Pandemic Pushes Denver Retailers To Dump Space At Fastest Pace In 20 Years

The front doors of a closed restaurant
David Zalubowski/AP
The front doors of a closed restaurant are secured by a chain wound through the handles of the doors and a padlock Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, in Northglenn, Colo.

Denver metro retailers are abandoning space at the fastest clip in 20 years as the pandemic drags into its ninth month.

More than 662,000 square feet of empty space became available for rent since the start of this year in Denver and surrounding areas, according to a report from CBRE, a commercial-property brokerage company. Boulder is included in the tally.

Businesses both large and small vacated storefronts with the coronavirus pandemic keeping shoppers and diners at home. Retail sales and consumer sentiment improved over the summer as lockdowns eased, but it wasn’t enough to offset the damage, according to CBRE analysts. The picture for retailers is likely to get worse before it gets better, the report found.

“With increasing amounts of bankruptcy announcements from national retailers in addition to local restaurants and store closures, the overall impact to retail real estate is likely not fully realized yet,” the CBRE analysts wrote.

Some businesses are still taking on space in Denver, such as Fusion Fitness and Slater’s 50/50, a burger chain, according to CBRE. But the number of openings is dwarfed by the closures. A single retailer – Pier 1 Imports – dumped 100,000 square feet of space when it went bankrupt in the third quarter,.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are climbing in Colorado, part of a nationwide trend heading into winter. New restrictions have already been imposed in several regions of the state, including Denver, Douglas, Arapahoe, Adams and Jefferson counties. The current trajectory of the pandemic could knock a tenuous recovery in consumer spending off-track, CBRE noted.

“An uptick in cases could pummel consumer confidence,” analysts wrote.