tag was $62.4 million. That's similar to what Men's Wearhouse was going to pay before it retracted its bid last week.
  • Llenrock blog argues that the rating agencies have lost their credibility. This is in response to the jockeying that seems to be occurring between the established and up and coming agencies over whether or not recent CMBS issues should be downgraded. Most recently, Moody's has asserted its Aaa rating on recent CMBS issues. That means Fitch and Moody's are holding ratings steady while S&P is considering lowering its ratings. Realpoint is trying to make its way into the conversation as well.
  • A thread on RetailWire looks at how Genesco, the parent company of Journeys and Lids, is using its leverage as a healthy retailer to win some concessions from landlords. The firm says it has renegotiated 181 leases across its store base that were up for renewals or had kickouts in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Across the 181 lease renegotiations, Genesco received a five percent reduction in rent on an accounting basis.
  • VMSD has some details on Gap's plans to remodel 50 Old Navy stores. The firm has tested a new prototype at two locations in California and has been pleased with the results. So it's going to take the design into more locations.
  • The New York Observer has a sober take on the Real Estate Board of New York's Retail Awards. The Observer reported:
    Every broker interviewed by The Observer expressed optimism about the future, though some added that their outlook should be taken with a grain of salt. “You have to be optimistic to be a real estate broker,” said Mr. Frischman of JDF Realty, who was an awards nominee. “If you're not optimistic, you're in the wrong business.”
  • This is not strictly industry related, but new data shows that household wealth dropped by $1.3 trillion in the first quarter. That's not going to help turn around discretionary spending anytime soon.
  • Reuters had a brief report looking at how troubles with chain stores has opened up some opportunities for independent retailers to enter malls. In a related piece, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looks at how some malls have turned to small, private retailers as temporary tenants to fill vacancies. "The mom-and-pop is now king," said Heidi A. Maybruck, a Columbus, Ohio, real estate agent who handles temporary and cart leasing for Steiner & Associates, the operator of Bayshore. Another Reuters story--a roundup of a panel at Reuters Global Retail Summit--asks, "Will empty big-box stores ever get filled?"
  • Crain's Chicago Business asks, "Is it time for the vultures?" in a look at whether opportunistic investors are finally going to swoop in and capitalize on bargains in the market. This is a question we explored in an online feature two weeks ago. The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, looks at the prospects for small investors looking to buy commercial real estate.
  • Lee & Associates has recently opened a New Jersey office. CityBiz has an interview with some execs from the firm looking at its strategy.
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