Michael Wiener, founder and president of Excess Space Retail Services, has worked with retailers since 1992.
In his career he has never seen a market act like it does today.
Although Weiner has experienced various economic downturns, COVID presents unique challenges.
"I think that 2008 was a big shock to our financial system and everyone realized that something national was happening here in our country," says Weiner. "It's different. Different parts of the country have seen peaks at different times."
In 2008 and 2009, Weiner said, landlords and retailers acted “pretty quickly” to cope with the economic crisis.
"There's a lot of mixed news out there now," he explains. "I think people are still trying to figure out what this [pandemic] is all about, what it will look like and how long it will take. It's all about the pandemic and how long companies stay at 25% to 50% capacity Nobody knows how long this will take. People take a lot more time and are more careful. "
Right now, says Weiner, there's a lot of caveat in the market.
"Landlords react slowly," says Weiner. “Retailers take longer to process things at this point. I think everyone is just waiting to see what happens. I think there is a certain level of hesitation around that is ubiquitous and unlike anything I've ever seen before. "
This is not universal. In some cases, business continues as usual. For example, some retailers are still remodeling stores.
In most cases, however, there are ongoing discussions between landlords and retailers about rent relief.
"We tried to find a balance between the landlord and the retailers and figure out how to move forward," says Weiner.
Right now, Weiner suggests that everyone move a little slower before making any important decisions.
"I think people don't know when things are going to move forward," he says. "You have seen retailers open one day and close their doors the next."
When discussing rent relief, Weiner recommends keeping the discussions as simple as possible.
"If you bring too many other things into this discussion, you make the discussion more difficult and reduce the chances of relief," says Weiner. "Now you are conducting lengthy negotiations. It has to be short and quick and a kind of in-and-out negotiation."
If a retailer wants to add more provisions to the rental agreement, they can always resume discussions when things have calmed down.
“You can always come back to the landlord at a later point in time and renegotiate other points that may be important for the retailer,” explains Weiner.