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Property Comment: The outlook is positive but upturn will put squeeze on prime space

There has been a marked shift in sentiment over the last 18 months thanks to the increase in UK economic growth.

Consumer and business confidence, particularly in London and the Southeast, has strengthened considerably. However, economic uncertainties remain.
Political debate in the run-up to the election is unusually fractious and Europe remains embroiled in seemingly intractable economic and political problems, not least Ukraine. But there is still a feeling of things having turned a corner.

The more upbeat mood is apparent in retail markets price deflation remains in food markets.and some parts of non-food, but the continued tightening of prime space supply, in tandem with growing non-food retailer expansion, isincreasing development activity. A number of major shopping schemes, shelved following the credit crisis, are now moving forward in both the UK and mainland Europe. This is good news for fashion retailers as it will help them acquire larger units in top-quality modern centres.

London is continuing to enjoy boom marketconditions. Many overseas brands are still queuing up to get in and the capital is set to receive a further major boost in three years’ time when Crossrail opens. Visitor footfall on Oxford Street is forecastto increase by more than 20% post-opening. Acquiring fashion space in London will remain difficult because of the sheer weight of demand, but developers are carving out new flagship units and there is still enough movement in the stock to release a steady stream of opportunities for new entrants. Outside of London, opportunities are more plentiful and occupancy cost growth remains more modest. Many of the regions outside Greater London will benefit from the 2017 rating revaluation too.

The overall supply outlook for fashion retailers in a variety of different facilities - fashion parks, the big out-of-town regional centres and in big towns
and major city centres generally - continues to look very positive. But prime space supply is dwindling, so timing is a critical factor. The benign supply conditions will not outlast a consumer spending upturn.

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