About My Portfolio
These articles showcase business and market research I’ve authored, whether it’s covering company news, documenting industry disruptors, or identifying new trends and exploring their impact on the world around us.
My work is about bringing down the high knowledge barrier associated with complex topics and making them accessible to a wider audience of readers.
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‘Time is running out’: Restaurants hang by a thread during second wave
November 13, 2020
Another wave of restrictions is set to add new pressures to the ailing restaurant industry, leaving many business owners who managed through the first wave wondering if they can survive a second.
COVID-19 forces Canadians to adjust retirement plans
November 09, 2020
The pandemic has added new challenges to Canadians’ retirement plans, putting as many as 5.5 million out of work at the peak of job losses, potentially pushing some to dip into their savings or pull back on building their nest egg. The financial shortfall is prompting Canadians to change their own retirement picture.
Be vigilant, not alarmist about BoC balance sheet: economist
October 27, 2020
The Bank of Canada’s ballooning balance sheet has raised eyebrows this year, but one economist says while concern is warranted “we shouldn’t be alarmist. “When confronted with crisis, you don’t hold back, you attempt to crush it with a large policy response up front,” Brett House, the vice president and deputy chief economist at Scotiabank, told Yahoo Finance Canada.
Canada pulls back from ‘debt deferral cliff’
October 14, 2020
While the rate of mortgage deferrals in Canada remains in the double-digits, it has been on the decline in recent months, blunting concern of a looming ‘debt deferral cliff’. Data collected by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and made available to Yahoo Finance Canada show that deferrals fell to 10.89 per cent in August from 12.28 per cent in July.
Ten Canadian companies with rapid COVID tests awaiting Health Canada approval
October 06, 2020
At least ten Canadian companies have developed rapid COVID-19 tests and are awaiting approval by Health Canada. Epidemiologists say having rapid tests available to Canadians should help get the country past the pandemic sooner, but that the strategy for rolling them out is key.
Timing is everything with federal supports for Canada’s Black-owned businesses
October 05, 2020
On any given day, Dina Helen Essoka balances a corporation dealing in both private security services and African food products. Essoka described a challenging debut for the business created just last year, finding difficulty in securing funding to cover the start-up costs. Essoka relied on her own out-of-pocket funds and soon, the business found its footing.
“Childcare is the chokepoint of the recovery”: economist
September 24, 2020
The federal government signalled it would include a child care action plan in its recovery priorities to support women returning to the workforce. The plan can’t come quickly enough as daycare centres are forced to shutter and the economic recovery stalls, argues Armine Yalnizyan, economist and Atkinson Foundation fellow on the future of workers. Yalnizyan says this marks a pivotal moment in designing an early learning and childcare system that serves the needs of the Canada’s economic future – one that the country cannot afford to fumble.
“Profit over people”: The business of Canada’s for-profit long-term care sector called into question
September 21, 2020
Aaliyah* faced a lot of pressure and professional oversight working in an Extendicare long-term care home in the Toronto area over the past two years, but what she saw during the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t compare. Amidst growing COVID-19 cases in April, she describes a lack of communication from management, inadequate training for frontline workers, some isolated patients missing meals, and slings being used across bedroom doors to prevent patients from wandering – there were even talks of sedating patients to control their movements.
Vulnerable groups remain a concern after debt-to-income drop
September 17, 2020
The drop in the debt-to-disposable income ratio reported by Statistics Canada may not paint an accurate picture of the country’s debt profile. The ratio fell from 175.4 per cent to 158.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2020, though one economist says government supports coming to an end could present risks to groups that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
“House prices to hold steady in the Fall, but 2021 is a different story: RE/MAX”
August 27, 2020
Low inventory and high demand will keep house prices moving higher until at least the end of 2020, according to a new report by RE/MAX. After that, the economic fallout from the pandemic are expected to catch up with the market.
‘What will a temporary layoff do to my benefits?’ Here’s what you need to know if you’ve been laid off
August 17, 2020
Jobs are slowly returning to the Canadian economy. According to the latest Statistics Canada report, 419,000 jobs were added in July. If you were temporarily laid off due to the COVID-19 shutdown, your job is probably one of them and no doubt you have questions about issues such as job security and benefits.
“Loyalty Wars: company rewards programs gear up to attract customers”
August 12, 2020
The loyalty program wars are ramping up with deeper discounts for cash-strapped Canadians. Just this week, Air Canada announced its launch of a revamped Aeroplan to stoke interest in the travel industry, dropping expensive carrier charges and allowing members to use their points to book seats on any Air Canada flight. Other companies are either expanding rewards plans or rolling out their own programs to entice consumers to start spending again.
“The dream will become a nightmare,” Siddall says on wealth inequality
July 29, 2020
The growing wealth gap between homeowners and renters is an issue that the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC) is striving to solve, especially with the economic impacts from COVID-19 widening the divide. For the organization, that means tackling the country’s obsession with homeownership and promoting alternatives.
