U.S. retailer group sees 2018 holiday sales up more than 4 percent

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. holiday sales in 2018 will increase 4.3 percent to 4.8 percent boosted by a strong economy but will be slower than a year ago when consumer spending surged to a 12-year high, according to a forecast from a leading retail industry group.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) said holiday sales growth will be higher than an average increase of 3.9 percent over the past five years but slower than the 5.3 percent growth witnessed a year earlier when consumer spending grew the most since 2005 and was boosted by tax cuts.

“Last year’s strong results were thanks to growing wages, stronger employment and higher confidence, complemented by anticipation of tax cuts that led consumers to spend more than expected,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

“With this year’s forecast, we continue to see strong momentum from consumers as they do the heavy lifting in supporting our economy,” he said.

The combination of more jobs, improved wages, tamed inflation and an increase in net worth all provide the impetus to spend, he added.

The retail trade group said it expects sales for the last two months of the year between $717.45 billion and $720.89 billion, excluding autos, gasoline and dining out. Holiday sales in 2017 were $687.87 billion.

NRF’s forecast is one of the most closely watched benchmarks ahead of the holiday season, when retailers like Amazon.com Inc, Walmart Stores Inc and Target Corp generate an outsized portion of their profits and sales.

The last two months of the year can account for 20 percent to 40 percent of annual sales for many retailers.

The NRF forecast follows other estimates from companies like AlixPartners, which says sales will grow in between 3.1 percent and 4.1 percent as “2017 will be a tough year to follow.” Forecasts from companies like Deloitte and PwC expect holiday retail sales to grow around 5 percent.

NRF also said Wednesday that it expects seasonal employment by retailers to reach between 585,000 and 650,000 jobs, up from 582,500 in 2017.

Shoppers expected to give retailers a holly, jolly holiday season as they buy a bit more

, USA TODAY Oct. 3, 2018

Shoppers, buoyed by low unemployment and a slight uptick in wages, should make this a jolly holiday season for retailers, an industry trade group predicted Wednesday.

The National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, forecasts that sales in the last two months of this year should rise between 4.3 to 4.8 percent as compared to the holiday period in 2017.

Not counting purchases of cars, gas, or meals at restaurants, shoppers are expected to spend between roughly $717 billion and $720.89 billion in sales this year. The sales increase also tops the 3.9 percent average annual uptick the industry has seen in the last five years.

The forecast underscores the message from many retailers that the brisker sales they’ve reported in recent quarters are not a fluke. Shoppers spent $687.87 billion on purchases during last year’s holiday season, a 5.3 percent bounce over the previous year, and the biggest bump since 2010.

“Our forecast reflects the overall strength of the industry,” Matthew Shay, NRF’s president and CEO said in a statement. “Thanks to a healthy economy and strong consumer confidence, we believe that this holiday season will continue to reflect the growth we’ve seen over the past year. While there is concern about the impacts of an escalating trade war, we are optimistic that the pace of economic activity will continue to increase through the end of the year.”

Giving gifts is great, especially if you can borrow the present later for yourself. Buzz60′ Tony Spitz has the details. Buzz60

National unemployment stands at 3.9 percent, close to an 18-year low. “The combination of increased job creation, improved wages, tamed inflation and an increase in net worth all provide the capacity and the confidence to spend,” said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF’s chief economist.

NRF expects that overall retail sales for this year to be at least 4.5 percent higher than 2017.

CNBC FED SURVEY: FED EXPECTED TO HIKE RATES TWICE MORE THIS YEAR AND THEN RISK A ‘POLICY MISTAKE

CNBC

Fed expected to hike rates twice more this year and then risk a ‘policy mistake’: CNBC survey

  • Nearly all respondents to the CNBC Fed Survey see the Fed hiking rates a quarter point this week to a new range of 2 to 2¼ percent.
  • In addition, 96 percent believe another quarter-point hike is coming in December.
  • About 60 percent see the Fed eventually raising rates above neutral to slow the economy.

Steve Liesman | @steveliesman

Look out for two more rate hikes this year from the Federal Reserve to go along with economic growth nearing 3 percent and a central bank that eventually raises rates explicitly to slow growth, according to respondents to the latest CNBC Fed Survey.

A full 98 percent of the 46 respondents, who include economists, fund managers and strategists, see the Fed hiking rates a quarter point this week to a new range of 2 to 2¼ percent. And 96 percent believe another quarter-point hike is coming in December.

