Where is retail real estate thriving?

Gordon Driedger, President, Skyline Retail REIT, was recently featured in an article published on Advisor’s Edge (Advisor.ca) and Investment Executive (InvestmentExecutive.com).

The article speaks to Skyline Retail REIT‘s historical resiliency amid economic uncertainty, due to its proven acquisition and management approach. It details the REIT’s strategy of acquiring open-air, retail community shopping hubs located in Canada’s secondary markets, anchored by ‘everyday essentials’ tenants such as grocery and pharmacy.

The below article is a copy of the original published on InvestmentExecutive.com.

Where is retail real estate thriving?

Everyday essentials represent an opportunity for investors concerned that consumers are poised to spend less.

The past few years have been tough on many types of retail real estate — but not the open-air strips in secondary markets full of stores selling everyday essentials that are the focus of the Skyline Retail REIT.

Since its launch in 2013, this REIT has been building a portfolio of resilient properties anchored by grocery and/or pharmacy tenants and filled out with banks, medical offices, dollar stores, and quick-service restaurants. As at March 31, 2023, the portfolio’s value was $1.65 billion spread across 5.46 million square feet with 96.7% occupancy.

Gordon Driedger, President, Skyline Retail REIT, says that secondary markets have the same well-known tenants offering the same financial covenant that you’d find in a primary market, but the assets are available at a significantly lower cost.

“Although the quality of the income is the same, there’s a greater potential for return on investment in the secondary markets because of the differential in the cap rate — the value that’s paid,” he explains.

The portfolio’s emphasis on long-term (some as long as seven- or 10-year) fixed-rate mortgages — some renewed early to sidestep the recent rise in interest rates — has reinforced that financial strength and demonstrated stability. Meanwhile, being a private REIT means the unit price correlates directly to the value of the real estate in the portfolio — rather than to market sentiment, which can cause public REIT unit prices to experience wild fluctuations.

“Our focus is to provide stable returns to our investors,” says Driedger. “Our unit prices have remained consistent and have shown a historical upward trend, [and] our tenants are stable and doing well.”

Markets waiting for consumer spending to slow

A PwC Canada survey published in March 2023 found that 47% of Canadian consumers were very or extremely concerned about their personal finances, and 70% were responding to that by cutting back on non-essential purchases. That hasn’t yet been reflected in retail sales numbers, which remained robust in Statistics Canada’s latest report, rising 1.1% in April 2023 and increasing in eight out of nine subsectors.

However, if and when the anticipated spending slowdown comes, Driedger is confident it will have far less impact on everyday essentials. He believes Skyline Retail REIT is well positioned to thrive as long as people continue to buy food and medications, do their banking, and attend medical appointments. Business may even pick up for quick-service restaurants as people scale back on fine dining.

While over 80% of the portfolio comprises everyday essentials, even the more discretionary retail tenants of the REIT’s properties tend to be relatively resistant to the impact of e-commerce. As Driedger points out, it’s pretty hard to get a haircut or work out at a fitness centre online. Meanwhile, grocery stores in secondary markets tend to fulfill from a retail store, offering online ordering with in-store pickup.

“In the industrial distribution sector, they talk about the last mile … that is often the most expensive,” he says. “What’s interesting about these food-anchored shopping centres is that they become a very efficient last-mile solution … Goods can be brought to the location in a relatively profitable way.”

Building strong relationships with tenants

Driedger sees relationships with the tenants who rent space in Skyline Retail REIT’s properties as partnerships. He says it’s very important to be a good landlord, reinvesting to make locations the best possible place to operate a successful business so tenants don’t even think about leaving when their lease comes up for renewal.

Those reinvestments pay off in more than tenant stability. They also allow the REIT to grow top-line rent faster because it’s delivering to tenants the most desirable opportunity in any given market. Higher income will be an important hedge against potentially higher interest costs when the REIT’s long-term mortgages eventually come due.

Meanwhile, tenant quality ultimately drives up the value of the REIT’s underlying assets.

“Our shopping centres are full of tenants that are relevant and vibrant and successful,” Driedger says. “If you have relevant, full, highly occupied, stable, and growing income from really successful companies, that’s what people want to buy … and our advancement has showcased all of these attributes, positioning us to surpass our predefined objectives even in times of increasing interest rates and a somewhat uncertain [economic] future.”

“Our shopping centres are full of tenants that are relevant and vibrant and successful.”

President, Skyline Retail REIT

Gordon Driedger, President, Skyline Retail REIT

Gordon is responsible for the operational and financial performance of Skyline Retail REIT’s real estate portfolio, comprising millions of square feet of retail space across Canada. Read more…

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About Skyline Retail REIT

Skyline Retail REIT (the “REIT”) is a privately owned and managed portfolio of retail properties, focused on acquiring well-located properties with service-oriented, national brand tenants in secondary and tertiary communities across Canada.

Skyline Retail REIT is distributed as an alternative investment product through Skyline Wealth Management Inc. (“Skyline Wealth Management”), the preferred Exempt Market Dealer for the REIT. It is also available on Fundserv (Code: SKY2013).

Skyline Retail REIT is committed to providing outstanding places to conduct business and services. It prioritises superior service to its retail tenants while surfacing value with a goal to deliver stable returns to its investors.

To learn more about Skyline Retail REIT, please visit SkylineRetailREIT.ca.

To learn about additional alternative investment products offered through Skyline Wealth Management, please visit SkylineWealth.ca.

Skyline Retail REIT is operated and managed by Skyline Group of Companies.

About Skyline Wealth Management

Skyline Wealth Management Inc. (“Skyline Wealth Management”) is a Canadian investment firm offering a shelf of privately owned and managed alternative investments, specializing in real estate and clean energy assets.

Skyline Wealth Management is the preferred Exempt Market Dealer of four alternative investments:

  • Skyline Apartment REIT (Fundserv code: SKY2006)
  • Skyline Industrial REIT (Fundserv code: SKY2012)
  • Skyline Retail REIT (Fundserv code: SKY2013)
  • Skyline Clean Energy Fund (Fundserv code: SKY2018)

Skyline Wealth Management distributes institutional-quality investments to more than 5,700 investors, as well as Canadian investment Portfolio Managers and institutional investors, with ease of access to those who qualify.

To learn more about Skyline Wealth Management and its private investment offerings, please visit SkylineWealth.ca.

Skyline Wealth Management is part of Skyline Group of Companies.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Jeff Stirling
Vice President, Corporate Marketing & Communications
Skyline Group of Companies
5 Douglas Street, Suite 301
Guelph, ON N1H 2S8
519.826.0439 x243