Don’t have a Post-CERB game plan? Here’s where to start
July 27, 2020
If you’re concerned about your finances after the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) runs out, you’re not alone. By mid-July, the Government of Canada received 8.4 million unique applications from unemployed Canadians, all of whom will find themselves cut off from the $2,000 a month benefit in September. Many Canadians are living close to the edge. The Canadian Payroll Association found that 47 per cent of people were living paycheque to paycheque in 2017, which means that people without a plan can have a financial catastrophe on their hands.
Claims CMHC is funding home equity tax research ‘inaccurate’
July 17, 2020
The Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC) says claims it invested $250,000 in federal home equity tax research are “not accurate”. A CMHC media relations representative told Yahoo Finance Canada in an e-mail that the funding will be used for the Solutions Lab initiative in an 18-month project to improve housing affordability in Canada, exploring an array of solutions.
Get used to fewer employees for the next three months: Statistics Canada
July 15, 2020
When it comes to staffing levels during the COVID-19 recovery, most Canadian businesses don’t have all hands on deck. A Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) survey found that only one third of businesses had re-hired their pre-pandemic staff capacity. It’s likely going to stay that way for some time: In a separate survey on Canadian business conditions, newly released from Statistics Canada, almost two-thirds of businesses expect their number of employees to remain the same over the next three months.
Canada can expect a slow-and-steady credit growth after the pandemic: economist
July 07, 2020
Canadian credit borrowing will see a slow return to normal, with the credit growth trend expected to stay below average during the recovery phase following a steep contraction during the pandemic, economists say.
Consumer ‘COVID-19 hangover’ means a slow return to normal for businesses
June 22, 2020
The country is slowly re-emerging from lockdown one region at a time, but Canadians are not in a rush to go out and spend like they would in pre-pandemic days. Businesses can expect a gradual return to normal as consumer anxiety slowly lifts.
New CERB bill is punitive for low-income workers: economist
June 15, 2020
The federal government says it is working on a solution to extend the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) for the 8.4 million unique applicants relying on it. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not give details in a press conference Monday morning, but said there would be more to announce later this week. Before today, the July 4 end date was fast-approaching, prompting concerns for Canadians who may not have a job to return to post-pandemic or for the many workers who have had their hours significantly reduced.
Daycares and parents tell Ford reopening is ‘too soon’
June 12, 2020
When Barry Choi heard the provincial government was reopening daycares across the province, his first thought was “too soon.”
About a week ago, the daycare that Choi’s two-year-old daughter, Scarlett, attends opened for just one day to allow parents to pick up a few things their children left behind in March.
Eviction bans are not expected to hurt commercial landlords: Colliers
June 11, 2020
Commercial landlords across Canada will be confronted with many challenges after months under lockdown, though eviction bans are not expected to be one of them, according to John Duda, the president of real estate management services for Colliers Canada.
New CMHC requirements will have buyers flocking to the market: brokers
June 09, 2020
Experts in the real estate industry say CMHC’s new, strict lending measures will trigger a surge in home purchase volume as potential home buyers rush to the mortgage market before July 1, when these policies take effect.
‘The hurdles I have to jump are unbelievable:’ How systemic racism in banks and support networks is holding back Black entrepreneurs
June 06, 2020
Before Pauline Thomas started her own business, Comfort Bras, she worked a corporate job at a multibillion-dollar firm and brought home a six-figure salary.
But whenever she applied for a bank loan, it wasn’t the dollar figure the person on the other side of the counter saw, it was her skin colour.
Record low insolvencies in Canada are the calm before the debt storm, says experts
June 05, 2020
Insolvency filings hit a record low in April, dropping by 43.5 per cent compared to last year. This drop followed a full month of lockdowns across most Canadian provinces, according to a report by Scotiabank. Once the economy reopens, these insolvency filings are expected to not only bounce back, but they could trigger a massive wave, according to licensed insolvency trustees.
Continued stimulus for business will be key to economic recovery from COVID-19: economist
June 05, 2020
Earlier this week, the Bank of Canada walked back their negative outlook for the economy, stating that the severe impact of COVID-19 “appears to have peaked”. However, the report still leaves a lot of questions unanswered, according to CIBC executive director and senior economist Royce Mendes.
COVID-19 puts international student-driven economic growth in Canada at risk
June 03, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic could put a strain on Canada’s international student sector, according to a new report by RBC. The study, published Tuesday morning, found that there was a 45 per cent drop in international student permits in March compared to last year.
“They’re whistling past the graveyard”: Siddall pushes back on housing outlook criticism
May 29, 2020
After the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC) released its projection that house prices could drop up to 18 per cent over the next 12 months, real estate company RE/MAX responded with an outlook of its own.