“Fed funds increases in September and December are as certain as certain can be,” John Donaldson, director of fixed income at Haverford Trust, wrote in his response to the survey. “Their real challenge starts after the first increase in 2019, which will bring the rate to 2.75 percent, or finally back to even to inflation.”

Respondents see the funds rate rising by two more quarter points (50 basis points) in 2019, which would bring it to a range of 2.75 to 3 percent. After that, divisions set in, with about half the group seeing a third hike in 2019.

About 60 percent of the group see the Fed raising rates above neutral to slow the economy. The average that respondents see the funds rate eventually ending this hiking cycle is 3.3 percent.

“This means that the U.S. bond market will reach a decision point sometime in the next year, when market participants will have to decide whether the Fed will go beyond current market pricing,” said Tony Crescenzi, executive vice president at Pimco. “If and when it does, U.S. Treasuries will move higher.”

A fifth of the group say a “fed policy mistake” is one of the biggest threats facing the expansion, second only to trade protectionism.

“We are in jeopardy of watching trade and monetary policy plunge into a head-on collision, with no one wearing seat-belts, and the airbags have been disabled,” wrote Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR. “The biggest risk in the market is a policy mistake, and we are working on a two-for-one special.”

Respondents support President Donald Trump‘s handling of the economy by a 61 percent to 30 percent margin, unchanged from the July survey. But 59 percent say his trade policies will reduce growth, and 52 percent say they will lower employment in the U.S.

A slight 53 percent majority also say the president’s negotiating tactics will lead to better trade agreements for the U.S., while 20 percent say they will be worse and 22 percent expect them not to change much.

Overall, the tariff effects on the economy are seen as modest. Among those who see negative effects, the average is just a 0.2 percent decline for GDP in 2019 and a 0.2 percent higher inflation.

But some see more substantial effects.

“The president should be remembered for his cuts in regulations that served the economy so poorly for years but instead will be remembered for his illogical, un-economically justifiable support for trade protection and tariffs. How sad is that?” wrote Dennis Gartman, editor and publisher of The Gartman Letter.

Strong economic growth ahead

But forecasts suggest the president has some room for his trade policies to subtract from growth without doing enormous economic damage. Respondents look for GDP year over year to be up 2.8 percent in 2018, versus 2.2 percent in 2017, and up 3 percent in 2019, defying the general belief in a slowdown next year predicted by many economists.

Inflation is seen ticking up to around 2.5 percent this year and next, while the unemployment rate is forecast to fall to 3.7 percent by 2019.

“Rarely are so many economic gauges of the U.S. economy so strong — including employment, income, retail sales, business spending, manufacturing and small business,” wrote Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation. “The near-term outlook appears to be steady as she goes.”

Respondents see a low 14 percent probability of a recession in the next 12 months.

Stocks are seen growing, but slowly. The average forecast predicts the S&P 500 will rise to 2,956 this year and end 2019 at 3,038. While it would break the 3,000 level, it would represent just a 4 percent gain over the next 15 months.

Treasury yields are seen ending this year at 3.15 percent and 3.45 percent in 2019, suggesting much of the Fed tightening is priced into the bond.

Federal Reserve approves its third rate hike of the year

The move indicates that the nation’s central bank may soon be able to take a back seat for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis and allow the economy to steer itself.

Wednesday’s widely expected rate hike of one-quarter of a percentage point comes after the Federal Open Market Committee’s scheduled two-day policy meeting, and is a response to a robust economic landscape that includes low unemployment, an uptick in wage growth, and sweeping corporate tax reform.

“The near-term outlook appears to be steady as she goes,” said Jack Kleinhenz of the National Retail Federation. “Rarely are so many economic gauges of the U.S. economy so strong.”

The new rate also signals that the White House’s tit-for-tat global trade actions have so far had a muted impact on the nation’s nine-year economic growth streak.

The Fed kept rates artificially low for seven years after the Great Recession, zeroing out the rate in December 2008 and only raising it again in December 2015, under Janet Yellen’s chairmanship. Since then, Yellen raised the benchmark rate by one-quarter of a percentage point just four more times. After taking over from Yellen in February this year, Trump-appointed Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome “Jay” Powell has raised rates three consecutive times.

Chairman Powell has made note of the Fed’s precarious position as the economy heats up, saying last month that the Fed currently faces two main risks — either “moving too fast and needlessly shortening the expansion” or “moving too slowly and risking a destabilizing overheating.”

