Sharp rise in vacant shops in last quarter

Official address data suggests pandemic restrictions may be having an impact

Closed retail premises  on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson

Closed retail premises on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson

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Evidence of the impact of the pandemic on the retail sector has begun to emerge through a sharp rise in shuttered shops, new research suggests.

The quarterly GeoView report, which analyses official data from An Post and Ordnance Survey Ireland, has found that the number of active retail and wholesale addresses fell by 5.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared to the same three month period last year.

The report, produced by EY-DKM consultants, also found that the overall commercial property vacancy rate rose marginally in the quarter to 13.5 per cent. There were more than 28,500 vacant commercial properties in the State in Q4, according to the report. The numbers rose in 19 of the Republic’s 26 counties, including all of Munster and Connaught and the Ulster counties in the State.

Highest town rate

Almost one in five commercial properties were vacant in Sligo, which had the highest county rate. Meath had the lowest at 10.1 per cent while the rate in Dublin was 11.9 per cent. The highest town rate in the State was Ballybofey in Donegal, which had a commercial vacancy rate of 29.2 per cent. Greystones in Wicklow had the lowest town rate, at 7.2 per cent.

“We have yet to see the full impact of [the pandemic] on the commercial property sector, but some trends are beginning to emerge,” said Dara Keogh, chief executive of GeoDirectory, the An Post and OSI joint venture behind the data.

“The number of retail and wholesale units fell sharply in 2020. This may be as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, but also could point to the changing face of retail with businesses moving towards an online model.”