CBRE survey: Retail global expansion cools off; U.S. remains the most active

When it comes to expanding globally, the United States is the leader of the pack.
That’s according to CBRE Group Inc.’s 10th annual study of international retail expansion, which surveyed 166 cities across 51 countries regarding how many international retailers had debuted in their markets in 2016. The survey found that retailers’ expansion into new markets increased by 2% in 2016, down from 3.1% in CBRE’s 2015 study.  
United States retailers were the most active by a wide margin, aided perhaps by the dollar’s strength relative to other currencies. Of all expansion at city level, 21% was by U.S. retailers. The next most aggressive were Italian retailers at 12%, and French retailers at 11%.
“U.S. retailers’ expansion abroad is aided significantly by their strong brands and execution, especially for food and beverage operators,” said Brandon Famous, CBRE senior managing director and retail leader, the Americas. “The U.S. retail market is relatively mature and somewhat crowded, so several American retailers instead are targeting Europe, Asia and the Middle East for much of their expansion into new markets.”
The report cited retailers’ adjustment to the growth of e-commerce and shifting exchange rates as being behind the overall decline in global expansion. 
“As e-commerce grows, retailers have become more deliberate and meticulous about how many stores they open and where they do so,” said Anthony Buono, chairman of CBRE’s global retail executive committee. “Their global expansion favors the tried-and-true global gateway markets where they get the most exposure for their brands and access to huge populations with disposable income.”
The report revealed that Europe has expanded its dominance as the preferred new destination for expanding retailers. Forty-three percent of retailers’ global expansion into new cities in 2016 took place in Europe, up from 36% a year earlier. Asia accounted for 28% of international retail expansion last year. The Middle East and Africa claimed 12%, and North America 11%.  
CBRE’s attributed Europe’s strong showing to that fact that European retailers new prefer to expand to countries within their home continent rather than in markets where currencies have become expensive, such as the United States. 
In other key findings from the report: 
• Globally, coffee shops and restaurants are the hottest retail category for expansion into new markets, with retailers in that category accounting for 22% of all expansion at city level. Next in line were specialty clothing stores (18%) and mid-range fashion stores (17%).
• On the city level, Hong Kong remains the most popular destination for expanding retailers. Hong Kong’s retail rents are receding from their recent highs, allowing new entrants more affordable access to its retail real estate.
• Toronto is the only North American city to crack the top 10 most popular destinations for expanding retailers, aided by its proximity to the U.S. and the underlying strength of its economy. Of the retailers who made their first foray into Toronto last year, 43% were from the U.S. 
• New York City was the 27th most popular destination for expanding retailers, with 17 new entrants.  
The top 10 cities that attracted the most new entrants in 2016 according to the report are listed below.  
City International Retailers Debuting in 2016
Hong Kong 87
London 65
Dubai 59
Doha 58
Tokyo 48
Singapore 46
Paris 36
Moscow 33
Toronto 30
Vienna 29
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