"Internet Killed The Radio Store" - Mall Vacancies Hit All Time Record

Tyler Durden's picture

Two years ago, when discussing the long-term prospects for Bill Ackman's aggressive pursuit of General Growth, we noted that while the short-term post-reorg oversold bounce is warranted, the secular shift away from big-box stores and disappearance of retailers means that many more bankruptcies are sure to follow, and will be punctuated by all time highs in mall vacancies courtesy of an ever-growing shift to internet shopping. So while the incremental bankruptcies in commercial REITs have been slow in coming primarily due to record low interest rates, the mall vacancy number just hit a new all time high. According to Bloomberg Brief: "In 1979 the one-hit wonder Buggles sang “Video killed the Radio Star.” Several economic indicators suggest it’s time for a Buggles revival: “Internet Killed the Radio Store.” The popularity of Internet shopping is having a considerable impact on the retail landscape; mall vacancies are at the highest level in measured history, big box stores are looking to reduce their footprints, and those selling book, electronics, and sporting goods are closing. During the third quarter, vacancies at regional and super-regional malls rose to 9.4 percent from 8.8 percent a year earlier and 9.3 percent in the second quarter, according to the New York-based property research company Reis. This was the highest since data was compiled in 2000." In other words, in addition to the Fed, REITs are the next entity class to have gone all in on interest rates never going up: because without organic upside growth, the only marginal benefit is from continues interest benefits. Once those end, it is game over, first on the margin, and then literally.

Some more from Bloomberg:

The bankruptcies of Borders, Linen’s & Things and Circuit City are among the most obvious results of the comeuppance of on-line shopping. Additional store vacancies should be expected given Gap’s recent announcement of closures. The approval of the AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile by federal regulators would also have an impact.

This news will eventually hit broad-based employment, as retail employment at clothing, hobby, book and music stores has traditionally been quite high. Look for this number to start rolling over soon:

Employment data reveal the trend away from hiring at establishments that sell goods easily purchased on the Internet like books and hobby supplies. The need to employ sales people at apparel and accessory stores has actually increased since sales assistance is a necessity. An extra large shirt is not the same across all brands, and footwear  sizes vary greatly. Colors can mislead on the web.


Wal-Mart and Best Buy are experimenting with smaller store formats. In its last quarterly earnings conference call Best Buy said, “… we are planning to reduce our big box square footage by 10 percent over the next three to five years. Our test results  so far in this space continue to indicate that a store prototype which combines the enhanced operating model with reduced space and lower operating costs has not materially lowered our sales volumes.”


As a result of having to hold 7+ jobs to make ends meet, Americans now spend the least amount of time in malls since 2003:

Time spent in shopping centers has declined over the years, according to a U.S. Labor Department study. The number of minutes Americans spent per shopping excursion has fallen from a peak of 49.2 minutes in 2004 to 44.7 minutes in 2010. There are several reasons for this trend, including time-strapped consumers and less need for store browsing due to the Internet. Consumers can check prices on the web, make a trip, run in and make a purchase and dash back to the car.


But don't blame Canada:

The malls that appear to be performing the best are those along the Canadian-U.S. border. A stronger Canadian dollar has made U.S. purchases more attractive. This phenomenon was seen during the back-to-school period, and will likely be strong during the upcoming holiday season.

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firstdivision's picture

Maybe the OWS movement should move to the nearest mall.  I'm sure the property owners would be happy as they can count it as "mall traffic". 

OT: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2049976/Banks-country-refuse-let-customers-close-accounts-protest.html#ixzz1b2TBphCV

I really find it hilarious that the banks refused to let these few people close their accounts.  The banks are really helping the OWS cause by doing this.  I'm far from a lawyer, but I do know that laws can be perversed.  Could the people that were arrested sue the banks for theft or fraud for refusing to give the people their entitled monies?

Harlequin001's picture

I think you might find this is more to do with the recent splurge in building and not just internet shopping.

It is always the case that property speculators are the last to 'get it' and that last big build based on past performance is always the reason why the biggest builds are undertaken when the economy is at its height, and fail because they open later in a recession...

firstdivision's picture

I completely agree with you.  In my hometown, there are 3 huge malls, and it is quite a small populated area. 

Harlequin001's picture

The number of people that hang around shopping centres without a bag is stunning. It means they haven't bought anything and are either trying to keep warm or cold or they are the most boring people on earth.

No trade there...

Bicycle Repairman's picture

I made a trip to the mall for the first time in a while.  The mall seems to be what it has always been: a place for suburban teenagers to hang out.  The stores at the mall reflect their tastes and needs.  As long as the mall is there they'll go and hang out.