Don’t expect working from home to kill the corporate office
May 27, 2020
The world is seeing the largest work-from-home experiment in history. The list of major companies allowing employees to work from home, even after the pandemic, continues to grow to change with the future of work.
Upcoming bank loan loss provisions won’t be ‘fireworks’, but will have a long-lasting impact
May 25, 2020
Analysts are expecting one of the most dramatic quarters in years. Bryden Teich, partner and portfolio manager at Avenue Investment Management, warns that the pandemic’s effects on banks’ loan loss provisions won’t come as a one-off hit to the financial sector, but will be much longer-lasting.
Students asking universities for refunds, but it’s not that simple
May 19, 2020
When Ye En Kim came to Canada to study engineering, she was eager to practice at McGill University’s state-of-the-art labs in Montreal. She wanted to get hands-on knowledge in research projects and immerse herself in Canadian culture. COVID-19 quickly ruined that strategy, leading to class suspensions, campus closures and online classes. The labs closed, shutting Kim out of what she sees as a valuable part of her education.
Not all provinces are equal in the COVID-19 debt crisis
May 06, 2020
COVID-19 has exposed many weaknesses in the Canadian economy – particularly with mounting debt loads across the country. With the latest net debt percentage of 53.4 per cent, the federal government still holds the bulk of the debt load compared to the provinces.
A look back at Stephen Poloz’s legacy
May 01, 2020
Tiff Macklem’s appointment as the governor of the Bank of Canada closes the chapter on Stephen Poloz’s tenure. On June 2, Poloz will step down and pass the torch to Macklem, who served as senior deputy governor from 2010-2014.
Provincial bond market purchases are a start, but may show too much restraint: economist
April 24, 2020
The Bank of Canada introduced one of the most drastic provincial funding measures the country has ever seen, doubling its balance sheet and outgrowing any strategy taken in 2008 – and it might not be enough.
Canada braces for higher mortgage defaults – but it won’t be the next “U.S. crash of ’08”
April 20, 2020
Rising unemployment and high debt is expected to boost mortgage loan delinquencies in Canada, though experts say it won’t play out like the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis of 2008.
Credit card payment deferrals won’t hurt your credit score – if you get it in writing
April 07, 2020
The federal government is encouraging Canada’s banks to do more to help struggling Canadians during COVID-19: “We continue to have discussions with them that are really focused on the need for banks to do more,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a press conference Tuesday. “We acknowledged that they did go in the right direction. But we see every day that this crisis is more and more of a challenge for everyone.” Trudeau added that the government is working on other credit solutions for Canadians that will be announced in the next few days.
Canada could be headed for negative yields, as quantitative easing begins
April 03, 2020
The Bank of Canada’s secondary market purchase program seems to be working for the bond market, according to one analyst.
The central bank released details for the secondary market purchase of federal government securities on Tuesday, as part of a series of liquidity measures that include the country’s first-ever quantitative easing program. Canadian investors are beginning to see the effects play out.
Medicago says coronavirus vaccine could be ready for human trial by July
April 02, 2020
One of the companies on Ottawa’s list for $192 million vaccine development funding still does not know how much it will receive from the federal government, but says the money will help push its vaccine development from early testing to full clinical trials. Medicago, a private Quebec-based biotech company, says it has already received $7 million from the government of Quebec.
Were Canadians gouged by the airlines on their emergency flights home? Some say they were
March 28, 2020
[Also featured on the front page of the Business Section on Monday, March 30]
It was meant to be another regular trip to Mexico for Donna and Marcello Prete, until the coronavirus swept across the globe and put international flights at a standstill by the end of March. Prompted by a call to come home from their Prime Minister and on the advice of their doctor in Mexico, all they wanted was to return to Canada. However, the costs for them to do so – and many Canadians – were soaring.
The Bank of Canada’s measures may fuel higher corporate debt loads
March 25, 2020
A burgeoning debt load in Canada’s corporate sector could make an economic recession deeper and more long lasting. One economist says that low interest rates and income interruptions could work in tandem to dig the country into a corporate default spiral that’s harder to bounce back from.
Need to cancel a trip due to COVID-19? Here’s how to get your money back
March 12, 2020
With the federal government issuing an advisory against “non-essential” travel outside the country, and the inconvenience of having to self-isolate upon the return from a holiday, many Canadians are desperately trying to cancel vacations that may have been books months ago.
Has Silicon Valley Lost Its Shine?
February 26, 2020
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has built and managed many successful tech start-ups – but if he had to do it again today – he would choose anywhere other than Silicon Valley.
In late January, Zuckerberg spoke on-stage at a conference in Utah about the San Francisco Bay area, holding no specific ill-will to the place he moved to at 19-years-old, but acknowledging its faults: “I like the Bay Area, so I’m not super negative on it, but I do think on balance if I was starting from scratch now, I would not pick the Bay Area,” Zuckerberg explained, further stating that it was “too short-term focused”.
