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Publix Is Offering Rent Relief To Tenants In Its Plazas

One of the South's most prominent grocers, Lakeland, Florida-based Publix, is offering rent relief to tenants in the 282 shopping plazas that it owns of its 1,243 locations across seven states.

Publix is growing as it looks to seize on increased grocery demand.

"Rent relief assistance is being offered as we understand that these are unprecedented times, and smaller businesses, who are tenants to Publix, may need additional assistance as we navigate through these times together," Publix Director of Communications Maria Brous told Bisnow.

In shopping centers it owns, Publix says it will waive rent for two months, and waive payments for common area maintenance fees and taxes — regardless of whether tenants were getting relief from other sources.

“As a company that started as a small business 90 years ago, Publix wants to help businesses renting from us survive the economic impact of these unexpected closures,” Brous said in an announcement. 

With clean stores, bright produce, famous submarine sandwiches and baggers who carry groceries out to customers' car (no tips allowed), Publix's business model — becoming a place "where shopping is a pleasure" — has allowed it to dominate in Florida, where it operates more than 800 stores, while other supermarket chains like Winn-Dixie and Food Lion wilted and shrank in its shadow. Publix has most recently become active in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia.

Publix, which is employee-owned, employs 200,000 in its 1,243 stores. The company's stock is only available to workers, part of the reason it has made Fortune's list of best companies to work for 23 years straight.

Publix recorded $38.1B in sales last year and spent about $1.1B on 35 new supermarkets, including five replacement stores, 177 remodels, new tech and shopping center acquisitions, according to a report in Winsight Grocery Business. Its earnings reached roughly $3B.

In the company's annual report released March 1, it declared its intent to plow funds back into its real estate, boosting capital spending to $1.6B this year.

What a difference a month can make. Though the coronavirus pandemic sent panicked populace to stock up on food — Publix CEO Todd Jones said in a video that in two weeks, it handled 20,000 truckloads of supplies, "a significant increase from our normal volume" — it created uncertainty across commercial real estate markets. 

"We’re hoping this opportunity provides a little less stress and more opportunity to [small-business tenants]," Brous said.

She said she couldn't pinpoint how much the initiative would cost Publix, since "each shopping center will have a different number of tenants and not all tenants will need rent relief assistance."

She said Publix has postponed new store openings through April, but is looking to hire at least 2,000 associates in permanent retail and warehousing and distribution positions.