January 18, 2013

Four on Friday: David Birnbrey of The Shopping Center Group

In today’s Four on Friday, we pose not
four, but five questions to David Birnbrey, chairman and co-CEO of The Shopping
Center Group
, a full-service retail real estate firm headquartered in Atlanta. David
fills us in on his firm’s activity, offers his assessment of the retail sector
as a whole, and provides in-depth analysis of and a prediction for Sunday’s NFC
championship game between the Falcons and 49ers.

David-Birnbrey-The Shopping Center GroupHS: Give us a brief overview of The
Shopping Center Group and the services the firm provides.

Birnbrey: Since 1984, The Shopping Center Group has
provided a full assortment of retail real estate advisory services to
landlords, developers, investors, financial institutions and retailers
throughout the eastern United States. These services include project leasing,
property management, tenant representation, investment advisory services,
investment property sales, finance, construction supervision, disposition of
surplus properties, receivership and development consulting.

We have 20
offices from New York to Miami and more than 200 employees and associates. We’re
currently representing more than 300 national and regional retainers and
restaurants, leasing more than 50 million square feet of retail space, and
managing more than 10 million square feet. In a stabilized environment, our
company will complete approximately $300 million in investment sales. 

HS: How would you say 2012 turned out for
the retail sector, and what do you see in store for 2013?

Birnbrey: 2012 turned out to be an extremely good
year for our company with a volume that came close to matching our high-water
mark of pre-recession 2007. Although vacancy rates went down noticeably in 2012,
it was almost all in existing space with very little new construction in the
retail sector. That trend will continue through the first part of this year,
but we’re hopeful that construction of new projects will resume by the third

Stores are
getting smaller with retailers concentrating on higher productivity per square
foot and eliminating excessive inventory levels. While e-commerce continues to
be a threat to the future of bricks and mortar, the retailers and restaurants
that concentrate on delivering value and an enjoyable experience will always

HS: What drew you to a career in commercial
real estate?

Birnbrey: I lacked the talent and the education for
anything else. It was this or selling sunglasses on the beach. I burn too
easily for the sunglasses gig.

HS: What do you do to relax? 

Birnbrey: I’m not a big relaxer, but I guess it’s
playing golf. Meanwhile, my game gets me tense, the cigar makes me dizzy and
the score tends to piss me off, so maybe not golf. Let’s go back to this
answer: “nothing.”

HS: Bonus question: Have a prediction for
Sunday's NFC championship game between the Falcons and 49ers?

Birnbrey: It was obvious last week that the
linebackers needed to stay close to the line to prevent Russell Wilson from
running, and we couldn’t blitz. That opened up the intermediate passing game
for Seattle. Without a blitz, we needed a serious effort from the defensive
ends, which we didn’t get. Having John Abraham back for this game will be huge.

Colin Kaepernick
might be tougher to defend against than Wilson, but I think the Falcons learned
a great deal from the Seahawk game and will do a good job there. Meanwhile, our
offense is impossible to contain, too. Falcons prevail, 24-17.

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