Liberty in the News
Liberty grows staff, listings even as retail sector stagnates
November 08, 2009
Jack Liberty is seeing growth in a market that has experienced little so far this year.
His brokerage firm, Liberty Universal Management Inc., concentrates on the retail sector, which has been in the doldrums, thanks to the economic recession and a drop in consumer spending.
In fact, the retail vacancy rate in Orlando is nearing 10 percent, up from 6.6 percent in third-quarter 2008. In addition, the average asking rent per square foot has fallen from $18.39 in third-quarter 2008 to $17.53 for the same period this year.
However, as president of the brokerage, Liberty has seen a positive increase in leasing activity, which he credits to proactive strategies with landlords and tenants.
Leasing activity has grown nearly 25 percent with the addition of four new tenants. His firm also has seen more sales and ground leases of outparcels. In the past six months, the firm had a net gain of three listings. The company also hired three people this year, giving it nine employees.
Liberty Universal Management leases or manages more than 6 million square feet of retail real estate.
Its clients include Baldwin Park Village, Uptown Altamonte Town Center and Winter Springs Town Center.
Greatest challenge during the recession: Keeping out-of-state owners informed on the Central Florida market and encouraging them to be proactive with their tenants and with rent collections. We have encouraged owners to add greater value to their shopping centers, work with their valued tenants on payment plans and evaluate their rent-to-sales ratios.
Clients’ response to national retailer cutbacks: Rent reductions with extended lease terms and keeping a close eye on tenants’ sales. We’ve also increasingly facilitated short-term leases and alternative uses.
New things landlords do to draw tenants to shopping centers: Rent reductions, rent incentives and broker bonuses. Some have begun to look outside their heavy restrictions on tenant mix from previous years, resulting in concepts such as Family Dollar, Dollar Tree and more value-oriented tenants.
National retailers that are doing well: AT&T, Sally Beauty Supply, Hibbett Sports, GameStop, Firehouse Subs and NYPD Pizza, to name a few. Our restaurant tenants are able to use former restaurant spaces to their benefit, saving money on impact fees and build-out costs. Value Pawn is flourishing in this market.
Successes this year: We’ve expanded our team at a time when most companies are downsizing. We also have taken on numerous new listings while also assisting our national tenants with their rollouts; for example, AT&T’s launch to freestanding sites, pads and mall locations this year.
Expectations for local retail: Our team is optimistic as we approach the holiday season. Projects that struggled earlier in the year are seeing more activity, which we expect to continue in the coming year.