Bulgaria registered 38,600 sq m of new store openings at shopping centres in 2020, down 57% year-on-year, as coronavirus containment measures brought two lockdowns and put the economy on a downward path, Forton, a member of Cushman&Wakefield Alliance for Bulgaria, said.
The second closure of shopping centers affected negatively retail sales and put the brakes on the occupiers’ expansion plans in the last quarter of 2020, Forton said in its fourth-quarter retail market report published last week.
At the end of November, Bulgaria shut down all shopping malls for a second time in 2020 in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The shopping centers reopened on February 1, 2021.
Some of the planned store openings in the fourth quarter of 2020 did not happen, although the stores were equipped and fully-stocked, Forton said.
Sports goods, food and beverage, as well as discount stores were among the most active occupiers last year.
The average vacant retail space in shopping centers in Bulgaria's Sofia declined to 7.9% in the fourth quarter of 2020, before the second lockdown, compared to nearly 9% in the previous quarters, Forton's report showed.
According to Forton, the volatile market keeps rents under pressure even though the asking rents in Sofia stabilised at the end of 2020 at 53 euro ($64.1) per sq m on average for high street locations and 36 euro per sq m for shopping centers, after a slight decrease in the previous quarters. Rents in the retail parks remain unchanged, in the range of 8-10 euro per sq m in the capital and 7-9 euro per sq m in the regional cities, Forton said.
"The retail parks enjoy growing popularity in Sofia and the regional urban centers. It was only in the last few months that three medium-sized schemes opened in Shumen, Yambol and Dupnitsa respectively, and other ones are in development or planning phase," Forton said, noting that with the new openings the total area of retail parks countrywide reached 184,800 sq m.