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Survey: 50% of retailers received some form of rent relief from landlords

Compromises between retailers and their landlords on outstanding rent obligations has been crucial to many retailers’ survival during the pandemic. 

“The influx of stimulus-driven consumer spending and negotiations with landlords has helped keep retailers afloat during the pandemic,” said David French, NRF’s senior VP of government relations. “As retailers look ahead to cover rent and other expenses in the coming months, more federal government relief is needed to ensure the industry can continue to rebound and fuel the economic recovery.”

A survey of C-level executives at U.S. retail chains conducted by NRF and financial advisory firm PJ Solomon found that, at peak closure, 73% had closed at least three-quarters of their physical stores, including those in enclosed malls and outlet centers. While less than a third of respondents paid at least 75% of June’s rent, by July that figure had nearly doubled to 65%.

In other survey results, 73% of retailers who missed payments said they would pay back at least half of all rent owed and more than 50% said they were able to get some form of rent relief from landlords, with back-rent deferrals to late 2020 or 2021 being the most common concession.

The most common trade-offs for the relief came in the form of reduced co-tenancy rights and delayed kick-out clauses for the retailers. Less than 10% have yet to reach out to their landlords about potential rent relief options.

“If you’re a retailer with an extensive store footprint, effectively managing these fixed costs has been critical to preserving cash while brick-and-mortar sales remain under pressure, even as online sales surge for many,” said Jeff Derman, managing director at PJ Solomon. “Genuine rent relief through this unprecedented period, whether it is landlord- or government-driven in the future, will hopefully provide sufficient runway for many of these retailers to maintain liquidity long enough to continue serving their customers and paying their employees until the pandemic’s most severe effects have retreated.”

When asked about potential rent forgiveness programs (RFP), 67% of respondents agreed “retailers that are economically impacted by the pandemic should receive assistance to pay their rents for a three-month covered period” (June to August 2020). Thirty-three percent said RFP should “protect retailers from downgrades in credit ratings and scores due to any missed rent payments during the COVID-19 crisis.” 

As a condition to RFP, half of the respondents agreed that “tenants receiving assistance must demonstrate economic harm from COVID-19 (e.g., shuttered business, layoffs and furloughs) and certify it will use RFP proceeds only for purposes of paying rent for obligations incurred during the ‘covered period.’”

The survey of 48 C-level executives of retailers with 2019 sales of $100 million-plus and at least 10 store locations was conducted July 15-28.

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