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Levin Management CEO: 60% Retail Rent Collection

Philadelphia's Morrell Plaza, one of the properties managed by Levin Management

Levin Management CEO Matthew Harding has plenty to talk about with his executive team during their daily conference calls to review requests for help from retail tenants hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. Now, he is turning their attention to lessees who haven't been in touch.

The company, which has a 15M SF retail-focused portfolio in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, estimates that tenants paid 60% of the rents due in April, which Harding says is "pretty good" compared with some competitors who have collected as little as 50% of the money owed them. Harding expects May rent collections to be similar or somewhat worse.

"There are some tenants that are open and operating, like grocery stores and drugstores," he said. "They have all been pretty consistent in paying. We have good long-term relationships with a lot of other tenants who have multiple locations. We have had very constructive dialogues with them."

Levin is offering rent deferrals to tenants who haven't been able to open their stores because of government-mandated shutdowns. Still, there is only so much it can do without government assistance. 

Small businesses have found it difficult to access funds through the Paycheck Protection Program, which has been dogged by accusations of mismanagement. Several publicly traded companies, including burger chain Shake Shack, returned their PPP funds to the federal government.

"Hopefully, that program does what it is intended to do, which is help businesses stay in place, help them keep people employed or bring [furloughed] workers back," Harding said.

The retail sector struggled for years as chains opened more brick-and-mortar locations while shopping shifted online. More than 77,000 workers in the industry lost their jobs in 2019, 48,753 of them because of bankruptcies. Since the pandemic began, apparel retailer J Crew filed for bankruptcy and upscale department store Neiman Marcus reportedly is considering doing the same thing. 

"This current crisis will accelerate change and weed out the strongest," Harding said.