Growing Population Fuels Retail Expansion

Key Takeaways

  • National grocers are leading suburban retail expansion in the Columbia market. This quarter, Lowes Foods and Lidl announced their first Midlands locations. They are joining newly announced stores from Kroger, Walmart Neighborhood Market, Costco, Sam’s Club, Publix Super Market and The Fresh Market.
  • Downtown retail is expanding beyond its traditional corridors (Gervais, Main and Harden Streets) to North Main, BullStreet Commons and Devine Street, as several residential developments nearing occupancy draw more interest.

Growing Population Attracts New Interest From Retailers

The second quarter of 2016 saw the expansion of national and local retailers within the market. The Columbia retail market is driven by the growing employment, residential population and the student population of the University of South Carolina, especially in the Downtown submarket. Newly delivered student housing projects in that submarket will add to the residential population and generate new interest in the surrounding areas as the developments reach full occupancy.

Strong activity in the market has led to a market vacancy rate of 9.4%. Although slightly higher than the vacancy rate for the market from the first quarter of 2016, available spaces in the market are quickly absorbed, with fast turnaround on newly vacated spaces. The uptick in vacancy does not reflect the overall health of the market as three submarkets reported vacancy rates lower than 5.0%. The retail market shows to be improving, as the market average asking rental rate rose higher than last quarter’s rate to $13.76 NNN per square foot per year (PSF/YR) for shop space.

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