In April, the retail sector got the best news it had received since the pandemic started: retail sales for the month of March jumped 9.8%—the biggest monthly jump since May 2020. Retail REITs are also performing well this year, with malls and shopping centers up 33.6% and 32% respectively as of mid April, according to BTIG.
The retail industry didn’t necessarily need these indicators to realize that their sector, long beleaguered and then battered some more by the pandemic, was looking up. The men and women who lead the retail real estate sector have understood over the past several months that even though the landscape was grim at that moment, better days were ahead. And why not? It was these same men and women who laid the groundwork for those better days through investments, strategies and planning. On the following pages you will meet some of these retail real estate leaders, chosen for their individual and corporate contributions for the industry. The last year has admittedly been a slog but they are now looking forward to brighter times.
NEWMARK MERRILL COS. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Sandy Sigal has spent hundreds of hours fighting for the survival of small businesses. He passionately educated local and state politicians on the pandemic’s impacts, requested assistance on behalf of small businesses, and guided the public by sharing survival strategies via countless media outlet interviews. As founder, president and CEO of NewMark Merrill Cos., Sigal leads the company to further impact the industry while operating more than 11 million square feet of retail real estate. In March 2020, Sigal launched the company’s “Together We Can” program to assist tenants in securing funds from various sources. Under Sigal’s leadership, the firm additionally implemented a community support initiative that partners shopping centers with local tenants to give back to first responders, educators and more. In addition to the two widely-successful initiatives, Sigal continues to actively serve the community through various industry and community organizations.
NEWMARK MERRILL REOPENING TASKFORCE
NewMark Merrill took the pandemic head on to support clients. At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the retail firm responded immediately to the market upset by launching a Reopening Taskforce to guide retailers and owners through mandated store closures, accessing capital and understanding CDC and other health and safety guidelines. In the first phase, the taskforce helped more than 500 tenants collect $20 million in funds from the first round of PPP funding. Next, it focused on the installation and implementation of safety measures at shopping centers and retail stores, such as hand sanitizer locations, curbside pickup and socially distanced signage. The team also launched Wave of Kindness to help essential workers and in-need community members, including teachers, seniors, those experiencing homelessness, frontline workers and those with food insecurity. The program has donated more than $300,000 and supported more than 8,000 families. The taskforce was critical in providing bespoke service to clients, helping tenants survive the crisis and supporting the local community through the challenges of 2020.