Colliers: Shopping centers national vacancy rate down in Q1

Seattle -- The national vacancy rate for shopping centers dropped slightly from 10.09% to 10.06% in the first quarter of 2013, according to a study by global real estate services company Colliers International. In addition, shopping centers absorbed nearly 4.5 million sq. ft. in the first quarter.

The report, Colliers International's 2013 Q1 North American Retail Highlights report, finds that with the housing and job markets on the road to recovery, retailers are seeing increased consumer confidence and spending across North America. In fact, the six markets with the most shopping center leasing activity are also cities where long-term growth in employment and housing have taken hold.

“Although the economy is improving, retailers are still focusing on value," said Mark Keschl, national director of retail services for Colliers International and contributor to the report. "Today, value does not necessarily mean the cheapest price. The consumer is looking for quality, brand and price transparency in a dynamic shopping environment. Shoppers also want the ability to purchase the product in the manner that best suits their lifestyle, whether it is in a brick-and-mortar location or online."

Other highlights from the report:

Canada and Mexico are seeing the most retail growth. Canada added 8 million sq. ft. of shopping center space last year and more than 10 million additional square feet are in development for 2013, including outlet malls, enclosed malls and mixed-use developments. The growth is bolstered in part by American retailers tapping into the robust Canadian market.

Mexico is also experiencing a surge in the retail market, with more than 1.5 million sq. ft. of new shopping center space developed this past year.

Restaurants position for tomorrow's consumer. With restaurant sales forecast to grow nearly 4% in 2013, chains are relying heavily on franchisees to support expansion. In addition, casual restaurants like Applebee's, Red Robin and Famous Dave's are testing the fast-casual segment to strike a balance between quality and value, though the market could quickly become overcrowded.

A complete PDF version of the eight-page report is available at Colliers.com/us/retail-Q1.