Not long ago, with big, empty, closed-down stores everywhere, Oklahoma City seemed to have a glut of vacant retail space.
The Great Recession took out many a national and regional chain: Circuit City, Ultimate Electronics, Harold's. Add a Big Lots here and an IGA there, plus strategic moves by Walmart and Target — it added up.
Now there's a shortage of space, at least a lack of “quality space,” according to CB Richard Ellis-Oklahoma.
“Expanding retailers, limited store closings, and virtually no new speculative construction creates an enviable environment for existing property owners,” the firm said in its 2013 year-end retail property market report. “Quality retail space is in high demand and options for new store operators are limited.”
The year ended with overall retail vacancy of 8.07 percent, down two-thirds of a percentage point since summer, according to CB Richard Ellis.
“There's just not much Class A space around,” said Stuart Graham, a retail broker with the firm who compiled the report.
Graham and fellow broker Mark Inman started tracking empty big-box space in 2010 — because there was so much of it, more than 30 empty stores with some 1.25 million square feet, about one-third of all vacant retail space then in the metro area.
Now, surviving chains have retrenched, with some shrinking their store sizes, which has led to the former big boxes being divided up, Graham said. Where one store stood before, now there are two or more, he said.
Add the continuing strength of the local economy to lenders' reluctance to lend on speculation — at least compared to standards before the 2007-2008 credit collapse and recession — and “it's filtered down to small-shop use,” he said. Even small strips centers are at or nearing full occupancy, he said.