Commercial Real Estate Jobs Reflect Greenville Retail Transition | Greenville Real Estate Special Coverage

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For 75 years, the Army-Navy store in downtown Greenville covered 6,000 square feet on South Main Street. In early 2021, the company announced plans to move to Lawrence Road after selling its long-held space for $ 1.34 million.

While the new owner clearly has plans for the premises after paying the big bucks for the main downtown address, the sale technically leaves a vacancy – one of many dotting Greenville and Spartanburg’s CBDs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic taking heavy action. … retail duty. But as the Army-Navy store move clearly shows, not all retail jobs are created the same.



Jimmy Wright

Jimmy Wright (subject)


“This store is empty now, but it was bought and they are going to re-plan it. The report lists it as a vacancy, ”said Jimmy Wright, broker at NAI Earle Furman, the largest commercial real estate brokerage in the upstate. “But this is a transition from an owner-operator who said, ‘I see that right now my best bet would be to sell this building and move to another location and let someone else take this ball of clay and remake it.”

According to NAI Earle Furman’s Second Quarter 2021 Market Report, upstate retail job vacancies continued to rise, rising from 4.8 percent to 5.3 percent in downtown Greenville and 5.8 percent to 6.5 percent. in the center of the city and the western part of Spartanburg. This is despite some positive performance in the industrial and even office sectors over the same period, highlighting the difficulties retailers face as Covid-19 continues to hold its ground in the northern regions of the state, the country and around the world.

Yet Wright did not describe the situation as worrying. “There will always be some kind of vacancy; it is inherent, ”he said. “When we guarantee real estate, we guarantee it taking into account the vacancy factor, and banks are looking for this too. The typical vacancy rate for an apartment building is 3 to 5 percent. So these numbers are still within the acceptable range, although perhaps they are at a higher level. “

Overcoming the Amazon Effect in Retail

Other factors also hampered the recovery of retail in the northern regions of the state. A labor shortage among low-wage hourly workers – so evident in the restaurant and hospitality industry – has forced many retailers in the upstate and elsewhere to adjust opening hours or postpone expansion plans. And the rise in construction costs due to inflation has made the construction of new retail facilities less feasible than it was before the pandemic.

“I don’t know what the long-term implications of the current inflationary period are,” Wright said. “This is influenced by a number of factors: a shortage of labor, a problem with the supply chain, and besides, you have all these projects that have been idle for a while. So now they are reappearing, and the point is simply that all these circumstances operate at the same time. So I think it will be difficult to develop new retail in the short term due to the high cost. ”

The pandemic has also changed consumer purchasing habits, possibly in the long term. “The Amazon effect is real,” Wright said, referring to the practice of online shopping, not personal shopping, which in many areas is a consequence of periods of isolation. This has prompted retail business owners to consider how they can change their position in the future – something that some retailers in Greenville and beyond are already beginning to understand.

Wright points to the continued success of TJX, the parent company of brands such as TJ Maxx, Marshall’s and Home Goods, whose shoppers tend to shop in person for bargains they won’t find online. “They have a good model and are successful right now,” he added. “They don’t rely entirely on the Internet, and they’ve found a model that suits them. Others are doing the same because we are in a transitional period. “

Nowadays, it is not unusual for retail space to move from stores to personalized service outlets such as “financial services or beauty salons, be it an eyelash studio, a hairdresser or something like that that cannot be abandoned by Amazon.” said Jeff Beans. , also broker NAI Earle Furman. “This is a service you pay for. The restaurant industry is a part of it, but now they have some unfavorable problems due to the lack of labor. “

During this transition period, retailers in northern Wright are also expecting a rise in service-oriented boutiques such as Monkee’s of the West End, a women’s clothing boutique in Greenville that remains successful despite the hardships of the pandemic. Again, the idea is for companies to spin off offering what customers can’t get online.

“You look at a retailer like the New York Butcher Shoppe, which has a grocery component but is also service-oriented,” Wright said of the Greenville-based three-borough company. “You can go there and ask for a ribeye tomahawk and you can get it and they will tell you how to make it. They all have subtle differences that are designed to better serve and engage with customers. “

Are vacancies an opportunity for growth?

In his NAI second quarter market report, Earle Furman expected retail growth in the northern regions of the state to continue in the second half of the year. The negative takeover trend in the Greenville area, meaning more businesses are leaving than moving in, is expected to continue. “While the state is working to reopen its economy, there is still a long way to go to full recovery,” the report said.

Filling the labor gap is a crucial step towards a normal life, Beans said. “These are businesses that need workers,” he added. “There are so many restaurants now that are not open for lunch — they cannot count for lunch because their sales are not as high as they would like, and this is preventing them from striving to expand. So it’s really important to fix it now. “

And yet, the vacant retail locations in Greenville and Spartanburg may offer more room for growth, given that installation in these pre-made locations will not require sky-high new construction costs. “Jobs are in a better position right now, at least in the short term,” Wright said. “They know what their ongoing costs are and they can figure out what their rates are so they can have a competitive edge. Renovation can be less expensive than new construction. ”

Main Street, Greenville’s trademark for many tourists and residents, remains healthy thanks to the city’s steady growth. In the end, something else will one day appear on the site of the former Army-Fleet store. “At any stage of growth, you will have transitional spaces,” Wright said. “This is the main thing: we grow, and when you grow, you have a transition period.



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