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Retail property set for a bumper Christmas

• Retail investment volumes in EMEA totalled €11bn in Q3 versus €8.6bn for the same quarter in 2013.
• Demand is escalating and year on year retail volumes rose to a 6 year high of €52.0 bn.
• In Q3 alone however, office and industrial outperformed, with retail’s market share dipping to 22% from 29% in Q2.
• Germany retook number 2 spot from France while the UK pushed further ahead as the number one EMEA retail market, with a 47% market share.
• Ireland saw the strongest growth (447% on the year) but Spain is the current market success story, overtaking France to be the third most active retail market in Europe.
• Supply levels are improving but shortages of quality space are still holding back the market.
• Competition is strong and prices are set to carry on rising as a result.
• A strong Q4 is underway and volumes are forecast to rise 26% to €52.5bn for the year.
• Bank stress tests and quantitative easing may produce a perfect storm and even stronger activity in 2015.

Retail property is in strong demand across most of Europe and investors are not only turning to new markets but also taking on more risk as they seek out opportunities. Volumes rose 25% in the last year to their highest since Q2 2008, taking market share from other sectors and putting more pressure on prices. Shopping centre yields are down 26 basis points in the past 12 months, now averaging 6.1% across Europe.

The market is more concerned about finding quality stock than exactly what sector it is in however and retail saw its market share fall back in Q3 as other sectors provided more opportunities. Retail volumes fell 24% between Q2 and Q3 while industrial rose 17% and offices 8%. In part this is a reflection of the distortion caused by some of the large trades conducted in Q2 and also a lack of new high quality retail opportunities coming forward in some markets and according to Michael Rodda, Head of EMEA Retail Capital Markets at Cushman & Wakefield, this is likely to prove a temporary dip. “Since the summer we’ve seen a lot more stock being prepared for marketing and while much has been secondary, investors are interested where they can see value and recovery potential. What is more we’re also seeing a lot of high quality schemes and high street assets now coming forward. As a result we’re anticipating a very strong quarter and perhaps the best Christmas the retail property sector has had since 2007.” 

Low risk mature markets remain in high demand, with the UK followed by Germany and Sweden favoured for short-term retail turnover growth but others such as France facing strong demand despite a more lacklustre sales outlook. The core countries of Germany, the UK and France drew a market share of 63% in the year to Q3 compared to 60% one year earlier, driven by France over the year as a whole (with a very strong Q2 in particular) but more recently by the UK, (with a 42% increase in the past quarter). Germany by contrast has been slower in the past 2 quarters, starved of a sufficient supply of good quality property for sale in the more demanded markets.

At the same time, mounting demand, core supply shortages, increasing pricing and a search for yield are all still pushing investors towards new markets and demand in some areas has spiralled rapidly. Previously overlooked Western and Southern markets have benefited most but the same momentum is spreading to other areas such as Central Europe. Over the past year, it has been Ireland, Austria and the Netherlands which have been the three biggest winners in percentage terms but Spain is perhaps the standout recovery market, with its market share nearly trebling in the past 18 months (from 1.8% to 5.2%) and yields falling at a faster rate than in virtually any other market. Only Ireland in fact saw faster compression, with a 200bp drop in the past year compared to 130bp in Spain and 98 bp in Portugal.

According to Rupert Lea, Head of Retail in Cushman & Wakefield’s Spanish team: “Retail investment in Spain more than doubled in the past year to its highest since 2008 with major recent deals including the sale of Islazul in Madrid by the JV of Ivanhoe Cambridge and Grupo Lar and Anec blau in Barcelona by Grosvenor International Property Trust (IGIPT). Prime yields have fallen considerably and for shopping centres we expect them to fall to around 5% net by the end of year.” 

Looking ahead, David Hutchings, Head of EMEA Investment Strategy at Cushman & Wakefield said: “We may have some weakness still in parts of the underlying consumer market around Europe but from an investment stance it’s a long time since the market has looked any stronger. We have more opportunities now emerging and an increasingly dynamic retailer market as changes in consumer trends and e-commerce filter through to how and where people are actually shopping. On top of this the ECB’s bank stress tests and emerging plans for quantitative easing will potentially add to both supply and demand and as a result, not only will we end 2014 on a high but all the signs point to no siesta for the markets in 2015. “