While few would argue Dublin has been hardest hit by the recession, retailers there have endured a period of stagnation similar to that of their regional counterparts — and it’s only now beginning to lift.
Helped by employment growth which remains the envy of other towns and cities, Dublin has begun to bustle again as vacancies fall and rents begin to edge upwards.
Prime retail vacancy in Dublin city centre sit just above 3% while demand on Grafton St continues to drive retailers and shoppers alike towards its cobbles. A 1% improvement over the past six months now sees just 2% of the street’s retail space unused.
Similarly a string of arrivals such as Starbucks, Mango, and iConnect on Mary St and Henry St have given the main retail district a further shot in the arm in recent months.
The nascent recovery remains fragile, however, according to Dublin Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Gina Quin, with whom memories of tougher times strike a note of caution.
“We’re continuing to see a turnaround in the fortunes of retailers in the city. Progress is slow and fragile but retailers are more positive than they have been for a number of years,” she said.
“As recently as 18 months ago, much of the talk in retail in Dublin was of store closures and examinerships. The arrival of new high-profile retailers into the city is great to see.”
The imminent arrival of Hugo Boss to Grafton St is one such big name that, in addition to providing a direct boost to the city, will increase demand for cafes, restaurants, and independent retailers.
Rental prices, however, are beginning to creep up, with growth in the retail sector so far confined to Grafton St, where demand remains particularly constrained.
Prime rents have increased from €4,000 per sq m per annum in the first quarter of last year to €5,000 per sq m in the opening months of this year.
While still 45% off peak levels, a 38% rise in just 12 months could be a sign of things to come for Dublin retailers.
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