Ireland has bounced back strongly from a long, enduring decline and is now the fastest growing economy in the EU, posting 6.8% GDP growth for 2015. The suggestion that Ireland would make a roaring recovery to match its Celtic Tiger heyday was inconceivable until recently. The Irish Central Bank has said that Ireland’s recovery has been “broadly based”, which is significant, given that Ireland’s previous success was shattered by a reliance on an unsustainable property bubble. Ireland has refocused and built on its strengths of low corporation tax and a well-educated labour force to attract operators and investors from around the world.

Unsurprisingly, retailers are swooping in. Cos, Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Joules and Mint Velvet have all taken space since the start of 2015.  The successful nesting of these retailers in Ireland, has not escaped the attention of Victoria’s Secret, which is currently in talks to take over a 20,000 sq. ft. prime retail unit on Ireland’s busiest shopping thoroughfare – Grafton Street.

An estimated 54% of investments made in the third quarter of 2015 were associated with the purchase of retail assets, with several high profile acquisitions in the shopping centre market: Project Jewel – Dundrum Shopping Centre – was sold to Hammerson and Allianz Real Estate for €1.85 billion; and Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, the biggest retail complex in Ireland, is to be put up for sale, with an estimated asking price of €1 billion.

In addition, there are a number of further developments planned: a new €40m retail village in Cork; and the existing Liffey Valley shopping centre recently invested €26m in enhancing its retail, leisure and community facilities, adding six restaurants over three floors and sixty new retailers to its current seventy five strong retail offer. Kildare Village, an outlet shopping centre outside Dublin, invested €50m in 2015, adding 30 luxury boutiques. It outperformed other premium outlets across the Hammerson portfolio and posted sales growth of 26% last year, despite building works taking place for most of this period. This spectacular performance warranted a ‘meaningful increase’ of Hammerson’s stake in the complex from 14% to 38%.

It is clear that this phoenix is not flying anywhere soon. Retail Ireland estimates that consumer spending will rise by 4.4% in 2016 (estimated 2.6% in the UK).This, combined with positive consumer sentiment, which is now at a 10-year high, a healthy tourist economy, increasing employment rates (highest since 2009) and retail sales that are continuing on an upward trajectory, leaves Ireland in a prime position to expand its wingspan and soar to new heights.

Avril Breen