Since 2010, more than 12,000 retail stores have closed their doors in the United States in what some call the "Retail Apocalypse". The reasons for closures tend to differ from sector to sector, store to store. Some point to massive changes in how Americans are spending money via e-commerce rather than brick-and-mortar stores. Others point to low profits due to things like fast fashion. And yet others point to "delayed effects of the Great Recession". Gone are thousands of once-common retail storefronts: Radio Shack, J.C. Penney, Sears, and Kmart, just to name a few.

But in that time, other storefronts and mall destinations have arrived in the malls of America. While large 20th-century style retail outfits like Toys R Us shut down and move out, other new retailers like gyms and family fun centers move in what we like to think of as more of a retail transformation than a retail apocalypse, as we've explained before

As a result, vacancy rates for REITs — the landlords of retail — haven't changed as much as one may think. While large retail destinations like Westfield Center in Los Angeles may signal trouble for REITs, new tenants like Google are leasing space for different purposes. But can this transformation last forever? After all, there are only so many family fun centers and Googles to lease up what were once Kmarts and Toys R Us. So we took a look at the current state of available square footage throughout the United States. Here's what we're seeing.

The maps below represent just thousands of locations, but they do show the local variance as signals for where REITs — and ultimately customers — may see some strain in the retail marketplace in 2020.

The circles in these maps represent relative available square footage by REIT as of this week. One thing we're seeing is that while clusters tend to follow population centers — major cities and high-population communities — available square footage appears to be largest in areas that have seen stagnant or declining populations such as some midwest states. 

Of course, much of the amount of available square footage simply has to do with infrastructure. In the northeast states, where space is limited, we see smaller clusters of availability. But we also see how different REITs such as Regency Centers ($NYSE:REG) have positioned themselves in urban, rather than rural, areas.

Mid-American Management ($MIDAMERICAMANAGEMENT), as its name would suggest, focuses on the midwest where its relatively small portfolio of properties show a larger than usual square footage of availability. Its East Lloyd Commons property in Evansville, Indiana, for instance, shows 159,682 of current availability.

The southeast, including Florida, reflects population and tourist centers along the coast: small bits of availability in clusters along shopping streets and areas. A zoom into Miami beach on the map above, for instance, shows a diverse set of REITs with available retail space with Regency Centers again accounting for a large set.

On the west coast, we see again that Regency Centers operates in high-population-density areas. Meanwhile, Retail Opportunity Investments ($NASDAQ:ROIC) accounts for a sizeable share of shopping centers on the west coast. In fact, it operates 55 properties in California alone.

About the Data: 

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: