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DALLAS-Though retail nationwide is taking a one-two punch from the recessionary economy, an expert at the Weitzman Group’s 2009 Shopping Center Survey & Forecast presentation on January 13 presented a somewhat brighter picture of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Lessons learned from the 1980s recession are standing the retail sector in good stead today.

Information presented to the standing-room-only crowd of more than 400 people at Nick & Sam’s in Dallas’ Uptown area included the fact that that area-wide retail occupancy is 87.6% and inventory is 171 million square feet according the Weitzman Gruop. Absorption during 2008 across the Metroplex was 1.7 million square feet, with 4.6 million square feet more in the pipeline.

“We’ve done almost everything right in terms of new construction,” commented Bob Young, managing director of brokerage services with the locally based Weitzman Group during the presentation. “We learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay to build centers with little or no pre-leasing. New construction is demand-driven.” As a result, there isn’t a glut of retail space on the market to worry about on top of everything else.

Many of those lessons learned, Young said, came from hard consequences in the 1980s, during which a plethora of two-story mid-block retail centers were financed, then built. As a result, when the late 1980s downturn hit, the area was stuck “with a bunch of junk that never should have been built,” he remarked.

Young also pointed out during the presentation that grocers and grocery-anchored retail centers are in the best shape, while power center owners are finding themselves with big-box empty spaces as retailers are closing or declaring bankruptcy. But it’s the restaurant sector that seems to be the most hard-hit in the current economic downturn. Though the high-end restaurants have taken the brunt, mid-price eateries haven’t been unaffected either.

“Some of the restaurants operating during the previous cycle of growth were able to survive because of an abundance of guests,” Young told GlobeSt.com in an interview following the presentation. “But what has happened is that some of the concepts have become tired or over-expanded. In times like these, they either go away or retrench themselves.”

This is what happened with Plano, TX’s Metromedia Restaurant Group, which closed its Bennigan’s and Steak ‘n Ale restaurants last summer, he adds. The Steak ‘n Ale concept was “rough around the edges and got tired,” Young explains. “If you take that fact, combined with the economic climate and fewer dollars being spent, it’s logical they’d shut down.”

On the bright side, though, the discounted retailers and restaurants are doing well and will likely continue to do so. “The Walmarts of the world, the McDonald’s of the world, low prices and fast food, they’re going to win,” Young remarks. “There’ll be some restaurant chains that will reinvent themselves to get to that lower price point, too.”

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