Skip to main content

LANE4’s Annual Comprehensive Look at The KC Retail Market

It’s safe to say that 2021 did not go as planned, but the Kansas City retail market held its own. Heading into spring, COVID numbers were trending down and the world seemed to be on its way back to “normal.” However, numbers began to soar again in the second half of the year. But in year two of COVID, the economy’s reaction was drastically different. As a society, we learned how to weather the storm in some manner and continue to function. While in 2020, we collectively put the brakes on the economy, in 2021, we seemed to say, “We can make this work.”

Looking at the raw numbers, the Kansas City Metro’s retail market was steady. Average lease rates and occupancy rates across the total metro rose only 1% and 2% respectfully. Categorized by type, community centers and strip centers saw small increases in both metrics, while lifestyle centers, regional centers and power centers all saw a drop in occupancy. Lifestyle centers increased the average lease rate by nearly a dollar, but regional and power centers dropped by as much or more. Every one of the 9 counties included in the Kansas City metro reported taxable sales at least 10% over the first half of 2020.

Data is only one part of the equation. The other is momentum. In contrast to 2020, activity in the market is palpable. Leasing activity is up, progress is being made on long-standing developments, new restaurants are opening, new concepts are moving in, and deals are getting done.

However, several tenants made bold moves in the KC market this year. With a little help from our friend in red and gold, Whataburger entered the metro, opening two locations in 2021, with plans to open a whopping 10 additional locations in 2022 and two more in 2023. Kansas City-based Hawaiian Bros opened its first location in 2018 and has since boomed to 11 area locations, five of which opened in 2021 and one which will open in 2022. Nationally, the chain has expanded to 29 locations across six states. Other new to KC concepts include Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, Wall to Wall Wine and Spirits and The Painted Tree Boutique.

Some of the largest projects in the metro made significant progress in 2021, and other new initiatives were announced. The Kansas City International Airport continues to make progress toward completion in Spring 2023. Lenexa City Center has continued to grow. The owners of Kansas City’s National Women’s Soccer League team announced the nation’s first NWSL-specific stadium will be built at Kansas City’s Berkley Riverfront Park.