In today’s Four on Friday, we pose not four, but five questions to David Birnbrey, chairman and co-CEO of The Shopping Center Group, a full-service retail real estate firm headquartered in Atlanta. David fills us in on his firm’s activity, offers his assessment of the retail sector as a whole, and provides in-depth analysis of and a prediction for Sunday’s NFC championship game between the Falcons and 49ers.
Birnbrey: Since 1984, The Shopping Center Group has provided a full assortment of retail real estate advisory services to landlords, developers, investors, financial institutions and retailers throughout the eastern United States. These services include project leasing, property management, tenant representation, investment advisory services, investment property sales, finance, construction supervision, disposition of surplus properties, receivership and development consulting.
We have 20 offices from New York to Miami and more than 200 employees and associates. We’re currently representing more than 300 national and regional retainers and restaurants, leasing more than 50 million square feet of retail space, and managing more than 10 million square feet. In a stabilized environment, our company will complete approximately $300 million in investment sales.
HS: How would you say 2012 turned out for the retail sector, and what do you see in store for 2013?
Birnbrey: 2012 turned out to be an extremely good year for our company with a volume that came close to matching our high-water mark of pre-recession 2007. Although vacancy rates went down noticeably in 2012, it was almost all in existing space with very little new construction in the retail sector. That trend will continue through the first part of this year, but we’re hopeful that construction of new projects will resume by the third quarter.
Stores are getting smaller with retailers concentrating on higher productivity per square foot and eliminating excessive inventory levels. While e-commerce continues to be a threat to the future of bricks and mortar, the retailers and restaurants that concentrate on delivering value and an enjoyable experience will always prosper.
HS: What drew you to a career in commercial real estate?
Birnbrey: I lacked the talent and the education for anything else. It was this or selling sunglasses on the beach. I burn too easily for the sunglasses gig.
HS: What do you do to relax?
Birnbrey: I’m not a big relaxer, but I guess it’s playing golf. Meanwhile, my game gets me tense, the cigar makes me dizzy and the score tends to piss me off, so maybe not golf. Let’s go back to this answer: “nothing.”
HS: Bonus question: Have a prediction for Sunday's NFC championship game between the Falcons and 49ers?
Birnbrey: It was obvious last week that the linebackers needed to stay close to the line to prevent Russell Wilson from running, and we couldn’t blitz. That opened up the intermediate passing game for Seattle. Without a blitz, we needed a serious effort from the defensive ends, which we didn’t get. Having John Abraham back for this game will be huge.
Colin Kaepernick might be tougher to defend against than Wilson, but I think the Falcons learned a great deal from the Seahawk game and will do a good job there. Meanwhile, our offense is impossible to contain, too. Falcons prevail, 24-17.