Masterclass: The Real Cost of Sending Your Kids to Uni
February 25, 2020
Your child worked hard through high school, getting good grades and having the ambition to launch a successful career. Now here you are, helping your son or daughter get into the school of their dreams. This move will do wonders for their career – but have you thought of what it might do to your pocketbook?
Why Jamaica’s Small Stock Exchange Dominates the Global Markets
February 20, 2020
The world’s most successful market index comes from an unlikely place: Jamaica. The Jamaican Stock Exchange (JSE) has been in the top-five highest-performing market indexes in the world over the past few years, being something of a dark horse in global economics.
Why Cannabis Investors are Targeting Germany as the next Budding Market
February 14, 2020
Like many other countries across Europe, Germany has not fully embraced legal recreational cannabis. Despite that, the country has become an industry leader in Europe since it legalized medical marijuana in 2017 and has caught the eyes of global cannabis investors. Why are Canadian cannabis companies seeing green in Germany?
How to navigate the profits and pitfalls of the gig economy
February 13, 2020
The working world has changed a lot in recent years. Ask any of your friends if they have a side hustle on top of their full-time job and many of them will probably say “yes.” In fact, for some of them, their employment is probably exclusively made up of side hustles or a mosaic of freelance jobs that make up the “gig economy.”
Amazon and Visa Aim to Shake-Up Retail with Palm Payments
February 11, 2020
Amazon and Visa are considering taking biometrics and fintech trends a step further with “palm payments”, according to people familiar with the project speaking with the Wall Street Journal. The idea is to allow consumers to pay for purchases using credit card information connected to their hand with payment terminals at check-out sections in brick-and-mortar locations. It’s a new model that eliminates the need for cash and credit cards for consumers as well as envisioning a cashierless retail future.
The Lessons Learned from the Tech Unicorn Stampede of ‘19
February 03, 2020
Even more valuable than the profits investors make in the stock market are the hard lessons they learn along the way… Thing is, the lessons are only valuable if they’re actually learned.
I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a while since the year 2019 presented an interesting case study with (often misplaced) vaulting optimism in tech companies from venture capitalists. It was the year where investors seemed to have ditched the age-old wisdom of putting your money on a company that had a secure business plan, was either profitable or had a clear path to profitability, kept debt loads low and had a positive press following. It was the year when venture capitalists flocked from shiny new company to shiny new company, picking up shares in the companies with the sleekest packaging and best marketing team. For most of these companies, the ‘packaging’ laid a temporary veneer over huge financial losses, a chaotic board, endless controversy, and no clear plan in place to turn financials around.
5G Is Coming. What Does This Mean for Us?
January 21, 2020
The 5G network is fast-approaching, promising a stronger network with wider coverage and processing speeds unlike anything we’ve seen before. The headlines surrounding 5G have all at once been starkly political, brimming with optimism, and gloomily suspicious with health impacts. The network’s adoption seems inevitable, so what exactly does this mean for us?
Fintech Trends That Investors Should Be Watching for the Next Decade
January 17, 2020
Financial technology (or “fintech”) is where banking and big tech intersect to provide quick banking, investing, and payment services for clients. The last ten years, blockchain and artificial intelligence dominated headlines with everything from e-payments, arranging loans and insurance, wealth management, and just your day-to-day banking.
How Finland Plans to Be on Top When It Comes to AI Technology
January 17, 2020
The great hand of AI technology and automation is poised to claw away thousands of jobs in various countries, threatening to leave the less technologically-inclined in the dust. Finland is among the first countries to recognize the threat of an untrained workforce and is now offering a free online course called “Elements of AI” to ensure that their citizens are well-equipped to shoulder the future of work.
The End of Nine-to-Five: The Inevitable Gig Economy
January 12, 2020
If you worked an office job many years ago and five o’clock rolled around, you would stretch, gather your things, and clock out for the day. Maybe you’d even leave a half-hour earlier if it’s a Friday. It’s five o’clock freedom and you’re probably running through weekend plans, chores to cross off your to-do list — anything other than your workday.
U.S.-Iranian Tensions Are Shaking up Politics – and the Markets
January 09, 2020
What goes up can come back down just as easily. The S&P 500 rally in the first two days of 2020 was quickly interrupted when U.S. President Donald Trump ordered and airstrike that claimed the life of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Iraq.
For Better or Worse, More Millennials are Finding the Gig Economy a Necessity
January 02, 2020
Canada’s job market has shown a weakening supply of stable positions, even reporting that as many as 71,000 jobs were lost in November. The unemployment rate increased to 5.9 per cent according to Statistics Canada. In this precarious work environment, more millennials are relying on the gig economy, transforming the nine-to-five workday to a 24/7 work life so that Canadians can get ahead of – or even keep up with – growing costs.
