January 13, 2012
Matt Arnold, senior consumer analyst at Edward Jones sees reason for optimism about the economy.
"We've clawed back all that we lost in the Great Recession in Gross Domestic Product," he members of Commercial Real Estate Women on Wednesday. "And growth in each of the last three quarters has been more than in the previous quarter," he added.
"Usually about this time in the business cycle is when the slope of hiring picks up," Arnold said. "The companies I cover are as lean as lean can be. Some of them are probably too lean, they have to open up the spending spigot a little bit."
Arnold predicts sustainable growth in 2012 and more jobs.
Churning in the retail sector should produce work for architects and builders, but not much new construction. Store closings, lease renegotiations, and luxury brands striking out to sell directly to consumers from their own stores will generate renovation work.
If retail chains are going to grow in this cycle, "this is the time for them to plunk down and make the decision," he said. The growth of online retailing is introducing some hesitancy, however, because nobody knows how big they really need their building footprint to be.
Contractors looking for work in the retail sector should look for growth from:
Jim Rosen, vice president at Pace Properties, noted that almost all the space dumped on the market by the closures of Circuit City, Borders, Linen & Things, and Ultimate Electronics stores has already been back filled with the help of new chains moving into St. Louis.
Most prominent among the new chains that have expanded into St. Louis are hhgregg appliances and electronics, Ross Dress for Less, V•Stock, and buybuy Baby. Other chains coming into the St. Louis market, he said, include 5 below, Foundry, American Girl, Smashburger, and Charming Charlie.
"Retailers are conservative. They will remodel and upgrade appearances to get their share of the market . . . but there is not a lot of new development right now," he said. "Capital is cheap, but lenders are not turning it loose."
David Zimmermann, business manager for Sheet Metal Workers Local 36, sees a brighter future for industrial construction, too.
"With GM expanding in Wentzville, Emerald Automotive in Hazelwood, and new investment in Doe Run in Herculaneum, industrial construction will be the best it has been since early 2008," he said.