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ORLANDO-Big-box retailers continue to drive out smaller competitors from the Central Florida market as indicated by recent industry statistics that show traditional food and beverage stores lost 1,000 jobs in the Orlando MSA in the last 12 months while general merchandise stores grew by 1,500 jobs, David W. Marks, president, Marketplace Advisors Inc., Maitland, tells GlobeSt.com.

“What we are seeing is that as Wal-Mart Supercenters, Costco Wholesale, SuperTarget and similar warehouse clubs grow, food and beverage stores, which include traditional grocery stores, are taking a big hit,” Marks says.

The former Trammell Crow Co. executive says “the most recent statistics show Orlando growth of 18,900 jobs [2.1% growth rate] in total non-agricultural employment over the last 12 months [July 2003 to July 2004]” but the “ retail trade was flat with a 0.6% growth rate.” Still, he says, “some types of retail establishments grew and some declined.”

Marks says “some of the most significant employment growth was in construction, real estate, professional and business services, education and health services and leisure and hospitality. “Real estate and construction are red hot in Central Florida,” he adds. “With the aging baby boomer generation in their prime spending years, development is destined for strong, long-term growth.”

His former colleague at Trammell Crow, John M. Crossman, agrees that big-box retailers are changing the retail operations scene in Central Florida. “During the last year, Orlando has experienced considerable movement among retailers within the big-box market, largely due to the Kash n’ Karry and Kmart store closings,” says Crossman, senior vice president of Trammell Crow’s Southeast investment sales group.

Fifteen of the 34 Kash n’ Karry closures in Florida were located in the Orlando metro market, he told about 1,500 International Council of Shopping Centers members at their recent convention here. “The closings are a sign of pressure from Publix on the top of the market, attracting customers seeking service and quality, and Wal-Mart at the bottom of the market, attracting customers mostly interested in price and value,” Crossman says.

He adds, “The loss of these stores will raise vacancy rates slightly, but this also presents an opportunity for newer and more successful retailers to enter Florida’s Market.” Cincinnati-based Kohl’s Department Stores is one of the new faces expected to surface on the metro Orlando scene shortly, Crossman says.

Asking average market rental rates (for non-anchors) have increased by only 25 cents per sf to $17.99 within the last six months. Occupancy has declined by .7% to 91.85%.

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