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10 Must Reads for the CRE Industry Today (April 16, 2020)

March was a catastrophic month for U.S. retailers, reports The New York Times. Non-traded REITs are not letting individual investors withdraw their cash from property funds, according to the Wall Street Journal. These are among today’ must reads from around the commercial real estate industry.

  1. ‘Pretty Catastrophic’ Month for Retailers, and Now a Race to Survive “Total sales, which include retail purchases in stores and online as well as money spent at bars and restaurants, fell 8.7 percent from the previous month, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. The decline was by far the largest in the nearly three decades the government has tracked the data. Even that bleak figure doesn’t capture the full impact of the sudden economic freeze on the retail industry. Most states didn’t shut down nonessential businesses until late March or early April, meaning data for the current month could be worse still.” (The New York Times)
  2. Individual Investors Find Withdrawal Window Shut for Property Funds “Thousands of individuals who poured money into real-estate funds aimed at small investors are now trying to pull cash out during this period of economic turmoil. Many are being told they can’t have it. These individuals invested in a type of fund known as a nontraded real-estate investment trust. Since 2013, more than $70 billion has flowed into these funds, according to Robert A. Stanger & Co. Last year alone, firms raised $11.8 billion, more than twice the volume of 2018, Stanger said.” (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)
  3. NMHC Rent Payment Tracker Finds Rent Payment Rate at 93 Percent of Prior Month “The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) found that 84 percent of apartment households made a full or partial rent payment by April 12 in its second survey of 11.5 million units of professionally managed apartment units across the country, up 15 percentage points from April 5. NMHC’s Rent Payment Tracker numbers also examined historical numbers and found that 90 percent of renters made full or partial payments from April 1-12, 2019, and 91 percent of renters in March 1-12, 2020.” (Business Wire)
  4. Nursing Home Industry, Already Granted Favors by DeSantis, Wants Another—This One Big “The decades-long quest of Florida elder-care facilities to secure greater protections against negligence lawsuits may get a boost from the unlikeliest of events: a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that is ravaging their residents. A trade group for Florida’s nearly 700 nursing homes is asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to extend the state’s sovereign immunity provisions to the industry and other healthcare sectors during the course of the coronavirus pandemic. If the request is granted, hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other providers would be protected against negligence suits.” (Miami Herald)
  5. S.F. Must Lease 8,250 Hotel Rooms for Homeless, Frontline Workers Under Emergency Ordinance “San Francisco must procure more than 8,000 hotel rooms for the city’s homeless and frontline workers under an emergency ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. The ordinance, which passed unanimously, requires the city to lease 8,250 rooms in hotels and motels by April 26. That is 1,250 more rooms than Mayor London Breed’s staff is currently working to lease.’ (San Francisco Chronicle)
  6. Saks Fifth Avenue Reveals Plans for Fashionably Sanitized Post-Coronavirus Opening “Executives at the swanky retailer — owned by Canada-based Hudson’s Bay Company — have been drawing up a “re-entry plan” as the number of new COVID-19 cases appears to be leveling off in some states, The Post has learned. The strategy centers on making customers feel safe, using everything from disposable cosmetics samples and contactless credit-card readers to virtual shopping services that connect sales associates with fashion-obsessed clients who are hunkered down at home.” (New York Post)
  7. New CEO Crafted a Vision for Rite Aid. Now She’s Launching It In a Crisis. “Heyward Donigan spent seven months crafting a massive overhaul of Rite Aid Corp. after taking the helm of the beleaguered drugstore chain in August. Then, almost overnight, the pandemic upended her plans to unveil her strategic vision. So Ms. Donigan adjusted. She and her executive team—surrounded by hand sanitizer and sitting apart from one another—laid out her turnaround plan via webcast to analysts and investors last month ‘to show Rite Aid is moving forward no matter what,’ she said. (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)
  8. Most D-FW Apartment Residents Are Keeping Up with Their Rent “So far North Texas apartment renters are doing a good job of keeping up with rent payments. But industry analysts acknowledge that it’s too early to gauge the full impact of the current pandemic. Almost 87% of Dallas-Fort Worth apartment renters have made their April payments as of this week, according to data from Richardson-based RealPage. That’s down from a 92.5% rent payment rate at this time a year ago.” (Dallas Morning News)
  9. McDonald’s Relationship with U.S. Franchisees Is Fraying Over Coronavirus Relief “The coronavirus pandemic is straining McDonald’s relationship with its U.S. franchisees once again. The fast-food giant is pushing for franchisees to do more to protect their workers, while franchisees are asking for more financial relief to keep them afloat. Franchisees operate 95% of McDonald’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants. McDonald’s is deferring rent for three months for franchisees to lessen the financial blow of social-distancing measures.” (CNBC)
  10. J.C. Penney Shares Plunge to Record Low Amid Reports of Possible Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing “J.C. Penney Company Inc. shares hit a fresh all-time low Wednesday amid reports that the struggling retailer is close to filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  Reuters reported late Tuesday that J.C. Penney's decision to shutter all of its 850 department stores, while furloughing nearly all of its 95,000 employees, may push the retailer into a Chapter 11 filing that could help it re-finance it near $4 billion in outstanding debts.” (The Street)
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