Harlequin001's picture

I always take the family out for a coffee for an hour every Sat and Sun and return before the rush starts here at 10.30-11am. This year 5 new malls opened and there are around seven more under construction. We won't talk about condo's. Still the build continues and still retail units remain empty until new builds suck tenants out of older malls thereby dragging down unit resale values on even relatively new malls.

I often wonder how these retailers stay in business when no one seems to be buying any goods and then it dawned on me, the malls are funded by pension funds for rental income and retailers survive by selling debt. They are all listed companies somewhere and other than that it is beyond me how mere trade enables them to pay the rent.

CompassionateFascist's picture

Someone did a study of this a while back. It's like some kind Tribal Dance ritual or cargo-cult. Former shoppers (now broke) still go to the malls just to wander around, "be with" each other, window-shop, play let's pretend. And it is a great thing for us as more and more of the economy, such as it is, goes 'net: makes it more costly, more difficult for the ZOG TPTB to pull the kill switch.

DormRoom's picture

There's a greater risk.  The digital age implies that all medium are infinitely reproducable, and persistent.  Therefore contemporary works of art/mediums must compete with old medium,  And given the intractable constraint line of time, older medium may be hugely undercutting current forms.


example: instead of paying X dollars to see a new movie.  I can may 1/x to see a movie from 50 years ago in perfect HD.  Instead of paying to listen to the lastest song, I can pay 1/x to listen to songs a decade ago.  Instead of paying to read the lastest magazines, I can search google books, and consume Life Magazine issues from the 70s.


Therefore, contemporary living artists/medium are competing against defunct publications, and dead artists whose works may be better than the current form.


Therefore current dollars are used to pay for infinitely producable past production, undermining current production.


This is a rudimentary analysis of the problem of infinite, and persistent copies, in the digital age, but I feel that it's been overlooked.

johngoes's picture

Therefore, contemporary living artists/medium are competing against defunct publications, and dead artists whose works may be better than the current form.

Being a cheap person I love getting $0.99 classics on my kindle. The quality of writing is superior to (fiction) books recently published.

For a book apropos to today, Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" can't be beat.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

This is certainly true for 'popular' music.  I would add that unpaid 'amateurs' can now produce a quality product in a variety of arts, etc. The market for these products has also fractured into dozens of smaller sub-markets.

MillionDollarBonus_'s picture

With Christmas on the horizon, these massively oversold retail stocks are looking extremely attractive. While redneck doomers cry about obscure and untrustworthy data, the smart money is quietly accumulating.


Harlequin001's picture

er no, it's because it's always the way with idiotic investors who don't buy gold and silver...

They invested in credit funded project which were approved before the financial crisis and had to proceed or face suit for breach of contract.

When they open it's too late. It's too late because people have no money, which means that Christmas this year will be a complete fail.

Nuff said.

firstdivision's picture

The same way you were buying home builders in August 2007.  So you obviously went all in on RMBS AAA rated securities in 2007.  I'm hoping your all in now on the CMBS AAA tranche.  Good luck with that.

oogs66's picture

no wonder they created that new cmbs index :) 

Montgomery Burns's picture

Always funny when people dont get your schtick.

jonan's picture

is he just making sarcastic posts or is he a troll...

nyse's picture

Former. And consistiently hilarious.

upWising's picture


Take another hit off the Bong and Try again Bonus-boy::




CHRISTMAS BUYING + AGGREGATE DEMAND = Explosion in "re-gifting!"

Freddie's picture

More like Obama and the fu*ktards who voted for him killed the radio store.  BTW - Trevor Horn one of the two from Buggles went on to become a very successful record producer.  The other chap, Geoffrey Downes was also successful.

harposox's picture

Trevor Horn – very talented chap.

bigwavedave's picture

As a follow up and possible replacement to the #OccupyWallStreet protests I suggest:




That should the trick!

porrannor's picture

you confuse Christmas with Shopping..... 

GeneMarchbanks's picture

You guys remember RadioShack?

HelluvaEngineer's picture

Yeah, it's that place that sold cell phones.

GeneMarchbanks's picture

Good riddance to malls. Frantic consumerism should be kept to your home PC/Mac, that way it's less visible that a majority of modern 'culture' is comitragic.

Fill the malls with surrealist art and hand out peyote to visitors. Wandering through malls will be the greatest/worst exerience ever... and memorable... maybe.

Conrad Murray's picture

If Barry Odumbo Soetoro's administration wasn't so busy hiring gay pedophiles(Kevin Jennings, the "Safe School" Czar), they might be able to come across ideas like this and hire you for National Arts something-or-other. A shame really.

GeneMarchbanks's picture

I'd be the modern Juvenal, a poet of the collapse. I'll take it!


