Evolving Real Estate Landscape Holds Opportunities for Municipalities, Businesses Alike

May 25, 2021

The pandemic has impacted the retail industry in significant, far-reaching ways – from foot traffic to profit margins. On May 13, retail experts held an in-depth discussion on the “Evolution of Retail” and what it means for our region as we look at new opportunities post-pandemic. The program was the fourth Development Council event of 2021.

“We’re going to see a real fundamental shift not only in retail and consumer behavior but how that affects land-use decisions and planning for public spaces in and around retail,” said Carolynne White, Shareholder with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Chair of Development Council, and a presenter. 

White noted that while municipalities traditionally relied on bricks and mortar retailers for up to 75% of their general fund revenue, sales tax collected in Colorado from out-of-state retailers was $113.83 million in 2021, a 140% increase from 2019. Within the next few years, municipalities should achieve critical mass by collecting a majority of their sales tax revenues online from out-of-state retailers.

Some of the major trends she and other retail experts highlighted include:

  • A pandemic-driven increase in consumer confidence of online shopping;
  • Significant pent-up demand for retail products & services post-COVID;
  • To lure customers, retailers must deliver something unique that can’t be purchased online, such as experiences, Instagram-able moments, or terrific customer service;
  • Drive-thrus and low-contact pickup led to the resiliency of restaurants during the pandemic and will be desired by consumers moving forward;
  • Restaurants that have never considered drive-thru/curbside pick-up are now planning for it post-COVID; 
  • Three major headwinds are affecting area retailers post-pandemic: construction costs (lumber and steel), labor availability, and Colorado’s commercial property taxes; and,
  • Technology accelerated 10 years of e-commerce adoption in four months and is widening the gap on the retail business front.

“There’s a clear shift of quality versus quantity,” said Courtney Key, Partner with SullivanHayes Brokerage when it comes to retail site selection. “Retailers are doing fewer locations but they’re doing the RIGHT locations — they’ll spend a little more to do the right site.”

Tyler Carlson, Principal & Executive Vice President with Evergreen Devco, addressed the vacant “big box” dilemma facing municipalities, saying that many developers are successfully converting former sites to multifamily housing. He also addressed the desire by consumers to have the convenience of drive-thrus versus the trend of municipal planning departments to be anti-drive-thru.

“We must create environments for both by taking two dichotomous aspects and planning for them both in your city,” he explained. “Consumers want instant gratification. We can either embrace that in the real estate community or we can get run over by it.”