Belfast Telegraph

Reduced rates have led to influx of new retailers in Belfast city centre

The recent reduction in rates in Belfast city centre — for which Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce had been lobbying for a number of years — along with a general upturn in consumer sentiment, has seen a flurry of new activity and influx of new retailers into the city centre.

This is a trend which is set to continue as we head towards the busy Christmas trading period and retail occupiers seek to take advantage of the peak trading conditions.

There has recently been a raft of new entrants to the market across a broad spectrum, from luxury retailer Michael Kors to discount jeweller Warren James. We will soon see them joined by other exciting retailers including Schuh Kids and Yours Clothing.

All of the recent activity has helped to reduce vacancy rates. Donegall Place, which has experienced rates reductions of up to 65%, has seen the most notable change. Footwear retailer Aldo reopened its store due to a significant drop in occupational costs, Zara has undergone a complete store refurbishment and upsize, and there have been new store openings from Gap, DW Sports and Skechers.

There has also been significant activity on Ann Street, with new openings including California Coffee and Spoon Street. Retail in the city is in a positive upswing, with research from CBRE revealing the vacancy rate in Belfast’s prime pitch to be just 8.8%.

The retail core of Belfast city centre is currently experiencing a resurgence, which is fantastic to see.

It is great to see the vacancy rate reduced, and the arrival of bigger brands, which not only shows an increase in consumer confidence but also shows that Belfast is an exciting place to do business. Over the coming months, executive members of the council will be lobbying further, in an attempt to secure additional rates incentives for new businesses wishing to open in the city centre. It is hoped that this will ensure that its not just the big name brands that have position, but that the smaller independents have a chance too, adding to our city’s vibrant retail mix, which is something which sets Belfast apart from the rest.

Alana Coyle is associate director of retail at CBRE and Hugh Black is president of Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce

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