High street vacancy remains high in most retail locations

Rates and rising rents are making life difficult for all retailers

Some improvement in shopping centres and retail parks



4 April 2014

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High street vacancy rate in some of the country’s main retail locations remain largely unchanged, despite signs of improving occupier and consumer activity over the last six month period, according to the latest bi-annual High Street Retail Vacancy counts for Q1 2014, published by commercial property consultants CBRE.

Of the nine major retail locations studied, five continue to demonstrate double digit levels of ground floor vacancy, while just one location, Kilkenny, welcomed a contraction in ground floor vacancy since Q3 2013.

Weak demand on regional high streets

Demand for accommodation on some of the regional high street locations remained weak throughout the last six month period, particularly in areas which are competing with central shopping centre alternatives. Indeed, Athlone high street, which is also home to the Athlone Town Centre, experienced a further increase in ground floor vacancy on its high street from 18.20% to 21.60% in the last six months. This was the highest rate of vacancy of all the locations surveyed by CBRE in Q1 2014. There was also an increase in vacancy on Cork’s Patrick Street from 13% to 14.3% in the period, while its central Opera Lane development enjoyed full capacity. Belfast also experienced an increase in ground floor vacancy on its prime streets, particularly along Castle Lane where a quarter of all units are currently unoccupied.

According to Suzanne Barrett, Associate Director, CBRE Ireland "Although there have been signs of improvement emerging in the Irish retail sector over the last six month period, much of this recovery is being experienced in the Dublin market or in key shopping centres and retail schemes. The improvement is not yet filtering down to provincial high streets."

According to CBRE’s recent study, tourist towns such as Killarney, Galway and Kilkenny continue to experience the lowest levels of ground floor vacancy on their high streets, ranging from 2% to just over 3% in Q1 2014. Other locations such as Sligo and Limerick recorded no change to their level of high street vacancy over the period, remaining at 12.5% and 16.3% respectively.

Dublin market remains stable

Although the overall ground floor vacancy rate in Dublin has remained stable at 8.3% for the last 12 months, this does not reflect the number of transactions which have signed or the variation of activity between each of the high streets. Retail vacancy levels contracted on Grafton Street over the last six month period from 10.8% to 7.5% in Q1 2014 with a number of new occupiers yet to conclude their fit-outs and begin trading. On Henry Street, ground floor vacancy levels increased since the last survey from 4.3% to 12.8% in Q1 2014, although similarly there are a number of transactions underway which will see this vacancy contract over the coming months.

Shane Cahir, associate director, CBRE Ireland noted: "Four new retail units have come available on Henry street in recent months, however occupiers are keen to gain a foothold on this shopping location and a number of units are currently under active negotiation."




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