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Monochrome photograph of Fred Nucara from Beller Commerical

Discussing the Beller Commercial 2016 Shopping Strip Research with Fred Nucara

Beller Commercial has just completed their first quarter shopping strip research for 2016 - a matrix of 28 key shopping strips that depict the number of shops, number of vacancies, average asking rent per square metre and yield. Beller Commercial Agents take to the streets quarterly and physically count the ‘for lease’ signs, vacant stores, check the web listings and do the arithmetic themselves. Urban Melbourne recently caught up with Beller Commercial director Fred Nucara, to discuss the research and the impact of residential development on these strips. Last year's corresponding article is also available.

According to Nucara, some of the traditional strips such as Bridge Road that have previously had a high degree of vacancy at around 40% at one point have begun to drop down significantly to around 20-25%. On the other hand Swan Street to the south is performing 'solidly,' underpinned by the former Dimmeys store redevelopment and incorporated Coles supermarket and apartments, in addition to the injection of new residents along the strip. Swan Street between Church and Punt Road is "a hive of activity" with a completely different vibrancy to the corresponding area along Bridge Road says Nucara. The vacancy along Swan Street is currently sitting at 5% following an uptake of 3 tenancies. 

The strips which have seen the biggest change in vacancy, in terms of tenancy uptake between April 2015 and December 2015 include High Street Prahran and Armadale which have had 17 vacancies taken up in a very short period. Nucara believes this is a result of the affordability factor where a lot owners of properties which were vacant in April 2015 have come to the realisation that it's better having a tenant in on a lower rent than no tenant at all. $55,000 - $75,000 per annum, says Nucara is generally considered affordable to most businesses and even start-ups. Beller have also observed this trend in places like Glenferrie Road Malvern, for example which has seen 12 shops leased in six months or around two a month, a solid success rate says Nucara and largely a result of affordability and the rejuvenation of Malvern Central Shopping Centre.

In terms of uptake there has been a real shift towards health and wellbeing in addition to the more traditional food and hospitality tenancies. According to Nucara this has been occurring within precincts that are within 5km of the Melbourne CBD and are seeing 4-5 level apartment developments go up along their main strips as residents are demanding more than just a wine bar or cafe at street level. This health and wellbeing sector is comprised of anything from physiotherapy to beauty salons to gym and yoga studios which the current apartment market projects are seeing more and more. 

The health and wellbeing category is significant and we are receiving regular enquiry from massage therapists, nail technicians, hairdressers and general fitness operators. It is clearly no longer a case of lets build an apartment building and put a café on the street level, new neighbourhoods require services too.

Fred Nucara

On the impact of residential developments such as Smith and Co. in Smith Street on the strip, Nucara says that the opening of the Coles along with new apartments has created further activity within the precinct. Vacancy along Smith Street has always been fairly consistent with around 10-12 properties vacant over a 2 year period having seen 15 vacancies in December 2013, and currently sitting at around 12  along what is considered to be a long strip of 253 shops. Nucara predicts that as the Coles development cements itself within the area and further residential developments are completed in neighbouring streets,that these vacancies will being to be taken up relatively quickly. The sight of cranes and construction activity provides businesses with the confidence to establish themselves in the area with the knowledge that the residential population will grow. 

The big surprise from Beller Commercials point of view says Nucara has been Toorak Road, South Yarra, which is "where Smith Street should be" in the coming years. The issue that Toorak Road traditionally had was that there were a number of major sites that never got off the ground but now are - the cranes are there and construction is underway. What this means for vacancies is that businesses revisit the strip with the knowledge and confidence that a significant number of residents will be moving into the area providing the street with continuity and good flow from a retail perspective as the shops are leased. A result of this is as the vacancy rates drop, rents begin to go up as competition for tenancies heats up. The strip saw 7 properties leased in 6 months, a big shift in a small time frame and traditionally Toorak Road has seen 10-12 vacancies with only 5 currently, all driven by the influx of apartment stock. 

An emerging trend is that shopping strips further out of the traditional 5km CBD radius are performing very well. These satellite villages are servicing well-established, affluent pockets demographic pockets. Also adding to the popularity of these strips are new medium, 4 – 5-storey apartment developments which are more prevalent in suburbs such as Glenferrie Road, Malvern, Whitehorse Road, Balwyn and Burwood Road, Hawthorn. Whitehorse Road currently only has one vacancy, making it the second best performing retail strip within Beller Commercials research area. As further development occurs in these areas and vacancies are taken up, rents will also be driven upwards. 

One strip that has struggled has been Fitzroy Street St Kilda with a 24% vacancy rate and which has struggled to shake off what might be considered a 'shady identity.' Nucara believes Fitzroy Street should have more appeal because it close to the beach and has a similar feel to Smith Street, Collingwood a few years ago.

I like to think the future prospects are good (new apartment buildings arriving and the infamous Gatwick Hotel currently for sale). Given the length of the strip, it needs to be better facilitated by car parking. Also there are nearby competing areas, where the street vibe is more pleasant such as Albert Park, Middle Park and Acland Street.

Fred Nucara

Beller Commercial’s top ten performing retail strips

  1. Acland Street, St Kilda
  2. Whitehorse Road, Balwyn
  3. Toorak Road, South Yarra
  4. Centre Road, Bentleigh
  5. Glenferrie Road, Malvern
  6. Burwood Road, Hawthorn
  7. Carlisle Street, Balaclava
  8. Chapel Street, Windsor
  9. Toorak Village, Toorak
  10. Smith Street, Collingwood

Performance and ranking is based on a ‘consistency’ of low vacancy rates, rentals at maximum levels and diversity of retailers/services over multiple research walks.

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