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I used to eat a lot of natural foods until I learned that most people die of natural causes. During this pandemic, our Country has been forced to take a hard look at lifestyle, health, and essential goods. Our society, workplace, and family are being forced to draw lines between Fear and Fed Up. The world is clamoring to “feel safe.” Unfortunately, whether it is health, the stock market, the real estate market or just driving your car down the road, being risk-free is near impossible. Everyone needs to stay home, yet it is important to go out because of the sun. Sunlight will kill the virus but not if the virus kills you first by walking in the sunlight where you may be exposed to the virus.

As you might have guessed, I am a contrarian. That is probably why I have not had any pizza in the last four months! Just like the role of commercial real estate, the role of food has not changed – we have just had to adapt quickly and figure out how to get food to people in a way that speaks to their needs. What we have seen in the market is a dramatic drop in deal activity (+/- 25%), however, we have only seen prices break about 1% – 1.5%. According to MIT researchers, the drop-in activity should equate to an 8% – 12% drop in prices. However, we have not seen it. This is causing a large gap between tenant/buyer and landlord/seller expectations.

The good news is that we are seeing some unfreezing in our market. Recent weeks have seen tenants out exploring and buyers moving ahead again. We can only hope that this continues. Unfortunately, we are coming out of the deep freeze and as the economy thaws, we will see the damage that has been done as well. I continue to be most concerned about a “W” recovery, where the economy starts looking better, and then there is a second downturn later in the year or next. Analysts from Moody’s have noted that after previous shocks including 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis, it took 8-12 months before delinquencies rose appreciably.

Every deal we work on is a dance between risk and reassurance. Clients we want to help must have faith in us before they can believe in the value we create or the stories we tell. Let me tell you what we are seeing up close at the front. The SEAL Teams call it VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous environment.

  • Our inbound calls are down 50% but picking up in late June (We had 0 inbound sign calls in April!).
  • Some restaurants are failing but all are flailing. Many restaurants are walking dead (open but not profitable enough to stay so).
  • Churches and non-profits are marching forward with deals.
  • Many office tenants already talking about downsizing their space needs.
  • More deals with COVID caveats on opening, closing, or paying rent.
  • Lot’s more Zoom meetings and conference calls and webinars.
  • Everybody upgrading their technology skills; Zoom, DropBox, DocuSign.
  • More meetings, fewer people wearing face coverings.

So, in many ways, this pandemic has been a catalyst to shove the world forward. At CDC Commercial we feel like the rest of the world is catching up to where we have been for a while, which is forcing us to get out in front again. So, we have been focusing on things like social media marketing, Big Data Leads, new credit screening tools, Drones, and Matterport Tours. See an example here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIzXK20rjLQ&feature=youtu.be

Nicks Numbers

U.S. Composite Indices: Equal & Value Weighted

The chart above supports what Don said about price appreciation. Despite volume being off 22% in the 2nd Quarter, values were still up 3% – 5% on a year over year basis for the last 20 years.

Please give me a call or email me if you would like an analysis of your properties’ value or to discuss what you should be doing with regards to the Coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on your business, tenants, or property (Nick Zech, 858-232-2100, nzech@cdccommercial.com).

So, as you sit glued to your Twitter feed, Facebook account or TV network watching buildings defaced and statues toppled remember the old journalism adage, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Here are a few tips from Brent Gleeson, a former Navy Seal to help you navigate these volatile and uncertain waters ahead.

  • Embrace reality. But avoid obsessing.
  • Know the facts. Trust but verify.
  • Avoid knee-jerk decisions. Don’t dive in the bunker just yet.
  • Stay in your three-foot world. Control what you can, ignore what you can’t.
  • Communicate. If you can’t talk about everything, it’s not worth anything.
  • Build trust and accountability. In the absence of orders, take charge.

While one Lincoln statue is in the center of the news, I thought you might be interested in the story of this statue and the man on your $5 bill. I hope you enjoy the story…


Lincoln Statue

I haven’t told any stories from England since I got home but it seems like maybe we could all use a good story about a civil war statue, a good story about an American President, and a good story about the power of the common people against the rich and powerful, so I’m going to start with this one.  It is probably for the best that you’re reading this here because I haven’t managed to tell this story in person without crying.