But Trump slammed Chairman Powell earlier this year, saying he was “not happy” about this year’s series of rate hikes.

“I don’t necessarily agree with it,” Trump told CNBC in July. “I’m not thrilled, because every time we go up, they want to raise rates again. But at the same time, I’m letting them do what they feel is best.”

Wednesday’s FOMC meeting was the first for economics professor Richard Clarida, who was confirmed earlier this month for a four-year term as Federal Reserve vice chairman. The board of governors has three remaining vacancies.

NBCNEWS

KTAL

The price of rising employment: Slow wage growth, trade risks

If wage growth doesn’t kick into high gear, increasing inflation could swallow even the minimal improvement in purchasing power workers have attained.

A slowing rate of job growth in July nonetheless managed to pull some workers off the sidelines, but wage growth mired at 2.7 percent began to elicit concerns that wages will fail to keep up with inflation as the economy picks up steam.

At 157,000, the number of jobs created last month fell short of expectations, but upward revisions of the previous two months and a broad base of new jobs across industries left economists relatively sanguine about the miss.

“I don’t think you want things to be ‘great’ because great means the Fed worries about inflation and the economy moving ahead too quickly,” said Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “The expansion killer is the Fed making a mistake, moving too fast. We don’t want to see great right now. We just want to see good.”
Upward revisions to May and June added a combined total of 59,000 jobs added, bringing the monthly average to 224,000 over the past three months.  “In the past, summer months tend to show large employment fluctuations due to the timing of seasonal hiring,” National Retail Federation chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement. The retail sector eked out a small gain of 7,000 despite a loss of 32,000 jobs, largely due to the closure of the Toys R Us chain.

 

The labor market sectors with the most notable growth in July were professional and business services, which added 51,000 jobs; and manufacturing and healthcare/social assistance, which added 37,000 and 34,000 jobs, respectively.

“U.S. manufacturing is flexing some muscle right now,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com, but noted these and other labor market gains could be threatened by President Donald Trump’s protectionist sentiments. “Obviously, there are huge risks associated with the trade dispute,” he said.

If wage growth doesn’t kick into high gear, increasing inflation could swallow even the minimal improvement in purchasing power workers have attained in the recovery so far.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the brunt of the tariffs yet,” said Arne Kalleberg, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Manufacturing and agriculture-related jobs would be especially at risk if China or the European Union enact retaliatory sanctions, he said.

Derailing the current labor market expansion could hurt the most at-risk members of the workforce the most and slow mediocre wage growth even further, even as rising inflation erodes the value of Americans’ pay.

“We have to think about the fact that inflation’s running at a 2 percent rate,” Hamrick said. “We’re on this rising interest rate trajectory.” If wage growth doesn’t kick into high gear, increasing inflation could swallow even the minimal improvement in purchasing power workers have attained in the recovery so far.

Economists say demographics are one factor behind wage growth that trails what most experts consider the low end of healthy wage growth by nearly a full percentage point. As baby boomers leave the workforce, the younger and generally less-experienced workers taking their place don’t earn as much.

A yawning skills gap is another. Economists say a robust economy is drawing people back into the workforce, but this could be one of the factors holding down wage growth. “What businesses are having to do is they can’t find people with skills, so they have to hire them at unskilled wages and then train them,” said Dan North, chief economist at Euler Hermes North America.

The data bears this out: Compared to the topline unemployment rate of 3.9 percent, the broader U-6 measure of unemployment fell three-tenths of a percentage point to 7.5 percent in July, a percentage point lower than it was a year ago.

“Of course, the people hired without skills have lower productivity,” North added. The upshot is that unskilled workers aren’t being paid as much, which economists theorize could be holding down wage gains.

With fewer skills and lower productivity, these would be the workers most likely to lose out if companies have to start cutting jobs in response to a trade war-initiated slowdown. “I always worry about the quality of these jobs,” Kalleberg said. “There’s very little bargaining power on the part of workers.“

by Martha C. White / 

NBC News

Retail sales gain is a sign tax reform may be working

Retail winners and losers in 2018

Consumers are increasing their spending, which may be a plus for the stock market during a period of volatility. U.S. retail sales rose in March more than forecast after three straight monthly declines, with consumers buying more big-ticket items. This evidence of healthy sentiment could drive markets higher in the second quarter.

