COVID to blame for record commercial vacancies

In one town, nearly 30% of all commercial properties are empty.
James Wilson
James Wilson

08.36 14 Sep 2023

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COVID to blame for record comm...

COVID to blame for record commercial vacancies

James Wilson
James Wilson

08.36 14 Sep 2023

Share this article

The lingering impact of the pandemic is partly to blame for record levels of commercial vacancies across the country. 

For a decade, GeoDirectory has conducted surveys analysing the number of commercial properties left vacant. 

In June this year, the figure was 14.1% nationwide - the highest percentage recorded by the firm so far.


Speaking to reporter Josh Crosbie for Newstalk Breakfast, CEO Dara Keogh said there were a number of factors influencing the figures. 

“Three things going on,” he said. 

“The effect of COVID, the effect of inflation and higher prices. 

“Then, the changing nature of some of the businesses that would be on the high street. 

“We have to look at the entrepreneurial effort to open a business. There are loads of great entrepreneurs out there, they’re probably looking at this and saying, ‘Is this the right time to open a retail business in Ireland or is the new [online] model the way to go?’ 

“[They might] open it from the bedroom, rather than open it from the high street.” 

Regional variation

Vacancy rates are highest in Connacht at 17.9%, while Leinster has the lowest vacancy rate at 13%. 

In the capital, vacancies are at their highest in Dublin 9 - a fact that did not surprise two women out for a walk in the area. 

“Type of shops are changing,” one said. 

“There’s an awful lot of coffee shops and restaurants and everything. 

“The rents and rates and everything like that are just too high. It means any independent small shops can’t compete.” 

Her companion said over the years retail has changed and become more impersonal. 

“You knew people,” she said. 

“Everything has been replaced by bigger multinationals.” 

A woman walks past a boarded-up shop. Image: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images

Nationwide, Ballybofey in Donegal is the town with the most vacant shops with close to 30% vacant. 

Community activist Alan McMenamin said there are things Donegal County Council could do to revive the town. 

“We’re simply asking the local authority to put a pause on the rates for a number of years,” he said. 

“Any new businesses coming on stream, that they get a sliding scale of rates. 

“So, that they’re not coming on and hit with a rate bill after a couple of months.”

Mr McMenamin said attracting new business is not the only thing that needs to be done; he feels the town’s streetscape “could be improved” and current businesses need to play their part.  

“There [shouldn’t be] a building lying idle for 20 years - which, frankly, in this day and age, is a pure disgrace,” he said. 

“At the minute now, it’s an absolute nightmare for anyone living locally to drive in and get their bits and bobs and head home again because of the traffic congestion in the town. 

“That needs to be addressed; we do need a bypass.” 

Nationwide, the town with the lowest vacancy rate is Greystones in Wicklow, which record a figure of just under 7%.

Main image: Boarded up businesses in Dublin. Picture by: 

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