Amuka Esports Invests to give the Canadian Gaming Industry a Level-Up
December 20, 2019
Esports is a rapidly growing global industry, first finding its legs in the Asian markets before surging in popularity in the U.S. According to Statista, the esports industry had a global market capitalization of $865 million USD in 2018 – and it’s expected to grow. For the sports purists who have their doubts about the industry, the North American League of Legends Championship Series Spring Split Finals drew in a larger viewership than the Super Bowl this year.
Why Millennials Choose To Be Entrepreneurs
December 15, 2019
New year, new headwinds: the next turn of the decade is appearing to be increasingly morose for an already cash-strapped Millennial demographic. Soaring debt loads stemming from the historically highest tuition rates and highest costs of living put Millennials in a particularly tough financial spot both in Canada and the U.S. This has prompted North Americans in their 20’s and 30’s to put off milestones like home ownership, starting a family, and even has many of them filing for insolvency. Many of these issues can be pinned on the lack of stable, traditional employment since the financial crisis. As a new decade rolls around, Millennials will likely be faced with the same challenges, but may find new ways to out-maneuver these financial hurdles.
Holiday Sales Expected to Hit $1 Trillion – What Will The Average Consumer Spend?
November 28, 2019
This holiday season, retailers are expected to have a banner year with holiday sales forecasted to breach the $1 trillion-dollar mark for the first time ever. This record comes at the end of a rough year for the retail industry in North America, giving analysts mixed feelings about its overall health.
Canada’s Increasing Debt Problem and What it Means for You
November 26, 2019
The number of Canadians filing for insolvency jumped by 19 per cent in September from the year before, amounting to 11,935 consumers who were unable to meet their long-term debt obligations. The escalating rate of filings is at its largest in about ten years, drawing concerns as these spikes tend to precede an economic crisis.
How Hudson’s Bay — and Canada — Is Not Immune to the U.S. Late-Cycle Retail Market
July 17, 2019
The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) closures represent a contraction in its business plan after the company underwent an overly optimistic expansionary phase. Late-cycle market dynamics have challenged sales revenues for retailers like Home Outfitters and Saks OFF 5TH. While the proverbial “retail apocalypse” is largely focused on the United States due to the country’s over-retailed commercial real estate market, Canada is not immune to the effects of declining retail sales, the prominence of e-commerce and too-optimistic business expansions that put retailers in debt and eat away at revenues.
High and Low: The Soaring Demand and Limited Supply of Toronto’s
Purpose-Built Multifamily Market
June 13, 2019
The Toronto housing market stands at the intersection of housing affordability and availability, with asking rents trending higher amid wages that struggle to keep up. While average rental rates for private condominiums (condos) have outpaced increases in wages, so too have rates for purpose-built rentals. Exacerbating the issue further, developers are economically incentivized to build condos, limiting the supply of purpose-built rentals and worsening affordability. These trends improve the credit risk for multi-family lenders by ensuring that occupancies and rents will remain high. Despite recent government initiatives, DBRS, Inc. (DBRS) expects supply and demand to remain “tight,” putting upward pressure on rental prices and pushing residents to seek affordability farther outside the city.
Scorching Real Estate: Comparing the California, B.C. and Fort McMurray Wildfires’ Impact
April 03, 2019
Last August was devastating for British Columbia (B.C.) and California — each had declared a state of emergency because of wildfires. Both the province and the state experienced a severe decline in tourism, mass evacuations and seemingly unending fights to contain the conflagrations. There was significant loss on both sides, though as far as impact on commercial infrastructure and industry went, California’s wildfires took more of a toll on the local economy. This commentary explores the immediate effects of the wildfires across B.C. and California. In addition, this commentary looks at the impacts of the Fort McMurray fire that devastated a large part of Alberta’s infrastructure back in 2016.
How Coworking Co-Opts the Traditional Office Space
March 11, 2019
Having a roommate is not just part of the college experience — it is a growing trend in the workforce. More and more companies are working together under the same roof in nine to five harmony in what is known as coworking space: a more flexible alternative to traditional office space where multiple workers can share a single space for a monthly rent while working independently on their own projects. In the past, coworking space mostly appealed to freelancers and the self-employed who either worked from home, traveled often or otherwise had little use for costly full-scale offices. Now, the model is becoming increasingly attractive to traditional corporations looking to reduce long-term lease obligations and maximize the use of their space. DBRS, Inc. (DBRS) believes that the coworking industry will continue being a disruptor in the traditional-office-space market, whether through pioneer coworking companies like IWG plc (formerly Regus) and WeWork or through well-established traditional companies expanding their services to include more flexible options.
Monitoring “The Stuff That Counts”: Shopko’s Closures Minimally Affect CMBS Transactions
February 12, 2019
The store closures announced by Shopko will likely have a minimal impact on commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) in aggregate; however, DBRS, Inc. (DBRS) does see the potential for localized defaults as the company rejects leases across the country. In addition, the closures highlight the risk of exposure faced by retailers owned by private equity firms, specifically. According to Bloomberg, Shopko, which was acquired by Sun Capital Partners, Inc. in 2005, had sought debt restructuring from its lenders, but its efforts proved unsuccessful. With ownership unwilling to invest further in the company, Shopko filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2019. Since then, the original closure list has ballooned to over 250, which will reduce the company footprint by more than half.
