APAC’s Q1 retail growth momentum dragged by movement restrictions anew

Greater China was the most affected due to strict lockdowns.

Asia Pacific’s retail sales growth momentum in most markets slowed in Q1 amid an Omicron-driven surge in COVID-19 infections, putting an impact on leasing volumes and new supply, according to a report from CBRE.

The report noted that Greater China was the most affected due to strict measures in many cities including lockdowns and dine-in restrictions, with mainland China and Hong Kong reporting declines of 3.5% YoY in March and -4.9% YoY in January and February combined, respectively.

Whilst retail sales in Korea and Japan were also impacted by the Omicron wave in February, the relaxation of restrictions the following month saw growth pick up from 5.2% to 7.1% YoY and from -0.9% to 1.0% YoY, respectively.

The rising COVID-19 infection rates and economic uncertainty weighed on leasing activity during the quarter, with Greater China showing the weakest performance due to the impact of strict anti-pandemic measures. But leasing activity in North Asia and India remained solid.

“With most retailers in wait-and-see mode, they are reluctant to commit to any major expansionary moves,” the report stated.

New demand continued to be driven by food and beverage (F&B) retailers, with coffee, tea and light food outlets expanding in popular shopping malls and cheaper locations in secondary areas, CBRE noted.

“Growth in this segment is also being supported by the fact that low-price F&B has been relatively resilient in the face of restrictions on eating out. The period also saw increasing demand from high-end restaurants, particularly in Korea,” the report added.

CBRE also noted that several markets including Taipei, Vietnam and tourist-driven high streets in Seoul and Hong Kong also continued to report high vacancy in Q1 amidst the absence of inbound tourist demand.

New supply was also limited with just 1.39 million sqft of stock added, roughly 3% of the full-year pipeline. Cities in mainland China and Delhi-National Capital Region will account for the bulk of new stock this year, with Shenzhen alone set to see the addition of 11.67 million sq. ft.

Asia Pacific retail rents fell by 1.4% QoQ during the quarter, led by declines of more than 5% in Hong Kong as well as Sydney and Perth central business districts. But rents in other markets remained stable.

“With more markets lifting COVID-19 restrictions, retail landlords regained some confidence during the quarter. Whilst more owners ceased reducing face rents and began offering lower incentives, most remained cautious amid heightened economic uncertainty,” CBRE said

CBRE expects Asia Pacific retail rents to come under pressure in Q2, primarily due to the impact of lockdowns in mainland China.

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