B&Q closures contribute to north's high retail warehouse vacancy rates
THE closure of four B & Q stores in Northern Ireland has helped propel Northern Ireland to the top spot in the UK retail warehouse vacancy rates.
New research compiled by Trevor Wood Associates and unveiled to Lambert Smith Hampton in Belfast yesterday revealed 11.9 per cent of retail warehousing space lay vacant at the end of 2015.
That was up on the previous half-year when the level was 9.7 per cent - although prior to this, the figure was even higher, sitting at 14.6 per cent in 2006 and 12.7 per cent in 2012.
The main reason for the increase, according to the report, was the recent closure of four B & Q stores in Ballymena, Boucher Road, Belfast; Derry and Craigavon.
Although, despite the closures, researchers stressed that the DIY chain is still the largest tenant on retail parks in the north, retaining its top position for the 10th consecutive year.
Alongside raised vacancy rates, the report highlighted a need by expanding retailers to rely on a ‘second-hand’ supply of units in retail and leisure parks across the UK because of low levels of new development.
Trevor Wood, senior partner of Trevor Wood Associates, said: "We studied detailed information for every one of the 15,600 retail warehouse units in the country and in Northern Ireland, we looked at every site, including 46 retail parks.
"Since last year’s review, a small number of new sites have joined the future development pipeline such as the next phase of The Quays Shopping and Leisure in Newry, which could ease the demand for available space."
Throughout the UK, much of the vacant space became available due to disposals, relocations and downsizing by established companies such as B & Q, Homebase and PC World.
Administrations and Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs) with financially struggling tenants also freed up units, allowing others to expand.
On a more positive note, Cityside Retail Park in Belfast achieved fifth position in the top Retail and Leisure Parks league and 23rd place in the top Retail Parks list, while the highest ranking Northern Irish Retail Warehouse Cluster was Longwood Road, Newtownabbey (26th), with Airport Road in Holywood ranked 27th and Odyssey Pavilion 29th in the UK top Leisure Schemes list.