Brick-and-Mortar Retail Just May Have a Happy Holiday
December 17, 2018
This holiday season, growing consumer trends have given the brick-and-mortar retail industry plenty to be merry about. America’s malls and department stores may enjoy an uptick in foot traffic with preliminary studies, which hinted that consumers are not only willing to spend more money, but are actually prepared to visit retail locations. E-commerce is still a strong sell for many U.S. holiday shoppers; however, traditional store-to-store shopping appears to be here to stay with help from the growing “order online, pick up in store” trend, which is also driving consumers to physical retail spaces. There are many factors strengthening the performance of traditional retail options, the largest of which is a strong market cycle. In this article, DBRS looks at U.S. consumers’ intentions and spending behaviors for the holiday season to assess their potential impact on retailers and department stores from a commercial real estate perspective.
Retail Optimism Gets Canadian Malls into the Holiday Spirit
December 17, 2018
Canadian malls are set to have a happy 2018 holiday season with promising retail trends. Many preliminary studies suggest that consumers plan to spend more money than last year and, while e-commerce is still expected to trend upward, shopping attitudes during the holidays are driving much-needed foot traffic back into traditional retail space. In this report, DBRS dives into shoppers’ intentions and trends this holiday season as well as their impact on mall owners from a real estate perspective.
Lowe’s Renovates Its Retail Strategy
December 04, 2018
Lowe’s Companies, Inc. (Lowe’s or the Company, rated A (low) with a Stable trend by DBRS) is attempting a different retail strategy to stay competitive with other home improvement and hardware companies by closing 47 locations across North America. DBRS sees little impact from this on the retail market, on commercial mortgage-backed securities or on Lowe’s itself. This is because unlike traditional retail stores, Lowe’s and other big box home improvement stores have largely been immune to the rise of e-commerce and the “Amazon effect” since there is little product overlap between them, though the overlap continues to grow. Despite surviving the changes in retail that claimed other departments stores, the home improvement giant still faces stiff competition from competitors like The Home Depot (rated “A” with a Stable trend by DBRS).
The Fall of an Icon — Sears and the Evolution of the Great American Shopping Mall
November 27, 2018
In a largely unsurprising move, Sears Holdings Corporation (Sears) filed for bankruptcy on October 15, 2018. Soon thereafter, the notoriously troubled franchise — which had already announced that 150 stores would close in 2018 — announced an additional two rounds of closures. The latest closures include an initial round of 142 locations, with liquidation sales expected to be completed by the end of the year, as well as a second round of 40 stores early next year, bringing total additional closures to 182 Sears and Kmart locations. Once these stores are shuttered, there will be under 700 Sears and Kmart stores remaining, down from approximately 3,900 locations combined in 2005, according to Forbes.
Costa-Hawkins Prevails, Securing Certainty in the Los Angeles Multifamily Market
November 08, 2018
On Tuesday, November 6, 2018, Californians took to the polls to determine the fate of Proposition 10, a statewide rent-control measure that would repeal the Costa–Hawkins Rental Housing Act (Costa-Hawkins) and allow individual municipalities to exercise more control over multifamily rental rates. The citizen-run measure was stopped in its tracks with a voting margin of 65.0% against it and 35.0% in favor. California will continue to impose limits on rent control for cities across the state, including Los Angeles.
The Great Costa Hawkins Debate: How the Los Angeles Multifamily Market Hangs in the Balance
November 01, 2018
For renters across the Los Angeles multifamily market, 2018 has been both an interesting and challenging year, with fears of wildfire damages to their homes as well as the continuing debate surrounding Proposition 10, the statewide rent control law that, if passed, will repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (Costa Hawkins) and give municipalities more power to enact rent control laws that supporters say will promote affordable housing. On one hand, Proposition 10 would provide reprieve for citizens struggling to pay the rent. On the other hand, repealing the act could negatively affect the rental and housing market. November will be a deciding month for the City of Angels, as the average rent rate climbs beyond affordability for the average citizen.
Repurposed Real Estate: How Adaptive Reuse Gives Old Properties New Purpose
October 18, 2018
Teaching an old building new tricks is a growing trend in the commercial real estate investment industry. Adaptive reuse is the process of finding an older building that once served a now-obsolete purpose and renovating it to take on new responsibilities. Historic buildings, like those in the notable Distillery District in Toronto, tend to be prime candidates as this makeover process preserves their architectural character and conserves their place in the community.
