NSW prime retail sites to grow, tough for rest in 2016: HTW retail clock

NSW prime retail sites to grow, tough for rest in 2016: HTW retail clock
NSW prime retail sites to grow, tough for rest in 2016: HTW retail clock

Rents drive values in the retail sector, valuers Herron Todd White has noted.

"If your investment remains vacant, or is tied up under an unrealistic lease, the value of the asset is under threat.

"Understanding what’s driving rents, and where your holding sits within this market, becomes imperative to ensuring you’ve got your portfolio heading in the right direction.

NSW has two regions -- Central Coast and South East NSW -- that are at the peak of market in valuation firm Herron Todd White's retail clock for last month, May -- a simple broad means of suggesting where property prices are and which direction they are headed. 

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NSW prime retail sites to grow, tough for rest in 2016: HTW retail clock

The report give a location-by-location analysis of rental markets, as well as some predictions on where they’re set to head.


The retail market in Sydney has been strong over the past 12 months with increased demand from investors, increases in rental rates and lower vacancy rates.

Generally rents look likely to remain stable this year with evidence that increases in prime locations are probable.

The Sydney CBD continues to experience strong demand from local and international fashion retailers. The lack of available space has resulted in some rental growth. Smaller retail premises such as those suitable for cafes are also in demand, with rental rates showing signs of upward pressure. Recent examples indicate some small retail shops are now paying over $4,000 per square metre gross. Average rates tend to sit around $2,000 per square metre for conventional space. The demand is in part driven by increased tourism due to the low Australian dollar. Tourism generally increases demand for prime retail space.

Suburban strips have undergone a revival to some extent with increased demand driving up rental rates, particularly in areas renowned for food and beverage outlets, cafes and restaurants. Some pockets of fashion remain popular in suburban areas although retailers generally favour shopping centres. Suburban rental rates along prime strips such as Newtown, Balmain and Surry Hills are generally above $1,000 per square metre gross for well positioned, well exposed retail premises.

Discounting or decline of retail rental rates seems to be restricted to suburban strata lots. The increase in mixed use development across the Sydney metro area has increased supply. Rates here are typically negotiated on a weekly basis with incentives used to attract tenants.

The outlook for retail rental rates is positive with 2016 looking to be a year of further growth in rental values, particularly among prime locations where supply is limited.

Overall, the retail market in Sydney looks set to continue its pattern of growth for the rest of year. Demand continues, supply is limited and with low interest rates, investors are keen to secure properties with strong lease covenants. All these factors are likely to contribute to another steady year for the retail sector. 


Rents within the local retail property market continue to remain flat with little upward pressure due to the amount of supply and an evolving industry that continues to be impacted by online retailing and rapidly changing consumer demands.

In the Wollongong CBD, demand is mostly from local food and beverage retailers with the emergence of numerous cafes, small bars and restaurants over the years as part of a push by Wollongong City Council to activate the CBD and encourage the evening and night time economy. The number of residential unit developments taking place in the CBD should improve trading conditions for these retailers once these projects are completed. Crown Street Mall is yet to fully recover from the opening of GPT’s West Keira shopping centre and refurbishment works with a medium level of vacancies and softening rents. This precinct has seen a number of service and commercial businesses take space replacing traditional clothing and fashion retailers.

The variation in rents between prime and secondary retail tenancies remains high and this is expected to continue in the foreseeable future. Incentives remain common (10% to 20%) and letting up periods (three months to 12 months) have remained relatively consistent. In broader terms, market conditions are still skewed in favour of tenants.


Retail rents in the inner city of Newcastle are hot in a few localities around the city. The Boardwalk within the Honeysuckle precinct remains the most highly sought after retail precinct and consequently, the rental rates are the highest in the city on average on a rate per square metre basis. The older, more established eat street precincts along Darby Street, Cooks Hill and Beaumont Street, Hamilton are slightly secondary to Honeysuckle and while still very popular and with very low levels of vacancy, rental rates are lower on average than The Boardwalk. We should note that the Hunter Street Mall continues to reflect poor market fundamentals and high vacancy rates. Rental rates along this strip are low and have been falling for many years, though the decline in rents has slowed in recent years.

Suburban retail precincts that are secondary to these three primary retail localities obviously will show lower rental figures. There are a number of factors at play here, including local trade and demographic features and proximity to schools and regional shopping centres.

A strong secondary retail trade area is the Warners Bay precinct along The Esplanade which is adjacent to Lake Macquarie.

Our research indicates a nominal discount of 25% to 30% in the Lakeside Warners Bay retail precinct from the prime retail harbour side Honeysuckle precinct. This discount is considered typical in the market place for a strong secondary retail precinct. These rental rates are far stronger than say the Hunter Street Mall in the CBD for example.

Generally retail rents have been stagnant or even declining in secondary retail localities, while the prime spots are showing moderate rental growth due primarily to consistently low vacancy rates. This trend is expected to continue in the short term. 

NSW North Coast

Anecdotal evidence is that the retail sector remains in a state of flux with reduced sales and strong competition between retailers within market segments. The broader market is inconsistent with premium locations being well held with limited vacancies and static rents. Secondary locations are harder to lease with downward pressure on rents and lease incentives prevalent.


Ballina CBD has experienced falls in retail rents from previous levels of $275 to $350 per square metre. Some recent leases have resulted in rents in the vicinity of $190 to $275 per square metre.


Prime retail locations of Lismore previously would have achieved $290 to $350 per square metre. More recent evidence indicates $240 to $325 per square metre.

An example of this is 146 Molesworth Street, Lismore which was leased for $287 per square metre in 2010 and achieved $241 per square metre in 2015.

In secondary locations in Lismore, the fall has been less dramatic with rents expected to range from $90 to $175 per square metre.

Byron Bay

The exception to these broader observations is Byron Bay. Agents are reporting strong market interest from potential tenants with limited supply and upward pressure on rents. Agents are even reporting key money being paid to secure superior retail locations. At times this comes in the form of buying an existing business to secure the site. Byron Bay retail rents tend to be within the vicinity of $1,000 to $1,500 per square metre in premium locations, $700 to $1,000 per square metre for good locations and $400 to $600 per square metre for secondary locations. 



Retail Demand Commercial Market


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