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Retail in the regions dubbed the fast mover of 2021

City life is losing its appeal off the back of what has been a stressful year for many, and some city slickers are opting for a regional respite.

Recent research from Regional Australia Institute has found one in five city residents are looking to relocate to the regions, and more than half of those are seriously considering the move within the next 12 months.

DMA Partners Managing Director Ryan Andersen said there was a great opportunity to be leveraged for owners of land in regional towns and cities, particularly off the back of the huge levels of regional migration and interstate migration.

“There is a resurgence in the desire to live away from big cities following the pandemic and due to the general strain of city life,” Mr Andersen said.

“Property assets in regional locations have had mixed success over recent years. Where there has been solid investment to maintain asset quality and currency with market trends, we’ve seen them thrive. But the opposite is also sadly the case in many cases.

“In the case of retail assets, we’ve seen centres in regional locations with the right retail mix and customer offering actually performing better than they were before the pandemic.”

DMA’s view of retail in regional locations comes from a decade long history on projects including:

– Toowoomba (Highfields Village Shopping Centre, Northpoint Shopping Centre, Eastville Shopping Centre, Wilsonton Shopping Centre, Mary Street Village and others)

– Townsville (Riverway Place Shopping Centre, The Hive)

– Sunshine Coast (Big Top Market Fresh, Northshore Shopping Centre, The Wharf Mooloolaba, Ocean Street Retail

– Byron Bay (Mercato on Byron)

– Airlie Beach (Whitsunday Shopping Centre)

– Yeppoon (Keppel Bay Plaza, Farnborough Retail Centre)

– Rockhampton (Parkhurst Town Centre)

– Lennox Head (Epiq Marketplace) and others.

People cite general stress and anxiety, traffic congestion and cost of living as the key reasons for wanting to make the regional switch.

However, it’s not just the negatives of city living and the impacts of COVID-19 that are driving residents out. The research has also shown the appeal of regional life is the strongest motivator to move. Additionally, 22 percent of respondents said they were already considering a relocation pre-pandemic.

Mr Andersen said there needed to be a real emphasis on the right retail mix and exceptional customer experience if landowners were to fully maximise the opportunities that come with population growth outside of the major cities.

“In some areas there are some relatively tired assets that will really need to look at refurbishment or redevelopment to capture the new market that is emerging with the population push into regional locations.

“Those looking to take up life in the country are looking for the same access they have in the city; similar retailers, nice restaurants and bars, and the user experience that they know and love.

“There is a huge opportunity here for landlords to make a short-term investment if they want to see long term gain.”