Almost one in five commercial units in Limerick City vacant but hope is on the horizon, auctioneer says

Stock photo.

LIMERICK’S commercial vacancy has risen again, now sitting at 17.2 per cent at the end of 2023, but it’s not all doom and gloom, according to one local auctioneer.

The rate rise puts Limerick at just over three per cent higher than the national average for commercial vacancy nationally, according to a recent report prepared by EY, with figures showing almost one in five commercial premises in the city as vacant.

The figures were revealed by GeoDirectory in their Commercial Buildings Report for Q4 of 2023 and represent a jump from 16.9 per cent at the end of 2022.

Of the Limerick areas surveyed by GeoDirectory, Newcastle West had the highest commercial vacancy rate in the county with 23.2 per cent.

Limerick City had a commercial vacancy rate 19.8 per cent. While marking the lowest rate in the county, the figures still represent almost one in five commercial units in the city as vacant.

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Rates in Abbeyfeale decreased from the end of 2022 to the end of 2023, going from 22.1 per cent to 20.9.

The national commercial vacancy rate now stands at 14.3 per cent, a 0.3 per cent increase in quarter four of 2023.

Commercial vacancy rates are now at the highest levels nationally since GeoDirectory started tracking data in 2013.

High levels of commercial vacancy in Limerick may be attributable to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the long-running works on O’Connell Street, according to Gordon Kearney, managing director of Rooneys Auctioneers, who believes that, despite current state of play, hope may be on the horizon for trade in the city.

“Whilst most sectors of the property market are preforming very well, the retail sector is still somewhat challenged,” Mr Kearney told the Limerick Post.

“During Covid-19 the transition from ‘bricks and mortar’ retailing to online retailing accelerated. This resulted in a number of retail units changing their model and closing or downsizing city centre units in Limerick and in other major urban areas.”

The veteran Limerick auctioneer said that “refurbishment works are now complete and all Covid restrictions are lifted, but the retail sector is taking longer to recover”.

“Most retail experts are of the opinion that while online trading is here to stay, it will not completely replace ‘bricks and mortar’ retailing. It should be noted that increased costs, such as labour costs and energy costs, are also having an impact on new retail openings and existing businesses.”

However, despite this, Mr Kearney says he has noticed an increase in the level of enquiries for city centre retail properties.

“We have noticed in the past six months an increase in the level of enquiries for retail units in Limerick City centre and are in the process of negotiating a number of lettings which we hope will be announced during Q3 and Q4 of 2024.

“It should also be noted that a number of owner-occupier retailers have acquired retail units in the city centre in the past 24 months, which bodes very well for retail offerings in the city,” Mr Kearney concluded.