Belfast Telegraph

Retail property to bounce back after Brexit vote slide

By John Mulgrew

A number of retail development plans were put on hold last year following the vote for Brexit, but experts are predicting the end of 2017 will see an upturn in sales and activity, a new report has said.

According to research from commercial property firm Colliers, the retail investment market in Northern Ireland has dipped by over half since 2014.

It was down from £500m to less than £250m in 2016 in terms of transactions. It said that was "predominantly due to vendor pricing expectations, rather than market fundamentals".

A number of major assets were sold this year. They included the former home of PC World at Sprucefield. It was on sale for £14m and was sold to Aberdeen Asset Management.

And a number of new retailers have come into the market here, including healthy eating chain Freshii.

Existing retailers which are expanding include Hotel Chocolat's new cafe in the city centre and Remus Uomo's larger store at Victoria Square.

Bunsen Burger is also understood to be considering opening up here..

Jonathan Millar, retail director for Colliers in Belfast, said: "The first six months of 2017 have been disappointing in terms of investment sales volumes, and it would be disingenuous to blame lack of stock or poor credit availability.

"The reality is that there is more stock available than in the last 10 years and credit is as cheap as it has ever been.

"Although 2017 has had a disappointing start, there are currently in the region of £225m of retail investment sales in legals and there is potentially over £200m of retail investments currently available in the market, including Fountain House in Belfast for £14.25m and the Tesco Extra stores in Craigavon and Newry, which have a combined asking price of (around) £50m."

The report found that there were 36 major commercial property transactions, adding up to around £250m in 2016.

Retail investment in Northern Ireland has reduced since 2014, the report said.

That was a year "which saw significant bank deleveraging and thereby setting a high water mark in terms of investment activity", Colliers said.

In the rental market, Northern Ireland recorded growth of 3.9% in the year to the end of April 2017. Colliers said this was primarily driven by an improvement in Belfast's Donegall Place.

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