I was in Manchester with a bit of time to spare on a cool, sometimes rainy morning that reminded me of home.  Since I had a minute, I turned on Pokémon Go on the off chance that there would be a Mr. Mime in range.  As luck would have it there was one only two blocks away from my intended destination!  The game led me to a small square and as I approached, I could’ve sworn that it had an enormous statue of Abraham Lincoln right in the middle of it.  Much to my dismay the closer I got, the more it looked like Lincoln.  When I was close enough to read the inscription, I learned that it was in fact, a statue of Lincoln.  What was a statue of Lincoln doing in a lonely square in Northern England?!

Then it got weirder.

There was a large blue sticker that was somewhat haphazardly stuck onto the base of the statue that said something along the lines of “talking statues of Manchester” and had a QR code with no further explanation.  There was no question, I had to know what that QR code said!  I immediately installed a QR scanner and no sooner had I clicked the shutter button then my phone rang.  That was weird and more than a little creepy, but if they say one thing about me when I’ve gone it will be that I never passed on an adventure.

I answered the phone.

There was no preamble, no explanation, just a man’s voice saying “to the working men of Manchester” he then continued in beautiful, archaic prose to praise the workers of Manchester and thank them for their courage and sacrifice.  It seemed to be a letter and when it came to an end it was signed “Abraham Lincoln”.  When he had finished uttering his name President Lincoln hung up on me.  It was a tantalizing letter to a child of Lincoln’s far future standing alone in a rainy square, 4,500 miles away from home.  President Lincoln did not bother to list the brave acts or to sum up the sacrifice.  Why would he?  The people of Manchester knew what they had done.

Luckily, after the phone call ended a screen popped up offering links to learn more.  I stood in the drizzle, read an amazing story, and wondered why I had never heard it before.

As you probably know during the Civil War the North imposed a Naval blockade on the South.  The economic hardship that this caused was an important factor in the North’s victory.  What I didn’t know was that the blockade also badly hurt the people of Lancashire, England.  At that time, the mills of Northern England produced the fabric that clothed the world.  Seventy-five percent of all the cotton grown on Southern plantations was sent to Lancashire where it was spun, dyed, and woven.

A year into the war and the embargo found Northern England in real distress.  Sixty percent of its mills were shuttered, thousands of people were without work.  The desperate wealthy mill owners started lobbying the British government to send the British Navy to break the blockade and let the cotton through.

Then an amazing thing happened.  The workers themselves organized a mass meeting in the Manchester Union Hall to discuss the matter and those working-class men, who had the very most to lose, chose to refuse cotton grown by enslaved hands.  The blockade held and the men did indeed lose.  In one town alone only five out of thirty-nine mills continued to operate.  People went without fuel for heat, there was widespread starvation, families lost their homes.  And still–an ocean and a world away from a war in a place they had never seen–the people of Manchester chose to live and die by their values.  They would not support slavery.

When the war ended that letter came from President Lincoln and it was followed shortly after by ships loaded with food and supplies for the people of Lancashire from the people of America, in gratitude.

And that is how I ended up crying in the rain 4,500 miles from home, in a square named for Lincoln in a country that he never set foot in.

I also caught my Mr. Mime.

If you are interested in reading the letter you can do so here:

https://acws.co.uk/archives-misc-lincoln_letter

If you want to read more about the history, you can do so here:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-21057494

and here:

https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/from-the-archive-blog/2013/feb/04/lincoln-oscars-manchester-cotton-abraham

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It seems that Jeff Bezos has experienced the same problem as many Amazon customers with having Echo ordering inappropriately:

Scene: Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ trendy home earlier this month. He’s talking to his Echo.
Bezos: “Find me something to buy at Whole Foods.”
Echo: “Okay, buying Whole Foods.”

Bezos: “Oops.”

