Friday, May 30, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 5/31/14


Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 5/31/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicator:
  • First quarter 2014 GDP fell by 1.0 percent in second estimate
  • Initial unemployment claims dip by 27,000 in latest report
  • Mortgage loan applications dip by 1.2 percent in latest survey
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 5/29/14

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 5/29/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:
  • New home sales rose by 6.4 percent in April after two months of declines
  • Case-Shiller Indices rose again in March, but rate of growth slowing
  • FHFA House Price Index rises for 11th consecutive quarter
  • Consumer confidence improves in May
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Retail and the Evolution of Mixed-Use Developments

In 1999, when Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso razed an under-used, 25-acre parcel housing an orchard and nursery near the historic Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles, he replaced it with The Grove:  An “Urban Resort” of nearly 600,000 thousand feet of retail and entertainment space that now gets more visitors than Disneyland.  In the process, Caruso Affiliated unveiled a type of high-quality, experiential shopping experience that made him a billionaire even as retail sales moved increasingly online.

Whether intentional or not, Caruso’s focus on the upper end of the retail spectrum has allowed his company to prosper at a time when the economics behind commercial land uses is in flux.  Today, many retailers are reducing their footprints, boosting their online presence and merchandising fewer products in their stores to avoid “showrooming,” in which customers compare products in person but buy them online.  As a result, the future of the mixed-use project is also in flux, with the winners and losers likely to be determined based mostly on how well developers match retail stores with local and visitor demographics.

Since four of every five jobs in the country are in cities, large retailers like Wal-Mart and Target have already been adopting their suburban model to infill locations in which two-story buildings, multi-story parking garages and even escalators for shopping carts are becoming commonplace.  For existing shopping malls such as South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, CA, remaining competitive is also about offering experiential amenities including a VIP lounge, a meditation room and even a “gentlemen’s room” where visitors can watch sports while enjoying some wine or beer.

However, for other existing malls with less favorable demographics and middle-market anchor tenants such as Sears or Kohl’s, the loss of smaller retail stores including RadioShack, Abercrombie & Fitch or Eagle Outfitters has forced operators to get increasingly creative.  In the short run, businesses which can’t be replaced by online shopping – such as health clubs, yoga studios, doctor’s offices and restaurants – can take up some the slack, but in the long run the very idea of the traditional retail store is being challenged.

Not surprisingly, these changes are also impacting the types of smaller, mixed-use projects encouraged by cities, but often leave absorption of the retail space to the whims of the market as well as the marketing expertise of the local broker. So far, there seem to be two ways to goose retail demand:  appeal to specific demographics or create an in-person experience unavailable online.

In areas with large Hispanic populations, developer José de Jesús Legaspi has refashioned nearly ten failing malls into multi-generational cultural centers in which grocery stores can co-exist with medical offices.  While grandparents can socialize for hours in public spaces, many of the storefronts are actually business incubators helping to build “the Mercado” (or central market) one at a time.  In the process, traffic at each of his malls has reportedly grown to between four and six million per year.

At Caruso Affiliated’s Americana at Brand residential and retail center in Glendale, CA, by including free community meeting space and government-related offices in the mix, those visitors attending a book club meeting or paying a traffic ticket are much more likely to stay for a bite to eat or shop for a last-minute gift.  In essence, Caruso’s mission isn’t so much to build town centers as it is to “build the center of town.”

When it comes to experiences, since not everyone can duplicate the special events, dancing fountains or streetcars at Caruso’s larger projects, technology will certainly seek to level the playing field for smaller operators.   A perfect fit for a mixed-use community would be those retailers who seamlessly merge off- and online services so that it’s easy to order an item and either pick it up in person (which has worked very well for both Wal-Mart and Best Buy) or have it delivered the same day (which is being tested in select markets by Amazon and Google Shopping Express).

To encourage repeat visitors and maximize per-visit sales, some chains are experimenting with apps that will recognize a smart phone, identify a shopper’s past history and immediately send them an active coupon for a favorite item.  Other stores allow customers to keep current on the latest promotions by downloading apps to multiple devices.  Even better, should a measure allowing all states the power to tax most internet sales pass, a more level playing field for traditional retailers could give them just the boost they need to remain competitive.

