Retailers looking for a place to get away from the Web — or at least insulate themselves for a time from the rising tide of e-commerce — should head to Westfield Century City in Los Angeles.
Or Aventura Mall in Aventura, Fla.; Westfield Valley Fair in Santa Clara, Calif.; The Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, N.J., or Fashion Show in Las Vegas.
Those are, at least according to Goldman Sachs, the top five malls in the country; the retail real estate that is “most defensible to online” and generates sales of $1,000 per square foot or more.
Goldman updated its list of the top 100 malls this week in a report re-examining what has become the defining issue for a generation in retail: Clicks or bricks?
There had been some indications lately that at least the rhetoric around e-commerce had peaked. Jonathan Alferness, vice president of product management at Google Shopping, noted this week, “While 87 percent of shopping research happens online, 92 percent of goods are still sold in retail stores.” Mobile, which is still near peak buzz, is also still just a small part of most companies’ top lines.
But three of the bank’s analysts — Stephen Grambling, Christopher Prykull and Alison Levens — argued for the continued and rising importance of e-commerce for broadline retailers.
“E-commerce will be the dominate theme impacting broadlines as penetration in apparel, accessories and home doubles over the next three to five years, disrupting the traditional retail financial model,” the three wrote in an analysis.
Web sales made up about 7.7 percent of personal consumption expenditures for those areas last year and are expected to jump to 26.6 percent of sales in 2018, according to Goldman.
That could amount to something like the arrival of a tidal wave. Goldman pointed to a number of ramifications including:
• mall traffic declines;
• lower in-store sales;
• margin pressure;
• and smaller returns on investments.
The bank said Kohl’s Corp. faced structural challenges from the shift online and that J.C. Penney Co. Inc. has a tough long-term proposition, rating both retail stocks a “sell.” Macy’s Inc. was also seen as having challenged fundamentals in its business, but was rated a “buy” because it could get a boost by rejiggering its real estate at the prodding of activist investor Starboard Value.
Best positioned among the department stores is Nordstrom Inc., according to Goldman, which also noted that the market agrees and that the company’s standing is already priced into the stock.
Fifty-seven of Nordstrom’s 118 stores are in the bank’s top 100 malls. (Macy’s has 85 doors in the top 100, but that only makes up 11 percent of its store base.)
“Though discretionary spending has been shifting online, select malls have retained traffic as consumers are still attracted to specific locations, offerings and experiences,” the analysts said of the top malls.
Targeting the upper tier is clearly something that’s helped Apple stores balloon. The company has a store in three-quarters of the top 100 malls.