After a difficult year, short term forecasts for retail are gloomy, but the industry for commercial property and industrial units to let in Manchester is performing better than most.
The last two quarters have produced some worrying statistics for the commercial property market, with some high profile retail closures effecting not just retail units but also warehouses, and rental prices for office space dropping across the UK, but Manchester and the North West has fared better, in general, than other areas.
The Local Data Company compiled research on behalf of Pricewaterhouse Coopers which looked at store closures during the first half of this year, and found on average 20 stores a day were closed by retailers across the UK. However the North West was one of the best performing regions, and demand for commercial property including offices as well as retail industrial units to let in Manchester has stayed reasonably healthy.
The North West has actually seen a growth in pet shops and also charity shops, reflecting a thriftier approach to shopping from consumers. Retailers such as Greggs, Costa, Cash Converters, Pound Bakery and Money Shop have all bucked the trend and seen growth this year.
Manchester’s reputation as a successful commercial centre has been strengthened by these statistics, and is something of a leader for other cities and developers. Speaking at the British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC) conference in September, Carol Kirby, Property Director for Capital Shopping Centres, held Manchester up as an example of successful development. When asked whether she thought there needed to be changes in planning procedures in order to boost the retail industry, she replied, in reference to the Trafford Centre development; “Look at the great work that has been done in Manchester, [good planning] is possible.” The Trafford Centre has a market value of £1,650m, ahead of both Lakeside and Gateshead’s MetroCentre.
Similarly, early in the year Ged Gibbons, chief executive of City Central BID, the business improvement district which covers key retail areas in Liverpool outside of the Liverpool One development, spoke favourably of Manchester’s commercial sector. When asked about store closures in Liverpool he asserted that “the view of the retailers is we want to stay here and we want to chase Manchester”.
In terms of other commercial property, after a slow start to the year, the Manchester Office Agents Forum (MOAF) reported an increase in occupier activity for industrial units to let in Quarter 2. Some 174,978 sq ft of office space is now occupied in Manchester and prices remained steady, despite drops in other areas due to lack of occupancy. Good activity in both office rentals and retail and industrial units have put Manchester’s commercial property market in a strong position compared to many areas in the UK.