Retail sales increased 0.6% in March after a 0.1% drop in February, the Commerce Department reported on Monday. The January retail data was revised down to show that sales declined by 0.2%, steeper than the previously reported 0.1% dip.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast that retail sales would rise by 0.4% in March. Year-over-year, retail sales increased 4.5%.

There have been hopes that with many Americans seeing their paychecks increase because of tax cut savings, consumer spending would climb. Such an increase, in turn, would be good for the economy overall, with more than two-thirds of U.S. economic growth attributed to consumer spending.

“These are strong numbers, no doubt surging from the shot in the arm tax reform provided,” said Mike Loewengart, vice president of investment strategy at E*Trade. “Consumers are seeing more in their paycheck, and it appears they’ve gone shopping—certainly good news for investors.”

Stock markets have gone through a volatile period and are seeking direction.

“With most earnings reports arriving in the next few weeks, this is a pivotal time for a market that is in search of something positive to latch on to,” Loewengart added. “It appears, at least at the moment, strong economic fundamentals just simply aren’t enough to fire the bull rally back up.”

National Retail Federaton Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz called the retail sales report a “healthy spending report” despite market volatility, unseasonable weather and uncertain economic policies. “Consumers continue to show resiliency in spending, and these numbers reflect how the economy is performing with a strong job market, gains in wages, improvements in confidence, rising home value and judicious use of credit,” he said.

By RetailFOXBusiness

Cleveland’s economy fails to gain traction

A better job of measuring performance is key to turning around region’s fortunes

Illustration by Daniel Zakroczemski for Crain’s

While there is some question about whether he actually said it and exactly how he said it, business thinker Peter Drucker is credited with a mantra that has wide acceptance in management circles: “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.”

Expanding on that maxim, the need to better measure the strengths and weaknesses of the Northeast Ohio economy, as a prelude to improving it, may end up being a key takeaway from Jon Pinney’s June 8 speech at the City Club of Cleveland. There, the managing partner of the Kohrman Jackson & Krantz law firm pronounced that the Northeast Ohio economy was “dead last or near the bottom in most economic metrics.”

He cited recent national media coverage, such as Forbes’ “Best Cities for Jobs”survey, which ranked Cleveland last out of 71 major metro areas, and Business Insider’s ranking of the country’s 40 best and worst regional economies, where Cleveland also placed last.

As Business Insider reported, Cleveland had the highest February 2017 unemployment rate, at 5.7%, among the 40 biggest metro areas, and its job growth was the second-lowest, with non-farm payroll employment rising just 0.3% between February 2016 and February 2017.

The struggles of the region’s economy are nothing new. Some data make that point when they are periodically announced, such as Census Bureau reports that show the region’s population decline and when the Labor Department announces the monthly unemployment rate.

Pinney was highlighting the need to pay more attention on a regular basis to those and other measurements of the region’s performance and to compare that performance to other regions. He closed his comments by making a “grand challenge” to business and civic leaders to face up to the region’s poor showing when compared to the rest of the country and find solutions to the region’s economic sluggishness.

Before that can happen, however, the region needs better data — data that have not been as readily available in Northeast Ohio as they are in some other areas.

In Columbus, for example, Columbus 2020, the region’s economic development agency, posts on its website updated monthly data on the size and composition of the regional workforce, including a graph which shows if the employed workforce is growing or declining and a pie chart of which industries employ the most people.

It’s a barebones example of what economists call an “economic dashboard.”

Greater MSP, an economic development agency in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, goes further. Its “Regional Indicators Dashboard” tracks changes in more than 50 economic, environmental and social outcomes and how the region ranks with a peer group of regional economies. It includes everything from average weekly wages to percentage of the population with a college degree to the cost of electricity.

Don Iannone, a Highland Heights-based economic development consultant, produced a dashboard for Ashtabula County after becoming CEO of the Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County in 2014. It provided a wide variety of regularly updated information for several years covering data on employment and business formation in the county.

But because the economy was struggling, business and civic leaders weren’t always happy to see their economic difficulties on display on the internet.

“People didn’t like the bad news. They just didn’t,” he said. But to him, it was a necessary regular assessment. “I said, it’s actually like going in for a physical and the doctor gives you all the news, good and bad,” Iannone said.

In 2005, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland produced an economic dashboard proposal for the Fund for Our Economic Future, a collaboration of foundations and other philanthropies that focuses on regional economic development. The goal was “to encourage and advance a common and highly focused regional economic development agenda that can lead to a long-term economic transformation of the Northeast Ohio (NEO) economy.”