Long-John-Silver's picture

Before Radio Shack sold cell phones they sold electronic parts and supplies. When they moved in the phones they eliminated electronic parts and supplies. The salesmen had no time to sell small packs of resistors and sundry other supplies as they spent all their time on the phone activating the customers new cell phone or getting it reactivated due to non-payment. I repair orphaned electronic devices used in older CNC machinery and industrial robots. I worked out of Radio Shacks electronic part bins simply because they would do all the inventory and stocking of parts for me for just a slight premium above the cost of Mouser or Digi-Key parts. I had to give up on Radio Shack because the store managers no longer had the time to inventory and stock parts, most simply put them on clearance and eliminated them completely. I went ahead and purchased parts bins and stocked them myself from Mouser and Digi-Key. While I was at it I put a bar code reader on a computer and loaded an inventory  program on it. When I order parts I scan them as I replenish stock and scan parts when they are removed from stock and used. Many of us did this and to the chagrin of Radio Shack. After they discovered their parts bins was where the money was and cell phones were a money pit. They attempted to bring  all us "hobbyists" back but by that time they had done what I had done and would never be back to buy their electronic parts. The ugly truth they discovered was the fact that 95% of the people buying parts were not hobbyists they could afford to lose but professionals that would never return to buy parts from them.

mccoyspace's picture

Amen to that. Once you go Jameco/Digi Key/Mouser/McMaster Carr you can never go back to Radio Shack. But the bar code reader and inventory control system is awesome!

Don Birnam's picture

Ah, the good old days...back in ought-four, when "Fast" Eddie Lampert spent $11 billion to buy Sears, creating, at that time, a big-box conglomerate not only brimming with "vast imbedded, prime-location real estate value [ Commercial real estate ? Ha ! - Ed. ]," but resoundingly heralded by fawning elements in the "financial press" as the "next Berkshire Hathaway."

K-Mart and Sears. A mating of pidgeons.

yabyum's picture

The new retail model is the strip mall. One dollar store, a check cashing joint (that also buys gold), A tattoo parlor, a liquor store, and a ethnic tienda.  It used to have a porn shop but the net also took care of that.

Jay Gould Esq.'s picture

In my particular area, the check cashing joint has been replaced by payday and auto title loan outlets. Borrowing passage fare for the descent into Third World status.

Pool Shark's picture



"Internet killed the Radio Shack"


lincolnsteffens's picture

I remember RADIO SHACK in the 1960's. It was a great store where you could buy individual electronic parts and test your radio tv tubes to see which one had conked out. Everything from transistors and capacitors to Ham Radio equipment....and... the people running the store could tell you everything you wanted to know.

There is a small one in my local rural small shopping center. I avoid it because of the pain in the ass sales help (?).

There is also a K Mart where really fat people shop, probably for all the low priced "food" they sell that will just make you fatter.

We also have a small satellite Sears store where the sales people are very good. The problem is Sears keeps trimming the profit margins of the franchisee  so much that he will eventually have to call it quits. In addition Sears will let you charge stuff and pay it off over two years with no interest. How are they going to survive except through the internet?

CompassionateFascist's picture

Right. B&N, lots of others, out of storefront business...but now on the 'net.

nedwardkelly's picture

You guys remember RadioShack?

I had a few minutes to kill in a mall recently, so stopped in to take a peek at radioshack. I'm in the market for a new phone, so figured I'd look at the massive display of phones they have. As I got closer I realized that all their phones (must have been 50 of them) were all fakes... Plastic pretend phones with small pictures where the screen would be. WWWWTTTFFF. What sort of purchasing decision are you going to make based on a fake cardboard phone?

I wonder how the boardroom conversation went... "Well there's pros and cons... Pro is, at least noone will steal our phones. Con is, we wont sell any phones at all ever"

Freddie's picture

Most Radio Shack phone customers are Obama voters.  I have been in there a few times for cables. Sad.

Mercury's picture

Countdown to federal internet sales tax...

Freddie's picture


The Buggles - Elstree

As I mentioned, Trevor Horn went on to be a major record producer in England.  He and Geoff Downes were in Yes at one point as well.

patb's picture

The US has far too much retail square footage.


The Greenspan cheap credit era kept it growing a decade too long

CompassionateFascist's picture

And Fed-graduate Herman Cain's a big fan of Andrea Mitchell's lesser half. Keep thinking of the Repubes last "black hope" - Colin Powell - who ended up an Obama voter.

Flakmeister's picture

Get rid of 75% of the retail space in this country.... 

The retail binge provided us with a  legacy of false growth and warped values. All brought to you by the master of finance, in particular, the magicians who brought forward demand through the creation of debt...

Don Birnam's picture

The Flakmeister scores in the x-ring. Absolutely correct.