Empty shop spaces on streets of Rīga

In Rīga, the demand for retail premises is small and commercial spaces are long empty. Real estate experts addressed by Latvian Radio on May 23 explained this situation with the pandemic immediately followed by the war, increasing instability.

In the market for commercial areas, demand for retail premises or shops is currently low, according to Ruslans Vengners, spokesman for real estate company Latio. "The pandemic overlapped with the war in Ukraine. Consequently, the current stress and uncertainty of both existing and new business makers are at a very high level. Everyone is trying not to develop something at the moment, but to preserve the existing place or to preserve existing jobs for people, to survive in this time of uncertainty,” Vengners said.

Vengners said that the situation on the main streets of Rīga is not dramatic, but a more gloomy situation is in the Old Town: “We can simply cross the main streets of Old Riga from the map. In no crisis until now, which I have witnessed working for more than 16 years in the industry, it was not that big brands would not try to exploit the crisis for their own needs and catch the best places available. It's not happening right now. There are several places under the question mark in Old Riga that are vacant, but we cannot address anyone. Even the big fast-food companies and all the others. They are silent, too. They don't understand what to do with Old Riga when ships and air traffic have not been fully restored.”

He predicted that, as the utility bills increase, the small souvenir shops in Old Riga would no longer be able to exist.

Diāna Frīdenberga, head of real estate company Ober Haus Real Estate Latvia, also said that the retail space business was most affected during the pandemic. Moreover, neither in Riga nor in Latvia as a whole has there been a strong street trade culture, and the pandemic has further reduced demand.

"We see that these spaces are no longer beneficial to maintain. Of course, supermarkets, malls are demanded [..] Although it may also be noted that there was quite a lot of room available under the influence of the pandemic. Entrepreneurs are wary of the fact that the pandemic will return again in November," Frīdenberga said.

“I very much hope that, as the volume of tourists and investments in Latvia increases, the demand for commercial spaces in the retail sector will return again. But at the moment I do not see a basis for it to come alive without state aid or substantial changes,” Frīdenberga said.

 

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