Retail Traffic

Energy crisis

The big question of the moment concerns the energy crisis, which has sent the price of electricity spiraling upward. To this point, says John Gianulias, a retail investment broker with CB Richard Ellis in Sacramento, Calif., it has had no noticeable impact on the retail market. Properties continue to attract multiple offers and sell quickly.

Vicki Johnson, a partner in Johnson Hoke Retail Leasing & Development in San Francisco, concurs. Though many retailers raise the subject of energy costs, she says hardly any make an issue of it. On the other hand, a few have asked prospective landlords for a utility price cap in the lease. So far, she adds, no landlord has agreed and no deal has been scuttled as a result.

Inevitably, however, the crisis will have an impact, says Jeff Kellogg, a retailing specialist in the Long Beach office of Newmark of California. “The energy situation is going to exact a cost and make retailers more cautious,” he says. Someone, after all, will have to absorb the cost of stores' higher energy bills, whether landlord, tenant or consumer. The crisis also seems bound to dampen overall sales, he adds.

In combination with job cuts, rising health-care costs, rising housing prices and other negative factors, the energy crisis is likely to do considerable harm. Edward Leamer, director of the Anderson Business Forecast at U.C.L.A., predicts a period of minimal economic growth and possibly even reversal due largely to a scaling back in the high-technology industry. In his opinion, “modest consumption” and “thrift” will be the watchwords of the coming few years. Though the prediction applies to the entire nation, it has particular resonance for California because of the state's pre-eminent role in high technology.

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