Retail rents are a big question mark today. As we head into late summer, tenants are beginning to request lease modifications and concessions, but rents have yet to falter. At some point that will change, but predicting where rents are heading is challenging, largely because there is a double market with essential and non-essential tenants. But, there are other factors as well that make predicting retail rental rates—and in turn retail investment—a challenge.

"It's very difficult to say and depends on a number of factors such as the location of the shopping center, the tenant mix, and the type of services and/or goods the particular tenant is providing," Chris Rizza, a partner at Crosbie Gliner Schiffman Southard & Swanson, tells "Rents are also likely to be impacted by the development of a COVID-19 vaccine and the outcome of the presidential election."

For non-essential uses, retail rent collections have plummeted, which could be a precursor to decreases in rental rates. For essential uses, however, rents have been stable. In addition, retail areas with space and outdoor areas will also see better foot traffic and therefore more stable rents. "In general, I think rents for outdoor malls may tend to remain more stable than rents for indoor malls—people may feel a little safer visiting and spending time at outdoor malls given what we know about the virus," says Rizza. "Rents for tenants that have a significant online presence may take a dip since those particular tenants may no longer see the benefit of taking on the risk of paying rent for a brick and mortar presence."

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Kelsi Maree Borland

Kelsi Maree Borland is a freelance journalist and magazine writer based in Los Angeles, California. For more than 5 years, she has extensively reported on the commercial real estate industry, covering major deals across all commercial asset classes, investment strategy and capital markets trends, market commentary, economic trends and new technologies disrupting and revolutionizing the industry. Her work appears daily on and regularly in Real Estate Forum Magazine. As a magazine writer, she covers lifestyle and travel trends. Her work has appeared in Angeleno, Los Angeles Magazine, Travel and Leisure and more.