Friday, May 23, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 5/23/14


Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 5/23/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicator:
  • Existing home sales rebounded in April after more inventory released
  • Leading Economic Index rose for third straight month in April
  • Initial unemployment claims rise by 28,000 in latest report
  • Federal Reserve mulling options for raising interest rates in the future
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 5/22/14

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 5/22/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:
  • Philadelphia Fed's Outlook Survey showed continued expansion in May
  • Empire State Manufacturing Survey improves sharply in May
  • Mortgage loan applications overall rise by 0.9 percent
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 5/20/14

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 5/20/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:
  • Housing starts rose 13 percent in April, mostly due to multi-family units
  • Building permits rose by 8 percent in April, mostly due to multi-family units
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Friday, May 16, 2014

May column for Builder & Developer magazine now online

My column for the May 2014 issue of Builder and Developer magazine is now posted online.

For this issue, entitled "First Quarter 2014 Economic Update," I reviewed how the housing market and the overall U.S. economy performed during the first quarter of this year.  An excerpt:
After a weather-related pause due to a particularly harsh winter in much of the country, economic growth is again gaining traction. Still, the economy has yet to function on all cylinders, with both the labor market and consumer confidence improving while building permits dipped by 2.4 percent in March and have bounced mostly between 900,000 and one million units per month over the last year. Meanwhile, housing starts rose by nearly three percent in March and averaged 923,000 units during the first quarter of 2014, but are still down by about six percent from March 2013. 

Builders are still managing to sell close to 450,000 annualized single-family units per year while inventory has been slowly creeping up to 189,000 homes by February 2014, or about 5.2 months of supply. The median sales price for new homes hit $261,800 in February versus $267,700 for all of 2013.

After being in a holding pattern for several months, builder confidence ended the quarter at 46 before rising by one point to 47 in April. According to NAHB Economist David Crowe, “Headwinds that are holding up a more robust recovery include ongoing tight credit conditions for home buyers and fact that builders in many markets are facing a limited availability of lots and labor.”
To read the entire column, click here.

To read the entire May 2014 issue in digital format, click here.

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 5/16/14


Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 5/16/14 on the Web.


In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicator:
  • CPI rose 0.3 percent in April., up by 2.0 percent over last 12 months
  • Producer Price Index rose 0.6 percent in April, up by 2.1 percent over last 12 months
  • Industrial production dipped in April after rising for two months
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 5/15/14

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 5/15/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:
  • Retail sales slow in April, but future outlook still positive
  • Business inventories rose 0.4 percent as sales increased by 1.0 percent
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Friday, May 9, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 5/9/14


Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 5/9/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicator:
  • Consumer credit in March rose by the most in more than a year
  • Initial unemployment claims fall by 26,000 in latest report
  • Mortgage applications rise by 5.3 percent in latest survey
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 5/8/14

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 5/8/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:

  • Productivity fell in 1Q 2014 due to harsh weather as production cost rose
  • 288,000 jobs gained in April as unemployment rate falls to 6.3 percent
  • Service sector economy continued to improve in April
  • Factory orders rose for second straight month in March
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Friday, May 2, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 5/2/14


Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 5/2/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicator:
  • Construction spending inches up in March; up by 8.4 percent year-over-year
  • Job cuts rose 17 percent in April, mostly in retail and financial services
  • Personal spending in March jumped by more than double the pace of incomes
  • Mortgage applications dip by 5.9 percent in latest survey
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 5/1/14

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 5/1/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:
  • Consumer confidence declined slightly in April but future outlook remains steady
  • Annual rates of pricing gains for S&P/Case-Shiller Indices slowed in February
  • Private sector jobs rose by 220,000 during March
  • 1st Quarter 2014 GDP grew by just 0.1 percent in first of three estimates
  • Chicago Business Barometer increased sharply in April
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.