New Construction Woes: Steel and Aluminum Tariffs Likely to Strain North American Commercial Real Estate Construction
October 15, 2018
In June 2018, the Trump Administration imposed a 25.0% tariff on steel imports and a 10.0% tariff on imported aluminum from Canada, as well as tariffs on all foreign steel and aluminum. In retaliation, the Canadian government implemented counter-tariffs of its own on steel, aluminum as well as select consumer products imported from the United States. These disputes will likely have an adverse effect on new construction on both sides of the border — particularly on new steel-majority construction in major cities. The aluminum tariffs, while not as influential on construction as steel, have added fuel to the emotional fire in this issue. DBRS considers that the increased global prices on steel imports, the resulting domestic price increases, related supply problems, as well as the unpredictability of the trade disruptions will result in increased construction costs for commercial property developers. In this environment, commercial real estate development is likely to become more complicated, expensive and uncertain.
The Retail Crossroads: Exploring the Potential for Malls
September 25, 2018
Although regional malls have generated negative headlines over the past few years, the recent acquisitions of the Westfield Group (Westfield) by Paris-based Unibail-Rodamco (Unibail) and General Growth Properties (GGP) by Brookfield Property Partners (Brookfield) may signal new opportunities in the space. Unibail purchased Westfield in 2017 for $15.8 billion in a deal that included acquiring 35 regional malls plus the Westfield World Trade Center retail complex. Brookfield, which had acquired a stake in GGP during the latter’s 2009 bankruptcy, took control of the entire company in March 2018 for $9.3 billion in cash. These large acquisitions demonstrate that investors see value in prime retail assets and are looking to implement strategies to improve the relevancy of the brick-and-mortar model for retailers. Malls will come out of the downturn in the retail industry if the assets are characterized by key factors, including location in a densely populated area, attractive appeal to a diverse mix of tenants, dynamic consumer base and sustainable strategies to drive foot traffic.
How Chicago Office Development Is Fueling the Multifamily Boom
September 10, 2018
The Chicago skyline is seeing more office and apartment developments from 2017 well into 2018 thanks to a significant boost in firms re-locating to, or expanding their presence in, the city. Industry watchers are observing significant inventory growth as well as a year-over-year increase in apartment and office rents. In this commentary, DBRS, Inc. (DBRS) looks at how these market metrics compare with properties within multifamily commercial mortgage-backed securities transactions across the greater Chicago area.
Improving a Building’s IQ: How Smart Technologies Can Benefit Commercial Real Estate
August 28, 2018
Increasing use of automation and smart building technologies can have a meaningful impact in commercial real estate, not only on operating expenses but also on asset quality. As these technologies proliferate, DBRS expects to see more reliance on computers to perform basic functions like temperature control, lighting, air quality, sanitation and even tenant-roster organization through Internet of Things (IoT) technology — a system of connected computing and mechanical devices that automatically transfer data without human interaction.
Is Airbnb Choking Out New York’s Multifamily Market?
August 21, 2018
The housing issue in New York City has never been more dire than it is in 2018, with a vacancy rate of 3.6% according to the New York City Rent Guidelines Board 2018 Housing Supply Report. Rental listing analytics from Reis state that as of Q2 2018, the average asking rent for an apartment in New York was $3,653. The city currently has a rent rate much higher than the national average (roughly $1,064, collected by averaging the one-bedroom and two-bedroom rates) caused by a number of factors, including unit supply-to-population ratios. However, affordable housing advocates have pointed the finger at short-term rental companies like Airbnb.
The Classic Appeal of Historic Buildings
August 04, 2018
As far as real estate goes, the mentality is often that a newer building is a better building. This makes sense, considering what kind of issues older buildings present: older buildings require renovations and maintenance to keep them functional, they are more susceptible to environmental damage and pest infestations, they can be less functional if they operate on outdated technology and they can be much harder to sell, depending on their local market. However, some buildings constructed before 1950 have overcome these issues and are even considered to be desirable properties with character. In this commentary, DBRS, Inc. (DBRS) looks into the value that historic buildings hold, what property types benefit the most from a classic appeal and what markets most revere architectural history.
The U.S. Senior Housing Market Facing a Supply Shortage
May 09, 2018
Seniors in the United States are facing a housing dilemma stemming from the diminishing unit supply as well as climbing rent rates nationwide. The growth of the U.S. senior population is continuously outpacing the development of unit supply — a gap that may grow significantly year over year. This is creating longer wait lists for applicants, unaffordable monthly rental rates and a lack of options for one the nation’s most vulnerable communities. In this commentary, DBRS looks at the extent of the senior housing shortage issue and how reinvigorated investment interests may help alleviate some of these problems.
Analyzing the Canadian Senior Housing Dilemma
May 09, 2018
Canada’s seniors are facing a severe housing shortage as there is an increasing number of baby boomers turning 65, coupled with a low property vacancy and supply as well as general soaring rent rates. This issue is especially magnified with Canada’s senior population since they often require properties with the care facilities and staffing that standard housing units do not provide. As wait lists extend and affordability slips away, DBRS examines the senior housing shortage more closely.
