In the midst of this pandemic, Simon Property Group is buying up failing retail brands.
The country’s largest shopping mall operator recently teamed up with Authentic Apparel Group (AAG) to acquire Lucky Brand Jeans. They are also in the final stages of inking a deal to purchase Brooks Brothers and bidding on J.C. Penney. Analysts believe Simon and AAG are gobbling up the iconic fashion labels to collect their rent.
That theory isn’t a stretch. Simon only collected 51 percent of the rent in April and May, 69 percent in June, and 73 percent in July. While the upward trend seems promising, the retail giant’s second quarter net income dropped to $254.2 million -- down from $495.3 million the year prior. On top of the profit loss, they continue to battle with some of their biggest tenants, including GAP. The clothing brand sued Simon in July in an attempt to cancel hundreds of its leases. Simon countersued this month for $107 million in lease payments.
Last week, Simon CEO, David Simon, expressed his frustration, saying, “I was feeling pretty good in June about finally getting back to work, and I feel less good in July and now I’m totally confused. I’m sure there will be some level of abatements and rent collections issues as we move forward for the rest of the year.”
Simon claimed that he’s interested in these failing retailers for their inventory and intellectual property, not for the rent. He also spun his acquisition blitz as an act of good will and told the press that by purchasing Brooks Brothers, his company would save 4,000 jobs.
“That’s what we should talk about,” he said on the call. “We’re doing our fair share for trying to keep this world as normal as we can.”
Whatever the motivation, Covid-19 may have sped up brick and mortar retail’s long-anticipated demise. Retailers, including Ann Taylor, Nordstrom and J. Crew have already opted out of paying significant portions of their rent. If defaults continue and people remain wary about shopping in public, store closures might come next.
This all comes while Amazon reported a 26 percent raise in sales last quarter, compared to last year.