据知情人士透露，专业银行PJ Solomon与多个商场业主进行了探讨，内容涉及实施此类策略来帮助陷入困境的零售商Forever 21 Inc.。这种策略可能会成为该行业未来交易的范例。
对于经历了一波又一波闭店潮的商场经营者来说，目前的局势非常严峻。Coresight Research的数据显示，仅在今年，美国就有7500多家零售店面歇业，让新开店面数量黯然失色，例如连锁店Payless Inc.和Gymboree Corp. 都已经停业。
商场所有者一直都愿意尝试各类手段，包括直接收购破产租户，以避免店面出现闲置的情况。但这种方式在近期只出现过一次。三年前，美国两家最大的商场运营商Simon Property Group Inc.和 General Growth Properties Inc.加入了一个收购了Aeropostale Inc.的财团，保留了这家服装连锁公司的200多个店面。
行业组织Turnaround Management Association的首席执行官斯科特·斯图尔特称：“除非业主全盘改换其地产的用途，否则他们仍需尽可能多地从零售租户那里赚钱。如果他们能够以创新的方式保持店面的经营，倒是可以打造一个双赢的局面。”斯科特有着30年的企业重组工作经验。
去年收购General Growth Properties的PJ Solomon和Brookfield Property Partners LP拒绝置评，而来自于Simon Property Group和Forever 21的代表也未回复要求评论的请求。
在7月31日召开的第二季度营收投资者电话会议中，Simon Property Group的首席执行官大卫·西蒙承认，公司已经在考虑开展更多类似于收购Aeropostale的投资活动。
Mall landlords accustomed to offering rent reductions to ailing retailers are mulling a new strategy to bolster their own flagging industry: Positioning themselves as lenders to tenants having difficulty staying afloat.
Boutique bank PJ Solomon has organized discussions with several mall owners about pursuing such a strategy with troubled retailer Forever 21 Inc., according to people with knowledge of the matter, in what could serve as a model for future transactions within the sector.
The talks have centered on converting rent and other liabilities into secured debt that could give distressed companies some breathing room to stay out of court, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.
If a retailer later goes bust, the arrangement could give landlords a stronger say in the restructuring process because lenders get higher priority in a bankruptcy, they said. The landlords potentially could use their preferred status to bid for assets, swapping their unpaid claims for ownership.
For mall operators dealing with wave after wave of closings, the situation is critical. More than 7,500 U.S. retail storefronts have shuttered this year alone, according to Coresight Research, dwarfing openings as chains such as Payless Inc. and Gymboree Corp. ceased operations.
Landlords are faced with either slashing rents or dealing with empty properties that don’t have ready occupants. Less than half of U.S. malls are likely to survive the industry’s disruption, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Lindsay Dutch.
Reducing retail vacancies
Mall owners have been willing to consider a wider range of options, including outright purchases of bankrupt tenants, to help keep stores from going dark. That’s been done only once before in recent history. Three years ago, America’s two largest mall operators—Simon Property Group Inc. and General Growth Properties Inc.—were part of a group that bought Aeropostale Inc., preserving more than 200 of the clothing chain’s stores.
“Unless the landlords are going to repurpose their properties altogether, they still have to capture the greatest value they can from retail tenants,” said Scott Stuart, chief executive officer of industry group Turnaround Management Association, who has worked on corporate restructurings for 30 years. “If they can get creative about keeping the stores open, it may be a win-win situation.”
PJ Solomon and Brookfield Property Partners LP—which purchased General Growth Properties last year— declined to comment, while representatives for Simon Property Group and Forever 21 didn’t respond to requests seeking comment.
On a July 31 conference call with investors to discuss second-quarter earnings, Simon Property Group Chief Executive Officer David Simon acknowledged the company has considered pursuing more investments like the one in Aeropostale.
“We certainly have the ability to help beyond what you might do on the leases and become an investor in a distressed situation,” Simon said. “So we have kind of the ability, together or individually or some combination thereof, to look at becoming more than just a real estate player, but a buyer of these brands.”
Their diverse portfolio of tenants gives real estate investment trusts—REITs—particular insight into which merchants could make successful investments, according to Bloomberg Intelligence’s Dutch.
“They will be selective when they make an investment,” Dutch said. “They won’t just go after every failing retailer.”