Grocers Taking Advantage of Big Box Vacancies

July 23, 2009
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A new opportunity has opened up for grocers such as Seafood City, a Calif.-based supermarket chain specializing in Asian cuisine, and Safeway, Inc., a supermarket operator with locations mainly on the East Coast: vacant big box stores. A growing trend of supermarket chains taking over some of the vacant big boxes that have cropped up on the retail landscape because of mass closures by Circuit City, Linens ‘n Things, and other national retailers is becoming more apparent as grocers are popping up in choice locations—dense, urban markets with higher than average incomes, older than average demographics, and higher than average education levels. Because big boxes typically are in ideal locations, grocers like Seafood City will benefit from high visibility, as well.

Retailers who went out of business left vacancies available in some very desirable areas, says David J. Livingston, a supermarket consultant in Waukesha, Wis. Before, the landlords would have multiple parties knocking on their door. In this economy, owners are lucky to get one interested retailer for a vacant big box, notes Alvin Williams, principal of Excess Space Retail Services, a real estate disposition and lease restructuring firm. Right now, that retailer has become a supermarket.