By Justin Chermol
The latest sign of the growing impact of e-commerce on brick-and-mortar stores? Mall vacancies have hit their highest level since 2012 and are closing in on all-time records.
Shopping centers saw 8.6 percent of their retail space unoccupied in the second quarter, up from 8.4 percent at the start of the year, according to research released by real-estate data firm Reis on Tuesday. The vacancy rate peaked at 9.4 percent in 2011.
Strip malls and local shopping centers are suffering the most, with more than a tenth of their space vacant. Occupants abandoned nearly 3.8 million square feet of property in the space between April and June.
The latest report comes days after now-bankrupt Toys ‘R’ Us closed its last U.S. locations on Friday. One-time retail giants such as Macy’s, Sears, JCPenney, and Bon-Ton have also closed dozens of locations nationwide.
And the trend towards online shopping affects more than just the retail industry. Local governments are seeing lower tax revenues as jobs are lost and spending decreases. And property owners are looking for alternatives for their spaces, with some landlords converting former stores into call centers, gyms, or even churches.
But brick-and-mortar may not be totally dead. E-commerce giants like Amazon are actually opening physical locations. The company is reportedly getting ready to launch its second cashier-less Amazon Go store in Seattle this fall.