Amazon is killing a lot of businesses. In the process, it may also be killing inflation – they are squeezing prices of everything through their automation and efficiencies. Both factors that are bound to hurt commercial real estate. Although all of the focus this month has been on the Whole Foods purchase (never mind that Whole Foods has less than 3% of the grocery market), I think the breaking news was the roll out of Amazon Prime Wardrobe. Here the online retailer attacks the biggest problems of buying clothes; (1) the time it takes to shop, (2) the hassle of finding the right size, (3) returning stuff you don’t want (comes with pre-labeled return but you get a discount if you keep it all).
As we enter the second half of the year, I would like to take an assessment of where we stand and share some interesting data that I am seeing. First, I will tell you that we continue to be busy and are not experiencing any slowdown. Interest rate bumps have not affected most of our day to day investor/buyers. However, the think tanks and big data are pointing to a “slow-motion slow-down.” Low unemployment is generally good for commercial real estate (more workers – more space).
However, too low makes it tough to expand without a pool of workers. Slowing job growth may be the catalyst for the slowdown. E-commerce will continue to bring retail to its knees. Interest rates will continue to tick up which will put upward pressure on cap rates (and lower prices). With cap rates at record lows (I saw a 3.5% cap on a property in NYC!) it is hard to believe that there is much room for commercial real estate prices to run.
A couple of charts below help to illustrate my concerns.
commercial property price index
total deal volume by sector

(PRNewsfoto/Ten-X)

consumer board consumer confidence index

If you really like charts, numbers and big data then you will really enjoy the Cycle Monitor by Dividend Capital Research and Glenn Mueller, PHD.

While recessions are inevitable, it will not be anywhere near the disaster of 2008 (and we probably won’t start seeing the “slow-motion, slow-down” until 2018). Rather we will more likely see a prolonged flat period. The recession of 2007-2009 was the closest thing to the great depression. My guess is the next recession will be more modest. Commercial real estate has nowhere near the excesses that were built up in the mid 2000’s. In the meantime, low unemployment, low cap rates, low vacancy rates, head down, work hard and enjoy the ride. Hope you enjoy the story…
Jeff Bezo’s Email to Employees on Amazon’s Purchase of Whole Foods
by Ryan Garcia
Team;
Today is a significant milestone in the evolution of the Amazon brand. Our offer to purchase Whole Foods will finally consolidate the largest online and off-line retailers where consumers end up spending way more than they intended. I actually didn’t even mean to buy Whole Foods but after downing a few too many boilermakers at the Echo mixer last night, I accidentally clicked BUY IT NOW instead of just putting the grocery chain in my cart for future consideration.
Oh well, you know what they say-you can’t log off Amazon without spending $13.7 billion. So true!
Further details about the merger will be forthcoming, but I wanted to call out a few major points before we have to go silent and get this approved by regulators.
  • Our corporate cultures or perfectly aligned. The New York Times revealed that every Amazon employee has cried at their desk, and I personally made a Whole Foods employee cry when they couldn’t correctly identify their process for ensuring single-source coffee beans throughout the roasting process. It was an uncomfortable 38 minutes for both of us, but I think an experience so many of you can relate to.
  • Improved Echo functionality. Whole Foods has maintained a laser-like focus on organic foods and sustainable facilities and I’m excited to bring that same vision to Echo. Starting next week, when customers ask their Echo to order non-organic food products that receive a 12-minute lecture on the benefits of organic and local source products while our top-notch product matching software will send them the closest available organic item. Users on our website will find the “Customers Also Bought…” section replacing unhealthy items with notes such as, “Cookies That Went Straight to Their Thighs” and “Beef Produced By Clearcutting Rain Forest.” Needless to say, those products will not be available for purchase.
  • Drone changes. All Amazon drone teams will immediately switch to bio-fuels rather than battery packs.
  • Senior leadership. Once the acquisition is complete, John Mackey will take a new position as financial analyst and social media community outreach for the Washington Post. Synergy!
  • Location changes. Since Whole Foods is headquartered in Austin, Texas, I’ve asked EM to build the first hyperloop route between our offices here in Seattle and the Blue Bubble of Texas. All Amazon/Whole Foods employees Will office in Austin for the one week of good weather they have in late February, and in Seattle for the one week of sunshine we have an August (or May… or October… or whenever). The remaining 50 weeks of the year are up to you. Because I believe all Amazon employees should be free to cry at their desk no matter where that desk is located.
  • Product expansions. Amazon will soon carry all of the 365-branded products Whole Foods has developed in all Whole Foods stores we’ll be adding aisles for garden equipment, household electronics, sportswear, handbags, pet supplies, golf clubs, video games, plumbing supplies, luggage, headphones, and climbing gear. To start.
  • Cruelty free. We will be adopting Whole Foods policy of only purchasing products that are certified cruelty free. Please note this does not apply to any software we developed ourselves.
I am beyond excited by the possibilities of this merger moving forward and I hope the team feels the same. The combination of our two companies will account for over 85% of all hipster purchases in the United States. I’m looking forward to capturing the remaining 15%.
Now, I need your daily status updates and you aren’t excused for being late for reading this.
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According to her biography, Barbara Millicent Roberts grew up in the mythical town of Willows, Wisconsin. For a period of time she attended Willows High School but later moved on to Manhattan International High School in New York City. Over the years, she has had more than 40 pets including cats, dogs, various horses, a zebra, a lion cub, and a panda. She has held dozens of professional positions including doctor, pilot, astronaut, veterinarian, and flight attendant. Her taste in cars is legendary. Her favorite color is bright pink. That color has become known as Barbie Pink. On March 9th, the folks at Mattel celebrated Barbara Millicent “Barbie” Roberts’ 58th birthday. No matter what you think about this cultural icon, you have to admit that she’s looking good for her age.

