Even as demand seems to be returning slowly to the residential space, the retail real estate market continues to look disappointing. The average vacancy across malls in major cities shot up to 19 per cent during the second quarter (April-June) of 2009 against 10 per cent in the last quarter. It is also expected that over 50 per cent of the estimated mall supply planned for 2009 will be delayed due to slowing construction and deferment of mall space, and also withdrawal of previously-announced retail projects. According to global property consultant Cushman and Wakefield, the Delhi NCR (National Capital Region) is expected to see the maximum deferment of mall supply in this regard at 3.9 million sq ft, followed by Kolkata at 2.5 million sq ft. According to the quarterly report by the consultant, this quarter too was marked by subdued retail activity, as retailers continued to remain cautious about expansion. "Mall supply was only marginally higher by 3 per cent from the previous quarter and was recorded at 1.14 million sq. ft. Expected mall supply by the end of 2009 is reduced to 8.55 million sq.ft about 50 per cent lower than what was estimated at the beginning of the year," it said.

Surge in supply

The vacancy rates rose on the back of a slowdown in uptake of mall space and churn among existing clients. This, in turn, prompted a further correction in the mall rentals. Surge in supply but a relatively slower absorption of malls space in the NCR led to vacancy of nearly 26 per cent in the second quarter of 2009. The vacancy level in Mumbai continued at nine per cent, while Chennai - in the absence of fresh mall supply and restrained churn - witnessed mall vacancy of only one per cent.

New malls

Hyderabad witnessed the largest infusion of mall supply of about 450,000 sq. ft., followed by Bangalore, which saw an addition of 300,000 sq. ft. in fresh mall supply. Kolkata (215,000 sq. ft.) and the NCR (175,000 sq. ft.) were the other markets that saw fresh additions to mall supply. "Many upcoming malls have been deferred or in certain cases withdrawn given the rather lukewarm response from retailers," the report said. The demand for mall space across most micro-markets remained slow due to conservative approaches from retailers and overall slowdown in consumer demand, it said. Slowing retail demand in many micro-markets led to rental values either remaining stable or correcting marginally, in the range of 5-10 per cent, over the previous quarter.

According to Mr Jaideep Wahi, Director, Agency, Retail Services, Cushman & Wakefield, there could be more corrections as a result of renegotiations. "Retailers are looking at changing their business understanding with upcoming malls into a revenue share or minimum guarantee model as an alternative to the fixed rental model previously employed," Mr Wahi said.

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