The VR Revolution in the Commercial Real Estate Industry
May 04, 2018
Business owners could soon find themselves selecting office space from the comfort of their homes. Whether it’s in the city where they live or thousands of miles away, comprehensive virtual tours of properties are becoming a reality. Property buyers will see the most benefit from this new trend, saving on travel costs and time by looking at virtual open-house tours before deciding to take that next step. On the flip side, sellers will enjoy a wider client reach and a dynamic form of advertising for their properties whether they are hotel owners appealing to travel-savvy clients or landlords looking for new tenants to fill their apartment space. Properties dealing in multifamily, office and industrial services are also seizing the opportunity, finding ways to impress customers through immersive selling tactics. DBRS believes this trend could provide improved analytics and transparency for investors in the commercial mortgage-backed security (CMBS) market.
Rental and Ownership in Toronto’s Downtown Core
April 04, 2018
It has been a huge year for Toronto’s condo market, with significant growth in Q3 2017 in overall inventory as well as costs. In this commentary, DBRS examines the condo scene in Toronto and concludes that condo ownership will remain unattainable for most Canadians because of the lack of supply, which is driving up costs, Toronto’s soaring population and new home-buying regulations (see also The Toronto Condo Market Goes Suburban in the same multifamily series). This commentary also looks at some of the new non-luxury developments slated to be constructed in the former City of Toronto1 area and provides industry perspective on projected-development over the next few years.
The E-Commerce Takeover: Why Department Stores Are Struggling This Holiday Season
March 20, 2018
Fewer shoppers are visiting department stores during the holidays, favouring the convenience of purchasing products online instead. This leaves massive retail giants, such as Macy’s (whose stock has been down by 46.0% since the start of 2017), Kohl’s (down by 16.6%), Nordstrom (down by 19.2%) and JCPenney (down by 64.5%), suffering heavy losses, according to a November 2017 report by Market Realist. The Christmas season — usually the most lucrative time of year for retail — is not alleviating the strain on department stores and centrally located malls.
Phoning It In: What Effect Does Working from Home have on the Modern Office?
March 20, 2018
If you ask people what perk they are looking for from a job, many would say that the flexibility to work from home is high on their list. That’s the direction a few offices are going in to promote morale among their workers and to meet the growing demands from millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers alike. There are a lot of immediate benefits to workers, like saving time in commuting and travel, saving money in travel costs and dry cleaning, as well as keeping working parents closer to their children. Most workers wouldn’t turn up their noses at the idea of staying at home to get office work done and it’s increasingly becoming a trend that employers are looking into to save rental space. A 2015 Stanford study titled “Does Working From Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment” followed the effects of telecommuting when the senior management team of a Shanghai-based call centre allowed employees to work from home in an effort to reduce office rental costs (which reached staggering costs from the booming real estate market). They found a few benefits for both employees and employers.
How the Airbnb and Hotel Industry War Will Look in 2018
February 21, 2018
Over the past five years, the mainstream hotel industry has faced a rapidly changing competitive landscape with the rising success of online crowd-sourced lodging services such as Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway, among others. Staple hotel companies like Hilton, Marriott and Wyndham Worldwide (Wyndham) recognize that they now face a new set of challenges and are taking action to improve their competitive positions. For the past few years, they have been mitigating potential room revenue erosion through widespread hotel renovations and by lobbying for more stringent lodging regulation, such as the restrictions on short-term rentals passed in New York in October 2017.
The Toronto Condo Market Goes Suburban
February 20, 2018
Toronto has undergone a residential condominium development explosion over the past five years, with another strong quarter in Q3 2017. A recent industry study projects the growth to continue in 2018, given Ontario’s population and economic boom. “Bedrooms in the Sky: Is Toronto Building the Right Condo Supply?”, a study by a joint initiative between the Ryerson City Building Institute and Urbanation, outlines how the growth of condo development does not line up with the demands of the growing number of families, in terms of both condo types and the amount of condos for sale, making Toronto’s bordering cities such as Pickering and Ajax much more attractive options.
What Will the Modern Workplace Look Like in 2018?
February 04, 2018
With the arrival of 2018, many architects and developers of Class A office buildings are wondering how they can simultaneously maximize space and increase productivity. The most popular solution that has emerged over the past few years does not involve building side-by-side cubicles or cramming more workstations into floor plans, but creating open-concept space. However, creating an open-concept office comes at a price. DBRS, Inc. (DBRS) has observed that the cost of attracting and retaining tenants has increased because of changes to how space is currently being used in various markets. With today’s average outstanding amount of securitized office loans standing at $123.4 billion, representing just over 20.0% of total loans in the securitization market, it is important to keep in mind the costs that landlords incur to keep their properties competitive. This commentary examines the shift to open-concept space and some of the drivers behind the costs.