Retail is an important employment sector in Limerick, with Limerick City having a diversity of retail uses. Retail has been a key part of the economic base of the city and town and village centres. However, the retail sector in Limerick City centre has been in decline in recent decades, with shops migrating to purpose-built out-of-town shopping centres and increasingly to online platforms. The retail and services sector remains a significant employer and economic contributor in the Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area in Limerick.
The Retail Strategy for Limerick – Shannon Metropolitan Area and County Limerick 2022 –2028 provides analysis of the changing sector and key challenges. It shows that of the 1,014 retail units in Limerick City Centre, 220 are vacant recording a retail vacancy rate of 22%. In Q2 2022, the retail and wholesale vacancy rate in Limerick City was 24% (GeoDirectory Commercial Buildings Report). Almost all of the streets within the City Centre have some level of vacancy from closure of shops / retail outlets including some large-scale vacant sites in the core of the city centre. County towns with the highest retail vacancy rates in Q2 2022 were Abbeyfeale (30.6%) and Newcastle West (29.6%).
The retail sector is pivotal to regeneration and renewal, bringing footfall and economic vitality to city and town centre areas. Footfall for retail brings other benefits including improved daytime safety linked to the presence of people and activity in those areas and generates business to cafés and restaurants. This can also spin-off into participation of people in cultural and civic activities. High levels of vacancy in city, town and village centres can have a detrimental impact on the visual appearance, discouraging residential settlement there as well as visitors.