With news that Toys “R” Us, Maplin and New Look are closing stores, it may seem that the retail property sector is bleak. However, a recent Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors report found that Northern Ireland was one of only two regions in the UK where demand for retail property had increased.
Top brands including
Greggs, Specsavers, and Starbucks have all opened new stores in Northern Ireland. Retailers that work with landlords to provide a positive customer experience will probably survive competition from online retailers. Stores have been modernised to attract customers who want a more positive shopping experience.
The Northern Ireland situation shows that there are winners and losers in the retail sector, with some expanding and others, like Toys “R” Us facing financial difficulty. Many mainland British retail chains are interested in opening locations in Northern Ireland. The home and garden store, The Range has recently opened a large store in the Connswater Shopping Centre and is due to open others in Antrim, Belfast, and Portadown. Occupiers like The Range increase footfall in a shopping centre, which benefits other retailers there.
Some shopping centres have added leisure facilities and top restaurants to attract more people to a retail park and to encourage them to stay and spend more.
Investors attracted to the retail sector can use commercial mortgages to finance property purchases. Provided retail property is in the right location and has the right tenant, both rental yields and capital growth can be healthy.