Forefront Communications

Institutional Investor: Watch REITs to See How Data Explosion Is Changing Investing

Amanda Perrucci

Amanda Perrucci

Weeks before U.S. shopping-mall real estate investment trusts are due to report first-quarter earnings, alternative data provider Thasos has issued its own report on the state of the industry using real-time location data beamed from mobile phones.

In its 2019 Retail REIT Performance Update, expected to be released Monday, Thasos found that foot traffic growth that U.S. malls saw beginning in late 2017 has peaked, and in recent months, started to decline. In addition, contrary to analyst predictions, U.S. malls haven’t been invigorated by so-called experiential tenants such as Apple or Tesla.

Thasos, which was founded out of MIT’s Media Lab in 2011, aims to turn location pings emitted from cell phones into information that can be used to analyze individual companies, markets and global economies. The firm’s report shows how the exploding amount of non-financial data that has become available in combination with new data analytics techniques are transforming entire sectors of the markets.

Greg Skibiski, founder and chief executive officer of Thasos, says the firm’s insights into activities in the physical world can be compared with the information readily available online.

“Think of a retail location like Walmart as a web site,” he said. “You’d expect people to be tracking online traffic. Think about what Google knows. They know the ad that was clicked, when users leave a site without making a purchase and where they go from there. We’re doing this in the real world,” Skibiski added.

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