Reprinted from www.freep.com
Empty retail stores are on the rise in some cities. So are creative solutions to filling them. Wochit
For clues to what may happen to all those empty big-box stores and ailing shopping centers in suburban Detroit where people once swarmed, look to the shopping district around Westland’s namesake mall.
When retailers such as Value City, Circuit City, Service Merchandise and Macy’s at Westland Shopping Center closed, they left behind large and vacant store buildings, a type of retail space that has gotten challenging to fill amid the explosive growth of online shopping and consumers’ changing shopping habits.
A few of these shuttered stores were eventually refilled with new stores. Others were transformed to house businesses that aren’t retail. Some still sit vacant, and one big box was torn down.
While Westland has seen a particular abundance of large store closings, retail and development, experts say that suburbs across the region have become over-saturated with stores as more shopping moves online and traditional retailers downsize.
There is general agreement that southeast Michigan now has more empty big-box and midsize box stores than retail tenants to fill the space.
“There’s going to continue to be closures, without a doubt, because we’re over-stored,” said Frank Monaghan, president of Monaghan & Company, a commercial retail brokerage. “There are a lot of areas in the Detroit area where I don’t see retail occupying these buildings ever again.”
Struggling retailers like Kmart, Sears and JC Penney — all known for big stores — have been closing dozens or even hundreds of locations a year. And there is no indication this will stop. That means more Michigan cities will be dealing with empty retail boxes and their negative effects on nearby shopping centers.
“It’s not only in Michigan, it’s nationwide,” said Ron Goldstone, senior vice president at NAI Farbman, the Southfield-based real estate firm.