The State of Shopping Center Leases in 2021

December 23rd, 2020

By Beau Arnason

With shopping centers throughout the United States facing a myriad of challenges posed by the pandemic, getting leases signed or extended into 2021 has been a top priority for management and development teams. But the unprecedented obstacles endured by many throughout 2020 has led tenants to rethink what they’re looking for in a landlord.

Though unplanned, the crisis was, in many ways, a test that helped define key intangibles attracting brands to one shopping center over another. It’s these attractive traits that have helped our Easton team sign or open more than a dozen new tenants since March, including Vans, True Food Kitchen, UGG, Purple, Pins Mechanical, Makai by LemonShark, Crimson and more.

The pandemic forced many shopping centers to find more creative ways of doing business, both from consumer and tenant standpoints. On the consumer side, engagement teams worked to find unique solutions for making shoppers feel like they’re getting the safest, most comfortable and best experience possible.

For tenants, leasing and development teams worked closely with brands to construct creative, nontraditional lease extensions and agreements for 2021 to ensure the strongest financial performance possible. During the pandemic, thinking creatively helped Easton enact a variety of convenient, fast-acting initiatives that bolstered tenants and confirmed our commitment to their short- and long-term success.

Shopping centers that weathered the storm in 2020 were able to adapt to circumstances rather quickly, and work cooperatively with tenants to enable mutual success. At Easton, we were able to do this in a multitude of ways, including:

  • Converting over a dozen areas throughout the property to curbside pickup not just for restaurants, but retailers, too.
  • Adopting queueless line system technology on behalf of retail tenants so customers—similar to a restaurant—can be notified by text when it’s their turn to safely enter a store, rather than be subjected to wait in a long line.
  • Expanded patio seating beyond normal lease lines at no additional cost, enabling restaurants to offer more seating within state guidelines, ultimately benefiting their bottom line.
  • Improving indoor air quality throughout the center to make employees and customers feel safer and more comfortable about being at Easton.
  • Partnering with a local service to offer complimentary home delivery from select retailers at Easton.
  • These initiatives and more helped provide adaptability proof points for current and prospective tenants alike, leading to new and extended leases signed for 2021.

Thanks to creativity and adaptability, Easton established itself as being more resilient in 2020—able to bounce back quicker and see a stronger return in traffic than other shopping centers in the country. Part of this can be attributed to the “town center” design of Easton, which features a combination of indoor and (primarily) outdoor environments.

Shopping center resilience is also a testament to the broad mix of tenants featured. Easton combines food & beverage, general retail, entertainment, hospitality, office, fitness and community space—essentially creating a self-sustaining ecosystem in which rising tides float all boats. Instead of a single-use or anchor-reliant retail center, our model allowed tenants to come back at their own rate, prompting prospective brands to take notice and sign leases for 2021.

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