THE number of vacant business and retail units in Tralee town centre has fallen by over a quarter in the last year.
In what will come as welcome news for business in the town centre a survey carried out by The Kerryman last week has shown that the number of vacant units in the town centre area has fallen significantly in the last 12 months and now stands at 99.
That figure represents a drop of 26 per cent when compared with August 2012 when there were 134 vacant units in the town's central business area.
Last week The Kerryman carried out its annual tally of vacant units in the town centre area. The survey only counted vacant ground floor premises including retail units, pubs, restaurants, hotels and offices.
The results of the yearly vacancy survey, which was last carried out in late August 2012, show that the number of vacant units in Tralee is now at its lowest level in five years.
In 2009 when the first survey was carried out The Kerryman found 96 vacant units in the town centre. This increased to 129 in 2010, 143 in 2012 and fell back slightly to 134 in 2012.
This year sees the first significant drop in vacancy rates since this paper began the annual count.
While rental prices in Tralee have dropped, by an average of around €300 a month, since the last survey they remain among the highest in the country and are comparable to high streets in Dublin, Cork and Limerick.
The Kerryman examined rental prices for units across Tralee town centre and the current average for a medium-sized shop now stands at around €2,000 per month with small units available for close to €1,000 a month. A handful of small outlets are available for between €100 and €150 a week in outlying areas.
Some premises have considerably higher rent. One medium sized retail unit in the very heart of Tralee is available for €45,000 a year, the equivalent of €865 per week another, slighter larger shop unit, close to the town centre has a rental price tag of €30,000 per annum or €576 a week.
But as well as high rents, Tralee businesses also face the highest commercial rates in the country. At present the Tralee rate or ARV stands at €81.18 which is the highest ARV in the entire country and is significantly higher than the major cities.
In Dublin city centre the ARV is €60.88. This means that a business trading anywhere in Tralee town centre, from The Mall to Boherbee or Matt Talbot Road, pays higher rates than a shop on Grafton Street in Dublin, Ireland's single busiest and most expensive shopping street.
The difference in rates between Tralee and Killarney too is significant.
Taking one specific vacant unit in Tralee as an example, this Tralee unit, a medium sized retail unit in a prominent location in Tralee has an Rateable Valuation of €114.28 This means that the annual commercial rates payable on this unit in Tralee are €9,277.25. The exact same unit in Killarney, where the ARV is €70.37 would have annual rates of €8,041.88 a difference €1,235 per year.
That may not seem significant but it is the equivalent of four weeks wages for a staff member working a 36 hour week on minimum wage.