Since the end of 2022, the market situation has started to improve. Real wages have risen, and banks have stepped up consumer lending.
If there is one phrase to describe what 2022 was like for the retail real estate market and retail itself, the best way to put it is, ‘It could have been worse! And what’s the harm? Many expected it to be that way, worse’. However, in the end, the situation can be summed up in succinct words: ‘Fairly good. And not bad either.
This is how the partner and executive director of NAI Belarus (Belarusian representative office of the network of consulting companies NAI Global), Andrei Alyoshkin, sums up the last year’s results on the retail real estate market.
You can find more detailed information on the processes taking place in the market last year in the “Retail Real Estate Report. Results in 2022” published by Belretail.by.
Shop closures of some international brands: a few major international tenant retailers abandoned their operations in our market. Only two big chains, JYSK and H&M, closed their operations on our market at the beginning of the mass exodus from the Russian market. At the end of the year, the only Timberland shop announced its closure. There were also several renaming of shops, but brand goods from predecessors remained in them (e.g. Point and Top Place shops in “Zamok” shopping center).
Negative dynamics of retail turnover: at year-end 2022 in Minsk, retail turnover was -8% (in the Republic of Belarus -3.7%), while the non-food group of goods went down by 11.2% more significantly.
Facts of large-scale mergers/acquisitions: the most high-profile event at the beginning of the year was the takeover of “Belpharm” by the pharmacy chain “Ostrov Zdorovya”. “Belpharm” is a kind of legend, the first and oldest private pharmaceutical chain in the Republic of Belarus. Its first pharmacy was opened in 1992. At the end of the year, it became known that the “Santa” chain had taken over the “Vitalyur” chain shops. This transaction is difficult to fully classify as a merger & acquisition, as the parties have stated that it will be a lease of retail facilities (84 retail units of various formats) while retaining the legal entities and even the “Vitalyur” signboards.
Two new large objects were opened: the “Green Time” Shopping Centre opened in June. The total area of the object is 33 thousand sq. m. Technical opening of “Minsk City Mall” took place at the end of December. The total area of the object is 47 thousand square meters.
Occupancy of the new building of Expobel Market by tenants has started. During the reconstruction of the exhibition complex “Expobel,” a market building was introduced where pavilions (rolls) from the open area began to move.
A preliminary decision on the mall in the Magnit Minsk mixed-use complex: the facility is likely to become a major shopping center for Belarusian industry goods;
One of the famous long-delayed construction projects, the “Gulliver” shopping mall, was handed over by the city authorities to Minsk City Executive Committee to finalize the project: in the summer, it became known that a block of several houses will be built instead of a public complex. According to the submitted concept, the block will have only one individually designed house; the rest will be conventional standard panel houses. This is a very sad conclusion to the mall project. The location within the city boundaries, its resources, and its potential were worthy of a high-quality and large-scale mixed-use development on a citywide scale.
Analyzing the market in the outgoing year, one cannot forget the regions. There were quite a few outstanding events.
Several interesting projects of regeneration of industrial real estate into retail (commercial and entertainment) objects were implemented in the markets of regional Belarusian cities during 2022:
– In Smorgon – “ZOSS” Shopping and Entertainment Centre. It was built due to the reconstruction of the Optical Machine Tool Plant building. The shopping center has 6 floors, and the total area is 12 thousand sq.m;
– In Lida – “Lida Park” Shopping and Entertainment Centre. The mall was built due to the reconstruction of the unfinished building of “The Izotron” plant. The mall has 4 floors and more than 28 thousand sq.m. of floor space. The total building area is 19.6 thousand sq.m. In addition, a construction hypermarket of 9.3 thousand sq. m. and a furniture center, “Lidal Mebel Holl,” of 3.2 thousand sq. m. have been commissioned next to this building.
“N3 PLAZA” shopping mall in Soligorsk. The technical opening was held on New Year’s Eve (December 28). The occupancy and subsequent openings will take place during 2023. The facility currently houses a food anchor, a national cuisine restaurant, “Vasilki” and “Pizza Tempo”, and some gallery facilities. The mall has 3 floors, a total area – of 17.2 thousand sq.m., total building area– of 13.8 thousand sq.m.
“Greenwich” Shopping Center in Mogilev. A small compact shopping center. It is also open at the end of the year, in December. Anchor – “Green” hypermarket of 4 thousand sq.m. The object is one-storeyed. Total area – 7,6 thousand sq. m.
Regional cities in the past year, 2022, included several deals for the purchase/sale of retail facilities.
The largest transaction took place in Mogilev. It was the “Tabak-Invest” purchase of a part of the “E-City” shopping mall complex (79, Gagarina St.) owned by ‘Evrotorg Ltd’. The area of the purchased building was 19101 sq.m.
Forecasts and conclusion
It is difficult to expect a recovery in the retail and commercial real estate market until consumer activity is observed. The year 2022 was unfavorable: consumer lending was inactive, which reduced the actual demand for expensive durable goods; real wages, as well as real disposable income, tended to decrease (in January-November -3.7%).
However, since the end of 2022, the situation has begun to improve. There was an increase in real wages. Banks have increased consumer lending, and consumer loan rates, albeit slightly, have started to fall. As a result, in the last months of 2022, the population’s cautious but still growing consumer credit indebtedness was registered. In early 2023 the National Bank will likely reduce the refinancing rate, and the banks will further reduce interest rates, reviving consumer lending and boosting demand for the expensive segment of non-food products.
- The fall in retail turnover will slow down, and there are preconditions for the trend to return to positive trends from the second quarter of 2023;
- Retailer revenues will stop declining against this background;
- The rental market as a whole is stabilizing. The market will fully adapt to work in terms of decoupling from the euro nominal;
- The vacancy is stabilizing, and there will be no closures of the 2022 model, but the activity of market players in terms of new leases will not be high. The most likely scenario is episodic new retail openings;
- Rotation phenomena will persist, but the rotation process will be inactive;
- The owners will continue searching for new ideas at the level of “conceptual spaces” and “centers of national goods” as in the past period.