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Dear Consultant: How Will Post-Covid Migration Impact Retail?

Amanda Schultheis photo

Amanda Schultheis

April 3, 2024

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How will post-Covid migration impact retail? 

Migration trends have led to new communities and the revival of existing ones. Retail is following the rooftops, and we see a consistent theme of “bringing more closer to home.”

Here are four migration trends that are having an impact on the retail sector:

1. Sunbelt surge

While migration has slowed, the Sunbelt still benefits from positive net migration as Charlotte, Jacksonville, and Atlanta remain top migration destinations. We continue to monitor new construction and planned mixed-use retail opportunities, as residents relocating from urban locations still want walkability and convenience.

Crossroads Village Center is a mixed-use project under development in Haines City, 30 minutes east of Lakeland and 45 minutes south of Orlando. The development will include one million square feet of commercial space. Haines City is one of the fastest-growing submarkets in Central Florida, with an average annual population growth of +1.25%, higher than the Lakeland MSA (+0.85%) and the Orlando MSA (+1.07%).  

Crossroads Village is a great example of the Sunbelt surge, which put the Lakeland MSA in the top 10 destinations for new in-migration. The booming housing market (more affordable land and homes) increased demand for large-scale retail stores. Check out the full top 10 in-migration markets list below. 

Crossroads Village Center | Haines City, FL 

2. Building boom

For-sale housing demand is strong, helped by builders buying down mortgage rates. Developers and builders are purchasing land in more rural locations as buyers continue to seek affordability. Follow the rooftops—homeowners need retail in the outlying locations!

Mosaic at Chatham Park, 45 minutes west of Raleigh, is a new 226-acre mixed-use retail center as part of the larger 8,500-acre master-planned community accommodating the fast-growing Pittsboro submarket. Pittsboro, an affordable suburb of the Raleigh-Durham MSA, has experienced significant population growth over the past five years, growing by +2.26% annually, well above the Raleigh MSA average of +0.7% and the national average of +0.3%

Mosaic at Chatham Park benefited from the building boom, highlighting the ample opportunities for mixed-use retail developments in large master-planned communities.

Mosaic at Chatham Park | Pittsboro, NC

3. Reviving retail

Post-Covid migration has led to the revival of towns across the US, from Gainesville, Georgia, to Killeen, Texas. The influx of new residents creates an opportunity for adaptive reuse of existing retail and allows retail developers quicker development timelines vs. new acquisition opportunities.

Willow Bend Mall Redevelopment in Plano, Texas, was recently unanimously approved by the Plano Planning and Zoning Commission. The mall foreclosed in 2022, having lost 28 national retailers since 2020. Plans call for updating 400K of existing mall space, with the remainder being demolished and revitalized with new residential buildings, a high-rise hotel, an office building, and green space.

The developers of Willow Bend are focused on reviving retail to accommodate the wants of today’s retail consumers. They aim to do this by converting a defunct traditional indoor mall into a luxury destination, an open-air shopping center with green space for outdoor events.

The Shops at Willow Bend | Plano, TX

4. Community corners, or ‘third places’

The advent of flexible working has allowed people to move to lower-cost locations, and demand for goods like lunch, errands, and daycare is shifting to the suburbs. There is also rising demand for spaces that combat the loneliness of working from home. Maggie’s Coffee Stop at Hartland in Washington, DC, is an on-site HOA-dues-funded coffee shop providing self-serve complimentary coffee and tea.

Looking for the top places with growing net migration?

  1. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
  2. Myrtle Beach, SC-NC
  3. Charlotte, NC-SC
  4. Jacksonville, FL
  5. Atlanta, GA
  6. Lakeland, FL
  7. Raleigh-Durham, NC
  8. San Antonio, TX
  9. Nashville, TN
  10. Greenville, SC

The opportunities for retail post-Covid are vast: whether you follow the migration to the Sunbelt surge, look to rural areas for a building boom, want to revive retail in an existing location, or attract customers with community corners. Feel free to reach out with questions.

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About The Author

Amanda Schultheis photo
Amanda Schultheis
Senior Manager, Consulting
Amanda has eight years of experience in residential real estate across Florida and the Southeast. Amanda is based in our Orlando, FL office and works on a variety of custom consulting projects, strategic planning, and market research.

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