Plaza Retail REIT’s focus on grocery- and needs-based retail has provided a strong base for the trust during the COVID-19 crisis. The resilience of its strategy has even allowed the REIT to launch a new, grocery-anchored Halifax development.
Plaza (PLZ-UN-T) is a Fredericton-headquartered open-ended REIT and retail property owner and developer focused on Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
Plaza’s portfolio at the end of Q1 2020 included interests in 272 properties totalling approximately 8.4 million square feet and additional land held for development. It had a 98.3 per cent occupancy rate.
Plaza’s portfolio largely consists of open-air centres and stand-alone, small-box retail outlets and is predominantly occupied by national tenants. It’s heavily weighted with grocery stores, pharmacies and dollar stores.
Two-thirds of the businesses at its properties kept operating through the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Retail REITs were hit hard by business shutdowns imposed by governments in March to try to curb the spread of COVID-19 and Plaza was no exception.
Its stock price hit a 52-week low of $2.66 on April 3 and had gradually recovered to $3.59 by July 8, which is still down significantly from its 52-week high of $4.77. Plaza has a market cap of approximately $366 million.
“It’s getting better and people will realize that we have a solid business and that we didn’t lose a third of our business overnight,” said Zakuta of Plaza’s stock price. “People are very negative about retail, but we believe there’s a future in retail.
“Obviously you have to be careful in what you do, and how you do it, but we’ve always done the basic essential-needs stuff since the beginning — a lot of it just because of our geography more than anything else.