The work, said one economist who worked on the project, was noble, but was overwhelmed by other priorities at the time.

“The great recession had a major influence on how we could approach this activity,” said Jack Kleinhenz, an economist now running Kleinhenz & Associates in Cleveland Heights. “In 2005, the economy started to go in the tank and everybody was preoccupied, I hate to say it, more by survival.”

That effort is being revived.

Earlier this year, the Fund for Our Economic Future released “2 Tomorrows,” a report on the challenges facing the 18-county Northeast Ohio economy. “We are not innovating and investing to the level needed to drive and sustain global competitiveness,” the report stated. “We need to change what we consider success.”

Beyond basic economic concerns, the report focused on the concentration of poverty in the region and on racial inequalities in economic outcomes and challenges to create good jobs and rising incomes across the region.

It also offers a set of measurements to track how well the region is succeeding at meeting those challenges. “What gets measured gets done,” the study argued.

“In ‘2 Tomorrows,’ we put forth what we think is an effective way to measure the economy that looks like the right things,” fund president Brad Whitehead said. “We’ll be doing it quarterly, and it’s an open question whether anyone else will salute it.”

Its measurements look beyond the basic economic metrics and create a “Growth & Opportunity Scorecard” that creates measurements for metrics such as the growth of young businesses, the effort to improve prosperity and how well economic growth is shared across all people in the region.

“We began by thinking, blank slate, what would a successful regional economy look like?” said Peter Truog, director of civic innovation and insight at the fund. He called it an effort to “look at a group of peer cities and see how we stack up.”

Team Northeast Ohio, the regional economic development nonprofit, does gather information on the region’s economy and workforce. While it issues quarterly data to news media, it uses the data primarily to encourage businesses and site selectors considering expanding in the region.

Its president, Bill Koehler, does see the need for greater sharing of the information its researchers gather and would like to see some organization, not his, take a lead role in gathering and sharing that information.

“We need a common place where (this) data resides,” Koehler said. “But even if there is a centralized place where all the data is, we still have to have a common understanding of what the right performance drivers and metrics are, and all of us have to align our strategies around that. It’s not happening enough and people are starting to recognize and challenging those of us in the economic development community to take on the responsibility of doing a better job.”

2017 Crystal Ball Award Winners

For the majority of U.S. households, residential real estate is the single-largest asset on the balance sheet. Prevailing home equity levels–and expected home value changes–can have out-sized influence on consumer spending and behavior (i.e., wealth effects). As an asset class, U.S. housing has an aggregate value of almost $30 trillion. For these and other reasons, the home value expectations of experts bear watching, and forecasters with the most outstanding performance deserve recognition.

In every year since 2010, Pulsenomics has recognized the most accurate and reliable forecasters of U.S. home values with a Crystal Ball Award. More than 100 experts who participate on our panel vie for the honor in a variety of award categories by predicting the future path of the Zillow Home Value Index.

This year, Jack Kleinhenz (pictured), who heads Kleinhenz & Associates and also serves as chief economist of The National Retail Federation, earned first-place in two prize categories, including one that is arguably the most challenging: the five-year horizon. Jack won this prize in an especially impressive fashion. The actual cumulative change in U.S. home prices for the five-year period ended Dec. 2017 was 32.9%; back in 2013, Jack predicted prices would increase 32.8% over that period. That’s not a typo. Drop the mic, Jack!

Pulsenomics’ Top Ten panelist rankings include details of forecast accuracy in each of 11 categories. Please join me in congratulating all of our 2017 honorees!

Retail decline in region is ‘a permanent shift’

As more people do their shopping online, retailing in Northeast Ohio is changing. And while most brick-and-mortar stores are not in danger of going the way of the dinosaur, in a region where the population isn’t expanding, every online sale has a cost in the malls, in the storefronts and in jobs lost.

By more than one estimate, including by local economist Jack Kleinhenz, the chief economist for the National Retail Federation, online sales now make up 10% of retail sales. Sales, buoyed by rising prices, continue to grow modestly, though accurate regional sales figures are not available.

“The decline in store traffic is not a trend anymore. It’s a shift, a permanent shift,” said Elad Granot, dean of the Dauch College of Business and Economics at Ashland University. “So brick-and-mortar retailers have to figure out what they can offer that Amazon can’t, and it’s getting to be a shorter and shorter list.”