The ubiquitous Barbie doll made its debut on March 9, 1959, at a toy fair in New York City. She was an instant hit. About 350,000 dolls were sold in the first year of production. Since then, it is estimated that more than a billion Barbies have been sold worldwide.

Negotiating the emotional minefield between whims and dreams is a difficult task for any parent (or consumer for that matter). The marketing machines of companies flash shiny objects in our eyes forcing us to make tough decisions, ones that don’t always leave us happy, satisfied or popular.

I once read that in a grocery store there are over 100 salad dressing choices. With so many to choose from we are never able to be satisfied since we can’t try all of them. Whereas with only 3 or 4 choices we can be sure of our favorite. Could this be the root of IN-N-OUT Burgers grand success?

I remember a bumper sticker that used to say “I want to be like Barbie…that bitch has everything.” Well before you become rich you must decide whether you want to be secure, comfortable, or rich. These are called core values, or the reasons you want to invest.

The first reason most people invest is because they want to feel more secure That’s why Social Security or a retirement plan is very popular with people whose core value is the need for security. Security is a very important aspect of investing. You don’t want to be a destitute out on the streets with nobody taking care of you.

Unfortunately, many people who are counting on government or their employer to provide for their retirement will be sorely disappointed. A person who invests to be secure or values security will always say, “Well, I have to have a roof over my head and I need to put food on my table.” Their whole orientation is security or survival.

The next level above security is to be comfortable. They say, “I just want…” They want the house, the second vacation house, or the extra car. They want to take a cruise every now and then. Their highest priority is the need to be comfortable.

The third core value that motivates people is wanting to be rich. Most people dream of becoming rich but if the dream of becoming rich disturbs any of the lower core value of security or comfort, they’ll forsake being rich.

They’ll dream of being rich but if it means giving up a safe, secure job, then being rich remains a dream. If it’s just too much trouble to become rich and they’re comfortable at the moment, then they won’t pursue becoming rich. Those are the three core emotional reasons why certain people chose certain investment paths. Money is just an idea. It’s a formulation of the mental, emotional, and spiritual ideas inside of you that determine what you ultimately become. In the end, you need to fight for the future you want.

Today Big Data is to commerce what oil was in the past. Data helps retailers interpret what consumers will buy and when and for how much. The data comes from everywhere. Indoor tracking systems like Bluetooth beacons or Philips lighting or facial recognition. From web browsing and app use. From transaction data aggregated by Visa and MasterCard. Even from Uber, who knows that riders spent 2 billion directly after getting out of an Uber. How about the father who got a call congratulating him on becoming a grandfather before his daughter told him she was pregnant – all courtesy of Big Data and browsing history!

In 1890, Samuel Warren wrote a paper called, “The Right to Privacy” and in it he cited “recent inventions and business methods” – including instant photography and tabloid gossip – “have invaded the sacred precincts of private domestic life.” In the paper, they called for the “right to be left alone” and what they called, “the right to one’s personality.”

Although technology may be making our lives more public than we want, loneliness seems to be an epidemic. The number of Americans who say they have no close friends has nearly tripled in the last decade. While technology offers us an easy way to keep in contact with friends and meet new people, technology encourages shallow conversations that can distract us from meaningful, real life interactions. Smartphones have transformed grocery lines from a chance for small talk with neighbors to an exercise in email checking. Starbucks has sealed the fate of the coffee shop as nothing more than a place of mutual isolation.

So what does this have to do with commercial real estate? Shopping centers? Office buildings? Well let me tell you. Successful real estate in the future is social real estate. Location, location, location brings new meaning in a social setting. The best location is where people will want to live, work and play. Shopping centers will be social centers.

