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Retailers not laden with debt or with expiring leases may be able to renegotiate or relocate to spaces owned by landlords who are eager to lure tenants and willing to offer cheaper rents because of the slowdown.
“If retailers aren’t [renegotiating], then they should be,” said David Solomon, chief executive officer of NAI Global’s ReStore division.
Dan Fagan, a board member on the Montana Avenue Merchants Association in Santa Monica, said some landlords are working to help sustain retailers.
“There have been reductions of up to 50 percent on rent from landlords; some 20 to 30 percent, although we still have a few landlords who are holding out or raising rent,” Fagan said. “After this recession, we hope to have a more improved street for those who make it through.”
The anxiety level among merchants is being heightened by continued bankruptcy filings and consumer spending that shows no signs of rebounding anytime soon.
Expansion on Robertson of major brands such as Chanel and Ralph Lauren that can afford to pay higher rent changed the face of the street that was once dominated by small niche boutiques, and store owners said having the major labels makes it hard for smaller operators to survive.
“Robertson is too high a rent factor for any smaller stores, and it’s going to go completely corporate — it’s already going that way,” said Mark Goldstein, who, after his rent tripled, moved his Diavolina and Madison stores from Robertson into a larger, but less expensive, custom-built space around the corner on Third Street.
Some retailers said the problem has been worsened by too many multiline boutiques throughout Los Angeles, an expansion that paralleled the housing boom.
“It was all the hype,” Lisa Kline said of Robertson Boulevard, as well as other shopping venues. “Suddenly everyone wanted to be there, and there’s so much saturation on the street. All the streets in L.A. are like that now: Sunset Plaza, Third Street, Montana. It’s not the same cute little shopping districts anymore. I don’t know how it’s going to evolve because you can’t get a read on the customer. They’re not there.”