It’s easy to think that the retail market across the country is dying. But that’s simply not true. There are plenty of retailers who are thriving, even in the bricks-and-mortar world.
These retailers tend to offer something that customers can’t simply order through Amazon. Or they offer experiences that consumers enjoy and come back for. Then there are the restaurants, fitness centers, discounters and beauty salons. Many of these are doing well again because they are offering something Amazon can’t provide.
This trend is no different in Omaha. Ben Meier, vice president of brokerage services at Omaha’s The Lerner Company, said that there is no one way to sum up Omaha’s retail sector today. Some retailers here are booming. Others are struggling.
What sets the two apart? Usually the old-fashioned things: location, visibility and the products being sold.
“If you have a well-positioned retailer in a busy, high-traffic area with good visibility, that retailer tends to do well here,” Meier said. “If you have retailers in older buildings that aren’t located in busy areas or that aren’t in highly visible locations, those retailers aren’t doing as well. It really does come down to that kind of old-fashioned blocking and tackling.”
Meier said that those retailers that are struggling are often located in buildings that were built 20-some years ago. At the time, the retail market was booming. Today, those spaces no longer work.
Retailers that are doing well throughout the Omaha market? Meier said that discounters continue to be active as are fitness centers and other experiential retailers. Planet Fitness, T.J. Maxx, Ross Dress for Less and Burlington continue to expand, Meier said.
And when it comes to selling experiences? A good example is Topgolf. The company, which offers virtual golf simulators, other games, food and drink, broke ground on its first Nebraska venue in Omaha in June. The facility is expected to open in the spring of 2020.
Meier points to The Capitol District, too, as a home for some of the city’s top-performing retailers. The mixed-use development, which also features apartments, has become a top destination in downtown Omaha for restaurants, bars and entertainment.
“The Capitol District has been very successful,” Meier said. “There is a lot of energy there. It’s provided a real boost to downtown Omaha. The retailers and restaurants that are located there are doing very well.”
As Omaha’s retail market continues to grow, Meier said there is now talk that it might be time for a new grocery-anchored retail development in the city or its surrounding communities. The demand is growing for a new entrant into this sector, he said.
This is interesting, and a sign that Omaha’s retail sector isn’t dying.
“Not too long ago, a new grocery-anchored retail development would have seemed highly unlikely,” Meier said. “But today, people are talking about it. People are talking about a lot of bigger retail projects. It’s an exciting time here in Omaha.”
But even if a new retail center sprouts? Expect developers to remain cautious. Meier said that whenever he tours out-of-towners through Omaha, he’s certain to talk about the city’s conservative commercial real estate market. He points out that Omaha’s retail sector – much like the other commercial sectors here – doesn’t experience big ebbs.
“We might miss out on the big spikes in activity,” Meier said. “But we also don’t have the big drops. That’s important to the success of our market. We’re slow and steady. We plod along. That’s what has worked for us so far.”