Press release

3 Mar 2022 Dublin, IE

National Commercial Vacancy Rate Rises to 13.9% in Q4 2021

The number of new residential address points added to the GeoDirectory database in 2021 fell by 17.4% compared to the previous year, according to the findings of the Residential Buildings Report for Q4 2021, published by GeoDirectory today and prepared by EY.

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GeoDirectory Commercial Vacancy Rates Report Q4 2021

  • The national commercial vacancy rate increased by 0.4 percentage points (pp) to 13.9% in Q4 2021, the highest level recorded by GeoDirectory in nine years of reporting.
  • In total, there were 29,317 vacant commercial units dispersed across Ireland in Q4 2021.
  • At 20.0%, Sligo was the county with the highest commercial vacancy rate, followed by Leitrim and Roscommon, both 17.1%.
  • The lowest commercial vacancy rates were recorded in Meath (10.2%), Wexford (10.4%) and Kerry (11.3%).
  • Ballybofey in Co. Donegal was the town with the highest commercial vacancy rate in the state at 30.0%.
  • Analysis of a nationwide sample of 68 shopping centres with over 3,000 commercial units found that there was an 11.2% increase in the number of vacant units between 2016 and 2021.

The national commercial vacancy rate increased by 0.4 percentage points (pp) to 13.9% in the year to Q4 2021 according to the latest GeoDirectory Commercial Vacancy Rates Report, published today. This was the highest level of commercial vacancy recorded by GeoDirectory since the report began in 2013. The report, prepared by EY, found that commercial vacancies increased in 15 out of 26 counties.

County Commercial Vacancy Rates

The highest commercial vacancy rates were recorded in the west of the country, continuing the trend observed in previous reports. Sligo, at 20.0%, was the county with the highest commercial vacancy rate, followed by Leitrim and Roscommon, both at 17.1%. In Q4 2021, the average commercial vacancy rate for Connacht was 17.3%.

Meath (10.2%) was the county with the lowest commercial vacancy rate in the state, with Wicklow (10.4%) and Kerry (11.3%) also recording notably low rates.

In Dublin, the commercial vacancy rate increased by 1.0pp in the year to Q4 2021, reaching a rate of 12.9%. This year-on-year increase was second only to Laois, which recorded a 1.1pp increase to stand at 14.2%.

Analysis of Towns and Dublin Districts

This report examined the commercial vacancy rates among a sample of 80 towns located across the state. It found that Ballybofey, Co. Donegal was the town with the highest rate in Q4 2021, at 30.0%. Edenderry, Co. Offaly (27.7%), Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford (26.3%), Kilrush, Co. Clare (26.2%), and Roscommon Town (24.2%) completed the top five towns by highest commercial vacancy rate.

Gorey, Co. Wexford, at 7.8%, was the town with the lowest commercial vacancy rate in the country. Greystones, Co. Wicklow (7.9%) was the town with the second lowest rate, while Carrigaline, Co. Cork (8.5%) had the third lowest.

In the capital, Dublin 2 recorded the largest year-on-year increase in vacancy, with a 3.1pp increase to reach a vacancy rate of 16.8%, the highest across Dublin’s postal districts.  The Dublin postcode with the lowest vacancy rate was Dublin 16, at 6.8%. A total of 16 postal districts recorded an increase in their vacancy rates since Q4 2020.

Analysis of Shopping Centres (2016-2021)

For the first time, GeoDirectory compiled a nationwide sample of over 3,000 commercial units located within 68 shopping centres and analysed the change in vacancy rates in these centres between 2016 and 2021.

The analysis found that the total stock of shopping centre units remained largely static over the five years in question. However, the number of vacant units in shopping centres nationally increased from 429 in 2016 to 477 in 2021. This amounts to an 11.2% increase across the period analysed.

Commercial Address Points by Sector

Using NACE* codes to classify units by economic sector, GeoDirectory is able to identify broad trends in the use of commercial units nationally. Of the 182,243 occupied address points in the state in Q4 2021, 87.3% of units have been allocated a NACE code.

In the year to Q4 2021, there were 556 fewer Retail and Wholesale units recorded across the country, amounting to a decrease of 1.5%. This percentage YoY decline was only exceeded by Financial and Insurance units (-1.7%), albeit with a much smaller decrease in terms of physical units, at 74.

Looking specifically at the Accommodation and Food (A&F) Service sector, 22,656 units were classified under this sector in Q4 2021. Kerry, with 24.2% of the county’s total commercial stock in Accommodation and Food Service units, had the highest proportion of such units in the country, followed by Clare (20.7%), Donegal (19.3%), Leitrim (18.7%) and Mayo (17.9%).

Commenting on the findings of the report, Dara Keogh, Chief Executive of GeoDirectory said, “At 13.9%, the commercial vacancy rate in Q4 2021 was at its highest level since GeoDirectory began reporting on this data in 2013. This increase in commercial vacancies is not reflected in terms of numbers in employment, which according to the CSO increased steadily in 2021. This may suggest that Covid-19 has accelerated businesses to pivot towards enhancing their online presence and scaling-back their physical offering on main streets. As working from home is expected to continue beyond the pandemic, and online commerce increases in popularity, there needs to be a policy conversation around how vacant commercial properties are regenerated on our main streets for wider benefit.”

Annette Hughes, Director, EY Economic Advisory said, “Our analysis in previous reports has shown a clear divide in terms of commercial activity on the east and west coast. This trend remains visible, however commercial vacancies increased in 15 out of 26 counties last year. Dublin recorded the second highest year-on-year rise in commercial vacancies, second only to Laois, both in the Leinster region.  I think the most interesting statistic is that over 29,000 vacant commercial units across Ireland. When combined with our over 90,000 vacant residential units in our Residential Building Report published in January, this suggest that there are almost 120,000 vacant buildings, a good proportion of which could potentially be returned to commercial, community or residential uses on the streets of towns and cities across the country.”

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About GeoDirectory - Data Intelligence for Targeted Growth 

The GeoDirectory database is the most comprehensive address database of residential and commercial properties in the Republic of Ireland. A copy of the GeoDirectory Commercial Vacancy Rates Report is attached in PDF format and is available at www.geodirectory.ie  

GeoDirectory was jointly established by An Post and Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) to create and manage Ireland’s only complete database of commercial and residential buildings. The figures are recorded through a combination of the An Post network of 5,600 delivery staff working with OSi.

For further information or to view relevant case studies please visit: www.geodirectory.ie and @GeoDirectory_ie on Twitter.

EY Economic Advisory Services is a leading economic consultancy with a strong record of research across many areas and sectors, including building and construction. EY staff have accumulated considerable experience in working with a range of private and public sector clients, including Government departments, local authorities and other public sector agencies.

Past GeoDirectory Commercial Vacancy Reports are available to view at: https://www.geodirectory.ie/knowledge-centre/reports-blogs and https://www.ey.com/en_ie/strategy-transactions/ey-dkm-economic-advisory-services

To learn more download the report here.