Upsurge in new city centre stores leads Donegall Place renaissance
A leading Belfast property lawyer has said the city centre is experiencing a "renaissance", with a rush of new store openings.
And it's a trend that's set to continue, according to Rosemary Carson, head of the real estate team at Carson McDowell.
"Belfast's main retail pitch of Donegall Place languished somewhat in recent years, with the retail focus - particularly high-end stores - turning towards Victoria Square and the Lisburn Road," said Rosemary.
"Thanks in part to the recent rates revaluation, however, Donegall Place has seen a surge of new retail openings in the past few months.
"Compared to the rest of the UK, Belfast's retail market has been particularly active recently with people coming back into the city centre."
Rosemary revealed many shopping centres are also almost fully let, perhaps illustrating an improvement in consumer confidence and an increasing ability for both the high street and shopping centres to hold their own against online retailers.
"On the investment front too, we expect further interest from UK, European and US investors in some of our top shopping centres," she added.
"The days of such assets being held by local individuals is, at least for the short-term, gone.
"In the past 12 months alone our retail property team has been involved in the sale and purchase of five major shopping centres, all of which have been acquired by large institutions or funds.
"Current ongoing political wrangles aside, the relatively stable environment that exists in Northern Ireland and the modest growth in the economy, will continue to keep Belfast on the radar for more large UK retailers."
Over the past year, the law firm has worked on deals to bring new names to Northern Ireland, including Joules, Bravissimo and Dr Martens.
Rosemary added: "If we can ensure that the business environment remains conducive to investment and all else remains equal, Belfast remains well positioned to grow its retail offering and attract more of the biggest and best brands which can only be good news for the entire Northern Ireland economy."