Problem of empty commercial units improves in Athlone and Moate

There was a slight improvement in the level of commercial vacancies in Athlone over the last year - but the town still has Westmeath's highest rate of empty units with more than one in five lying idle.

That's according to figures in the latest GeoDirectory Commercial Buildings Report, which is compiled by Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) in conjunction with An Post.

The report showed that the commercial vacancy rate in Athlone at the end of June stood at 20.1%, which was down from 20.6% at the same stage last year.

This was the highest commercial vacancy rate in Westmeath and was much higher than in Mullingar, where 13.2% of commercial units were not being used.

In Moate, meanwhile, the commercial vacancy rate in June stood at 16.8%. This was a notable improvement on the 18.7% vacancy rate a year earlier.

In Leinster, excluding Dublin, Athlone was the town with the sixth highest commercial vacancy rate, behind Mountmellick, Longford, New Ross, Edenderry and Edgeworthstown.

The reduction in the level of commercial vacancies in Athlone and Moate came at a time when vacancy rates increased in 20 out of 26 counties in the twelve months to June 2023.

Across Ireland as a whole, 29,798 commercial units, or 14.1% of the total, were recorded as vacant in the second quarter of this year. This was a marginal increase of 0.2% compared to the same period in 2022.

Despite the current strong performance of the Irish economy, the commercial vacancy rate is at its highest level since GeoDirectory since it began reporting on it in 2013.

Ballybofey in Donegal retained the top position as the town with the highest commercial vacancy rate in Ireland, at 29.9%, as of June 2023.

Commenting on the findings, Dara Keogh, Chief Executive of GeoDirectory said: "The latest GeoDirectory Commercial Buildings Report found the national commercial vacancy rate to be 14.1%, making this the highest level of commercial vacancy on record.

"Businesses are clearly still struggling with the increasing costs of doing business in regard to energy costs and food inflation.

"An additional challenge this year has been interest rate increases which are generating some pressures for commercial owner occupiers and tenants."

Annette Hughes, Director of EY Economic Advisory, added: "After several years of strong construction activity in the commercial sector, the increases we are seeing in commercial vacancy are to an extent unsurprising, with trends such as working from home, sustainability and energy efficiency likely having some impact.

"While there have been increases in the cost of doing business for some companies, the overall Irish economy remains in a good position, with further growth and increases in the numbers employed forecast."