FG Burnett's six monthly health check of Union Street is into its 5th year. FG Burnett monitor the state of play in relation to ground floor occupation levels on Aberdeen's best known thoroughfare.
As at the beginning of February 2024 there are a total of 41 empty units, down 2 from our previous survey in August 2023. That’s 22% of the total ground floor number included in the survey. The number of voids has been decreasing since late 2022 so the current results reflect an encouraging trend.
Occupiers who have opened within the last 6 months on the North side include Oodles and Heavenly Desserts, a subdivision of the former Sainsbury's convenience store. Another hot food operator, GDK have opened for trade in what was Molton Brown at 118 Union Street.
Pre-Christmas the impressive Tag Heuer Boutique opened at the corner of Belmont Street, adding real quality in this location. One occupier has ceased trading on the north side, Halifax (part of the Lloyds Banking Group) which continues a trend of banks trimming their store portfolios. A positive of all the new entrants is the quality of their fit outs, an important aspect for the re energising of Union Street.
The South side of the street has not fared quite so well in the last 6 months with Lush relocating to Union Square, a Paddy Power branch closing and a temp Poundworld shutting its doors. New occupiers on the South side amount to 2 further mobile phone repair shops.
We are aware of a number of pipeline openings which will continue the positive trend, the hope would be that the decrease in voids will continue despite the inevitable closure here and there. The news that Marks & Spencer are to close their St Nicholas Street store in mid-2025 is a concern, such an important site having no plan is not an option. Marks & Spencer and the City Council need to be fully engaged in making sure a solution is delivered, developers will need considerable encouragement to get involved.
Richard Noble Managing Director at FG Burnett commented: “I see these latest results as encouraging, less voids is good news and the quality of the shopfits we have seen from the majority of new entrants is important. I hear encouraging positive feedback from parties looking to secure premises who are engaged with the City Council on the Union Street Empty Shops Grant Scheme. That initiative has the potential to be a real game changer.”
He continued “Our survey takes place ahead of the annual SPECTRA festival, Scotland’s Festival of Light which returns to the City from 8th -11th February. This is a huge crowd-puller focussed on the redeveloped Union Terrace Gardens site together with Marischal College and Aberdeen Art Gallery. It is well established thinking that we must attract a steady stream of events into the City Centre all year round to encourage visitors who spend when they come. Events and Public Realm same old essentials”.
“Seeing upper floors coming back into use is as important as what is happening at ground floor level and the recent announcement that Aberdeen inspired are to commission a feasibility study into unused upper floors is welcome especially if barriers that stand in the way of development are identified and solutions figured out. Our Union Street continue their work and all in all there is scope to be encouraged”.