Shopping Center | Austria 2021

Messepark in Dornbirn is best shopping center

The Messepark shopping centre in Dornbirn was able to reach customers even during the crisis year.
Imago / suedraumfoto
The Messepark shopping centre in Dornbirn was able to reach customers even during the crisis year.

Vorarlberg consumers are increasingly shopping locally, giving the Messepark shopping center in Dornbirn 1st place in the Shopping Center Performance Report 2021. Thus, despite the long-closed border with Switzerland and the resulting lack of Swiss customers, the Messepark was once again able to reassert itself at the top - after victories already in 2012, 2016 and 2018.

The Messepark shopping centre in Dornbirn is one of the top performers in the Austrian retail landscape. This is sufficiently well known, according to Ecostra's Shopping Center Report Austria. Messepark already occupied the top spot in the Shoppingcenter Performance Report Austria from 2012 to 2016 and 2018, but fell off somewhat in recent years.

Vorarlbergers increasingly bought regionally

In 2020, the economic development of Messepark in Dornbirn, with its proximity to the Swiss border, was particularly burdened by pandemic-related restrictions on the one hand and, in particular, by the border to Switzerland, which was closed for a long time, on the other. There was a complete lack of customers from the neighbouring country during this phase. "Obviously, the Swiss customers were compensated for by Vorarlbergers, who now increasingly left their money in their own state and did without shopping trips to neighbouring countries", Dr. Joachim Will, Managing Director of the Wiesbaden-based economic consultancy Ecostra, comments on this result. This was indeed a surprise that had not been expected.

Centers with a distinct local supply character are ahead in the report of the most successful shopping centers in Austria.
Ecostra, Wiesbaden
Centers with a distinct local supply character are ahead in the report of the most successful shopping centers in Austria.

Study reflects earnings situation

Once a year Ecostra surveys the tenants of all shopping centres and retail parks in Austria on the economic performance of their shops at the respective locations. In addition to sales, the assessment also takes into account the location costs, i.e. above all the rent level. The result thus shows in which shopping centres the tenants generate more or less good returns and where they do not. 155 shopping centres and retail parks throughout Austria were evaluated in 2021. In this year, which was strongly influenced by the effects of the Corona pandemic, a total of 60 chain stores took part in the survey, operating a total of 1,235 stores in the centers surveyed.

More Vorarlberg centers in front

A development similar to that of Messepark was also observed in other Vorarlberg shopping centres. The GWL in Bregenz, for example, came third in the ranking behind the Riverside in Vienna-Liesing. Zimbapark, located in Bludenz-Bürs in the south of Vorarlberg, is also in the top 10.

In the category of retail parks, Shopping Haidäcker Park in Eisenstadt (Burgenland) took the top spot for the first time, followed by GEZ West in Gleisdorf (Styria) and Gewerbepark Stadlau in Vienna. The tenants surveyed rated the profitability of shops in retail parks better than those in closed mall centres. Will: "This was already the case in the past, but has noticeably increased again under the conditions of the Corona pandemic."

Local supply character positive

Particularly among shopping centers, the Corona impact has virtually shaken up the rankings, the report shows. Center locations with a clear local supply character were catapulted to the top. As an example, the district center West in Innsbruck, which was otherwise always to be found in the lower areas of the ranking, has now advanced to the top 10. The success of West is essentially based on the fact that this centre has strong local supply anchors with Merkur, Hofer and a Müller drugstore and can now make use of these in these times, according to the Ecostra boss. The Riverside in Vienna also falls into this category of local supply centres and improved from 26th place in the 2020 ranking to second place.

Shopping centers also perform well

Nonetheless, various model-heavy and large-scale flagship retailers have been able to hold their own just as well in these tumultuous times, the study shows. Europark in Salzburg, which benefits from a wide catchment area, is once again in the top 10 and Plus City in Pasching and dez in Innsbruck have also continued to receive good ratings from their tenants.

Lack of local supply function of the tail lights

Among the losers in the center ranking in the 2021 report are the Shopping Arena (70th) and Forum 1 in Salzburg (69th). In third to last place is Bahnhofcity in Vienna's main railway station. The study states that the two last-placed Salzburg centers lack the distinct local shopping character with which they can score points in times of crisis. "In the case of Vienna's main railway station, as a location that essentially lives from the frequencies of travellers, the decline in travel activity and the shift of work to the home office were particularly noticeable," states Thomas Terlinden, who as project manager at Ecostra is responsible for conducting the tenant surveys.

Rutter Group most competent operator

As in previous years, the Rutter Group was also named the most competent shopping center operator by tenants in the current round of surveys. Since the report was first compiled in 2012, no other company has ever been able to knock the Rutter Group off the top of the operator rankings, Ecostra says. It is followed in second place by SPAR subsidiary SES and in third place by ECE.

About the Shopping Center Performance Report Austria 2021

Since 2011 and 2012, the Wiesbaden-based Ecostra GmbH, a consulting firm in the real estate and retail sectors, has been compiling the "Shopping Center Performance Report" in Germany and Austria as part of its ongoing basic research. This is a survey of chain store shopping center tenants on the economic performance of their stores in the respective centers. This year, the portfolio of centers to be evaluated consisted of 155 locations, 97 of which were shopping centers and 58 retail parks.
"The expansion and sales managers in the company headquarters are explicitly surveyed and not the shop managers on site, as only the former can provide information on the sales performance of many of their shops within a national market at the same time," Ecostra states. At the same time, other, sometimes changing, topics on the situation and development of the retail trade will also be asked.
Eligible to participate are retail, gastronomy and service companies, which simultaneously operate at least 3 shops in 3 different shopping centres in Austria. On the basis of representative samples it can be assumed that - depending on the tenant composition of a center - about 40 to 60 percent of the tenants of a center meet these criteria and are therefore eligible to participate.
In addition to studies on the optimisation of the branch network of retail companies, the preparation of location analyses and studies on expansion planning as well as feasibility and profitability studies, Ecostra prepares feasibility, profitability and impact analyses for private and public clients.

Rents suspended in many cases

Measures imposed by the authorities as part of infection control measures, such as store closures and access restrictions, are putting retailers under enormous economic pressure. Some 32 per cent of chain stores surveyed said their business had experienced serious economic difficulties as a result of Corona. In response, more than two-thirds of center tenants have suspended either all or part of their rent payments. Fifteen percent of respondents have had legal disputes with landlords. Will: "It appears that amicable solutions have been found in many cases."
After the lockdown, pressure on rents could continue. About 80 percent of the chain stores surveyed plan to renegotiate their rent levels. In addition, the survey reveals some skepticism among tenants about the future economic performance of their locations. 75 percent of the chain stores, for example, expect that the restrictive measures during the Corona pandemic will lead to a sustainable shift of sales shares from stationary retail to the Internet.

Cautious optimism

As far as future location expansion is concerned, the respondents are cautious. Within the next 12 months, each respondent plans to open an average of 3 new stores in Austria, with locations in retail parks being in particular demand. In the previous year, an average of 4.1 new openings were planned. At the same time, an average of 1.6 stores are to be closed, so that on balance there is still a positive value. Will commented: "We have little doubt that the good locations - shopping centers as well as shopping streets - will continue to be in demand. However, lease terms are likely to become shorter, exit clauses will often be included on both sides and the previously known prime rents are likely to be largely history."