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As COVID declines, Oʻahu retail sector rises

ala_moana_center_stage.jpg
Daniel Ramirez
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Wikimedia Commons
FILE - Ala Moana Center in 2015

Changes in routine continue as Covid recedes as a primary focus in day-to-day life around the islands. That includes the retail sector on Oʻahu.

A new report from Colliers International Hawaii describes a “healthy gain” for Oʻahu’s retail sector, as measured by the amount of space leased and by sales.

In the third quarter of 2022, nearly 230,000 square feet of retail was leased, driving the vacancy rate down to just under 5.9%. That’s the lowest vacancy level since the start of the pandemic.

For comparison, the vacancy rate had been just under 5.4%, at the end of 2020, and that was a bit of a down year. After three straight years of growth, the retail sector in 2020 absorbed the loss of major Sears locations.

For the year ending in April 2022, retail sales jumped nearly 27% over the previous year’s sales, when Covid restrictions had been at their most severe.

Sales are even up almost 15% compared to the year just prior to Covid. But given inflation since then, this may not reflect that people are shopping more so much as paying higher prices.

In fact, the Colliers report cites research that finds consumers plan to deal with inflation by cutting back on dining out, as well as clothing, entertainment, groceries, travel, beauty products and more.

Future growth will be seen in Honolulu’s urban core, said Colliers, with more than 7,200 housing units coming online between now and 2026, in between downtown and Ala Moana Center.

Nearly 130,000 square feet of new retail space is in the works for their shopping needs.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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