Although you may buy your Barbie dolls now on Amazon, most of you still go to the grocery store to buy your groceries. The grocery store has been largely immune to the ravages of online shopping. But a war is coming. Beside the current intense competition of Vons, Ralphs, Wal-Mart, Target and Costco, you have the growth of niche players like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Sprouts. Soon you will see the growth of ALDI, LIDL and Grocery Outlet. Not to be outdone, Amazon is stepping up its grocery delivery business and is now rolling out stores that will just deduct your purchase from your credit card as your walk out the door – no cashier needed. To make things harder, struggling brick and mortar retailers such as dollar stores and pharmacies have increased their inventory of grocery items (can you image Amazon buying Rite-Aid or CVS? Amazon delivering your drugs and an Amazon store on every corner.)

Like the grocery business, our activity has increased but business has gotten harder to close. Although we are working hard to get rich we are trying to be happy being satisfied. We have ventured into the Big Data market and done a Barbie analysis of the San Diego market (I apologize ahead if you or your neighborhood is insulted).

San Diego Barbie from KGB Bob and Coe Show

La Costa Barbie – this princess Barbie is only sold at the brand new La Costa Forum. She comes with an assortment of Kate Spade handbags, a Lexus SUV, a long-haired dog named Honey, and a cookie-cutter house. Available with or without tummy tuck and face lift. Workaholic Ken sold only in conjunction with “augmented” version.

Rancho Bernardo Barbie – this modern-day homemaker Barbie is available with Ford Windstar minivan and matching gym outfit. She gets lost easily and has no full-time occupation or secondary education. Traffic-jamming cell phone included, headset sold separately.

Escondido Barbie – this recently paroled tattooed and nose pierced Barbie comes with a 9mm handgun, a desert/river ready lifted Chevy truck with dark tinted windows, and a methlab kit. This model is only available after dark and can only be paid for in cash, preferable in small, untraceable bills. Unless you are a cop, then we don’t know what you’re talking about.

Del Mar Barbie – this yuppie Barbie comes with your choice of BMW convertible or Hummer H2. Included are her own Starbucks cup, credit card, and a country club membership. Also available for this set are Shallow Ken and Private School Skipper. You won’t be able to afford any of them.

Santee Barbie – this pale model comes dressed in her own Wrangler Jeans, two sizes too small, a NASCAR shirt, and Tweety Bird tattoo on her shoulder. She has a six-pack of Coors Light and a Hank Williams, Jr CD set. She can spit over 5 feet and kick mullet-haired Ken’s ass when she is drunk. Purchase her pickup truck separately and get a confederate flag bumper sticker absolutely free.

La Jolla Barbie – this collagen injected, rhinoplastic Barbie wears a leopard-print bikini outfit and drinks cosmopolitans while entertaining friends at the beach house. Percocet prescription available.

Lakeside Barbie – this tobacco-chewing, brassy-haired Barbie has a pair of her own high-heeled sandals with one broken heel from the time she chased Beer-Gut Ken out of Lemon Grove Barbie’s house. Her ensemble includes low-rise acid-washed jeans, fake fingernails, and a see-through halter top. Also available with a mobile home.

Leucadia Barbie – this doll is made of actual tofu. She has long, straight, brown hair, archless feet, hairy armpits, no makeup, and Birkenstocks with white socks. She smokes good sinsemilla buds and prefers that you call her “Willow.” She does not want or need a Ken doll, but if you purchase two Leucadia Barbies and the optional Volvo wagon, you get a coupon for a free wheat-grass smoothie at any Whole Foods Market.

National City Barbie – this Barbie now comes with a stroller and infant doll. Optional accessories include a GED and bus and trolley pass. Gangsta Ken and his ’79 Caddy were available, but are now very difficult to find since the addition of the infant.

Chula Vista Barbie – this Spanish-speaking-only Barbie comes with a 1984 Toyota with expired temporary plates and three baby Barbies in the back seat, but no car seats. The optional Ken doll comes with a pickup truck loaded 10-feet high with mattresses. Green cards are not available for Chula Vista Barbie or Ken.

Hillcrest Barbie/Ken – this versatile doll can be easily converted from Barbie to Ken by simply adding or subtracting the multiple “snap-on” parts. Bonus: free rainbow flag with proof of purchase sticker.

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