Retailer owner downsizes at higher price

ASHEVILLE, North Carolina — The South Loft Owner Jessica Garrick fell in love with fashion when she was little.

“We used to call my mom ‘chic’ because wherever we went she always had to dress up no matter what we were doing,” she said. “So I always thought that was really cool, and that’s how I wanted to be when I grew up.”

What do you want to know

In 2021, the United States reached an all-time high of 3% availability for industrial space

Jessica Garrick went from renting a 4,000 square foot space to a 2,500 square foot space, paying 25% more

The Southern Loft’s online sales are up 30% during the pandemic

Now, as a mother of three boys, it’s her “girl thing”.

“It’s what I can do for fun!” she says.

Garrick opened the store five years ago and was recently told she had to vacate the space she rented at Asheville Outlets.

“We actually had a temporary contract in our other space. And our contract was bought out by a national retailer,” she said.

The mall had a spot available. It’s much smaller, which makes it go from around 4,000 square feet to 2,500 square feet and cost about 25% more. But she’s not complaining.

“I feel like because of where we are now, the location is a bit better,” she said. “We could have more foot traffic. So I think overall it will be a positive thing.

She also had to make other adjustments to her business. Supply backlogs have put it behind the retail schedule, still showcasing fall items while waiting for its spring collections to ship.

“Just because we haven’t received a ton of our spring yet,” she said. “Usually I have spring in January, and probably half of what I ordered has arrived.”

Garrick is used to pivoting with the pandemic. When she shut down for a few months in 2020, she took her website seriously. One of the best decisions she could have made in terms of income. Sales peaked with the updated website.

“I would say they’re up about 30%,” she said. “Just based on what we were doing before online and then what we’re doing now overall.”

She plans to secure warehouse space by next year to store inventory online.

“Next year we may have a warehouse where our line will come straight from our warehouse,” she said.

Commercial real estate experts say Garrick faces some competition when it comes to buying or renting a warehouse. The pandemic-fueled online shopping boom has made industrial space very scarce. Last year ended with record availability – with only 3% vacancy rates in the United States. This is according to research by a commercial real estate company BCEE group. Industrial rent also increased by 11% last year.

Eleanor C. William