Juice bars, gyms are new generation of mall tenants

Mall landlord CBL & Associates leases millions of square feet of space to such troubled retailers as Sears, JCPenney and Macy’s.

As those merchants shrink, CBL is renting more space to gyms, juice bars and other wellness-themed tenants, says Stephen Lebovitz, the real estate investment trust’s chief executive.

“Anything that is health-oriented is really doing well,” Lebovitz said this week at the National Association of Real Estate Editors‘ conference in Denver.

Unlike traditional mall merchants, those types of retailers have proven “Amazon-proof,” Lebovitz said. Chattanooga-based CBL’s malls are mainly in the Southeast and Midwest.

CBL and other landlords are adapting to a new reality, said Melina Cordero, head of retail research at commercial real estate brokerage CBRE.

“The mall is not dead,” Cordero said. “The traditional mall model is.”

The U.S. retail market will see 9,000 store closings this year, Kevin Thorpe, global chief economist at Cushman & Wakefield said.

“E-commerce is absolutely wreaking havoc on retail,” Thorpe said.

However, Cordero cautioned that the Amazon effect has been overstated. Even as Amazon seemingly takes over the retail world, just 8.5 percent of retail sales come online — and fully half of those sales are by the e-commerce operations of brick-and-mortar brands.

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