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Small but savvy in Glasgow’s West End
Glasgow’s West End offers a dynamic cosmopolitan marketplace which has captured the imagination of small bespoke retailers and start-up businesses seeking representation. Residentially, it has been the nucleus and engine room of the Glasgow housing market for years driven by its proximity to the city centre, universities and public transport links. The finite level of stock in the traditional recognised areas has forced the market to bridge and absorb neighbouring communities such as Partick, Thornwood, Woodlands, Park, and Finnieston establishing a larger more vibrant West End, each local area retaining its own unique identity and as a collective becoming an investors playground both residentially and commercially where risks are low and growth plentiful.
So has the residential market influenced the commercial market in these areas? Finnieston or to some Cranstonhill is a case in point. Twenty years ago this was a rundown area of the city with more vacant shops than occupied. It had high unemployment and the neighbouring Park area was mostly in office use. Finnieston still had an industrial working class image and amenities reflected this demographic. Today, this depiction couldn’t be further from reality, although signs still remain of its heritage, most notably the redevelopment of a redundant industrial complex into Skypark, Finnieston Crane and the few remaining traditional bars still in existence positioned off the main thoroughfares.
Commercial occupancy levels are almost 100% and on the rare occasion a unit falls vacant, the level of demand only serves to remind the property market the success of this location. This demand ensures only the most current and dynamic occupier’s gain representation combining with existing traders to strengthen business opportunities. Nights and on weekends, the bars, cafés, coffee houses and restaurants enjoy an abundance of custom, with music and conversation spilling out onto the wide pavements delivering a vibrancy and atmosphere rarely captured in the city. We accept this is partly due to the success of The Hydro and the SEC, although the residential market has played an important role, attracting the right demographics with the necessary disposable income to support the local market. It has also benefitted from the regeneration of the Park into an affluent residential community.
So where’s the next commercial hotspot?
The answer is everywhere. The West End is truly thriving. Partick has enjoyed a revival, rents and occupation rising to levels not enjoyed in twenty years supported by an improved mix of traditional high street and specialist retailers, rebranded bars and the opening of small independent eateries. This is spreading west towards Thornwood anchored by Glasgow Harbour and the redevelopment of the former Thornwood Primary School and to the east by the recent completion of a substantial Student Village. To the north in the Kelvinbridge/Woodlands/St George’s Cross area, Great Western Road has become a focal point for bespoke home furnishings and kitchen companies again with a mix of independent restaurants, coffee houses and cafés opening with Bread Meet Bread and Paesano being two notable arrivals. A correctly priced property lying vacant for long rarely occurs in this location.
From a commercial investor perspective, the West End provides a relatively risk-free environment due to current tenant demand and this mirrors the residential market. The two sectors are starting to provide mutual traction further strengthening the market. There is a word of caution though, small independent traders who are driving the market have a ceiling on operational costs and is why once fringe markets are prospering. This has affected Byres Road over recent years and to a degree Hyndland Road where larger units are experiencing lengthier voids. Small is savvy in this market and will serve you well if you are fortunate enough to hold this asset class.
Gregor Hinks has operated in the West End market for in excess of 20 years. He has successfully let and sold a number of commercial premises in recent years providing clients with an in-depth understanding of what he calls the “West End Effect”.