Mall Operator Brookfield Plans $5 Billion Retail Investment Push

But consumers might not be ready to return to physical stores
Are consumers ready to return to malls?

Retailers struggling through the pandemic could get $5 billion worth of help from mall owner Brookfield Asset Management, according to a report from CNBC.

“The company said its retail revitalization program, backed by Brookfield and its institutional partners, will focus on taking noncontrolling stakes in retailers to assist them with their capital needs during this time of ‘dislocation’,” the report said.

The move, which could help Brookfield, too, of course, comes as malls – already facing big challenges before the pandemic – now must deal with closed stores, lack of foot traffic and even bankruptcies by national retail chains.  Brookfield offered no immediate comment but the report said that the company’s new effort “will be focused on funding retailers that were bringing in normalized revenue of at least $250 million pre-Covid-19, and that have been operating for at least two years.”

Missed rent and lease payments promise to become an even bigger problem as the pandemic and stay-at-home mandates continues, even as some economies start to slowly reopen. And retail operations and landlords are trying to figure out what works best. Walmart, for example, reportedly waived April rent for the “10,000 businesses (that) operate within Walmart Supercenters and Sam’s Clubs, including hair and nail salons, optometrists, restaurant franchises, veterinary clinics and local and regional banks. In addition, Walmart is making changes to its supply-chain financing program to help qualified suppliers get payments faster. The retailer is adding dedicated resources to speed up its onboarding process.”

As all that happens, mall operators are trying to get back to business. Indiana-based Simon Property Group, the country’s largest mall owner, is reopening 49 shopping centers. Those malls are located in 10 states, and would resume operations with pandemic protection measures that include having ample space between seats in food courts, keeping play areas and drinking fountains shut down.

But it remains unclear how many shoppers are ready to return to physical stores even as some states move to get back to economic normalcy. Only 34% of U.S. consumers feel safe enough to shop inside stores now, according to the new “Deloitte Global State of the Consumer Tracker” survey report. Deloitte drew its findings via surveys of 1,000 U.S. consumers.


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