Granot was referring to online retailer Amazon.com‘s move into the grocery business with its purchase of Whole Foods, and its expanding role in logistics. The logistics push includes a growing fleet of cargo airplanes and its fulfillment centers, such as the ones it is building in North Randall and Euclid, on sites of former shopping malls.

Granot said some retail categories are relatively safe. He said, for example, that shopping for makeup can entail trying out different products with an in-store stylist — what he calls an experience. The categories that should be worried about Amazon, he believes, are the categories that have no experience attached to consumption.

“If I need Band-Aids, I’m not going to wait until the next time I’m at CVS, I’m going to order them on Amazon right now,” Granot said, noting that he recently was on a flight of stairs with a student who was ordering a pair of sneakers online as they walked. “CVS provides me with no experience when I shop for Band-Aids.”

According to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, the retail trade in the seven-county Cleveland metropolitan area lost 8,758 jobs, 5.9% of total jobs in retailing, in the decade between 2006 and 2016. During the same time period, the number of retail establishments dropped 6.5%, a net loss, since new stores keep opening, of 601 establishments.

Much of that loss was in Cuyahoga County as new retail developments sprout up in neighboring counties. Over the decade, the core county lost 5,927 jobs, or 8.6% of its retail jobs, and 464, or 10%, of its retail establishments.

And the decline is continuing, according to preliminary jobs numbers for 2017.

While employment in major Northeast Ohio sectors such as manufacturing, financial services and education and health services held steady or rose, the region continued to lose retail jobs between January 2017 and January 2018, according to the state data.

Regional retail sales are growing, according to Alex Boehnke, manager of public affairs at the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants (OCRM), though regional sales are not well tracked.

The best estimate of the trend in retail sales in Ohio and its metropolitan areas is done by the Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati for OCRM. In November, as the holiday shopping season was beginning, the center estimated that retail sales in the Cleveland metropolitan area for the 2017 holiday season would grow only 3.1%. Sales in the Akron metro were expected to grow only 1.2%. Estimates of national holiday sales growth ranged from 4% to 6%.

“We don’t have the population coming in,” Kleinhenz said. “The pie is not growing.”

CBRE, a national real estate brokerage with a large Cleveland operation, calculates that only two metropolitan areas have more retail square feet per person than Northeast Ohio, where there is 29.9 square feet of retail for every person in the area. In its August 2017 report, “Dead Malls: a boost for retail?,” which is subtitled, “Is retail in Cleveland dying, or is it just overbuilt,” Cleveland-based research analyst Brandon Isner found that only Orlando, with 30.4 square feet per resident (a deceptive figure for a tourist city), and Atlanta, with 30 square feet per resident, top Cleveland.

“It is clear that Cleveland has a supply issue in regard to retail real estate,” Isner wrote. “(W)ithout the population growth that other metro areas have enjoyed, extra retail will weaken what remains.”

In Cuyahoga County, retailers in two mixed-use developments will be opening their doors in the coming months. Opening in the spring, Pinecrest, in Orange Village, has lured several dozen retailers, including Whole Foods, Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma. In Shaker Heights, the Van Aken District will add about 100,000 square feet of retail space come summer.

Similarly, retail building booms in Avon in Lorain County and in and around the site of the former Geauga Lake amusement park in Geauga County have cost Cuyahoga County retail sales.

“There is no doubt there is a shift going on,” Kleinhenz said. “Are we overstored? In many cases, that is accurate. It’s just that it’s not necessarily that retail is declining broadly.”

Joseph Khouri, a real estate broker with CBRE in Cleveland, agrees with Granot. He, too, believes the retailers who survive will be the ones who sell an experience and activity related retail. He pointed to Toys R Us, which recently announced it was closing all of its stores nationwide after declaring bankruptcy.

“They didn’t differentiate themselves from online sellers,” he said. “People are gravitating toward experiential retail. Specialty food retailers, arts and crafts, home goods products that you have to touch and feel — unique offerings that are hard to mimic online.”

That ability of local retail to be an experience leads Granot to say that he believes local, boutique retailers can also survive.

“Shopping local, especially in Northeast Ohio, is a point of pride,” he said. “There is a lot of room for local retailers to do well, as long as they offer an additional benefit beyond the actual product and price, because it’s going to be increasingly harder to beat Amazon.”

Jay Miller

Crain’s Cleveland