Mall owner rebrands itself to escape ‘retail apocalypse’ narrative

by Lauren Thomas
CNBC.com

Malls are changing.

As specialty tenants, like Gymboree and Wet Seal, file for bankruptcy, and as department store chains, like Sears and J.C. Penney, scale back their physical footprints, those real estate landlords are left with boxes to fill and room for innovation.

Like its peers, CBL & Associates Properties, a Tennessee-based retail real estate investment trust, has been fighting the idea that malls are “dying.”

To be sure, malls have been the worst REIT performers year to date, “as investors have latched onto the negative retail narrative,” Boenning & Scattergood analyst Floris van Dijkum wrote in a recent note to clients.

Hedge funds have wagered $6.7 billion, betting against the mall sector, with short interest at a five-year high of 7.6 percent, Dijkum said. “Bears believe cash flows and asset values will be pressured for all retail real estate.”

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