Hardware puts buzz into retail

The improving residential sector has become a trigger for renovators to hit the hardware and bulky goods shops to buy everything from hammers and paint to couches and washing machines.

The improving residential sector has become a trigger for renovators to hit the hardware and bulky goods shops to buy everything from hammers and paint to couches and washing machines.

In turn, demand to own these bricks and mortar assets is also rising as reflected in the high turnover in sales by Australian and international super funds and private trusts.

In the retail sales data for August, released last week, hardware stores and suppliers performed strongly, rising 5.6 per cent, against the decline in department stores and the hard hit apparel sector.

The rises in August continued the positive trends of recent months, after rising 4 per cent in July, 3.6 per cent in June, 5.2 per cent in May and, due to the Easter break, a larger 7.5 per cent in April.

Head of research for Australia at CBRE Stephen McNabb said bulky goods centre transactions represented more than $600 million of the $1.5 billion of retail transactions in the quarter, the second largest quarter since 2007.

"Improvements in domestic housing fundamentals and a re-acceleration of population growth are expected to support rent growth within the bulky goods sector in the latter half of 2014 (in most states), following a generally soft environment in recent years," he said in the group's results for this year's third quarter.

"These expectations may support further sales activity and a stabilised-to-improved outlook for yields in the sector, relative to 'prime' retail assets."

One of the larger sales of assets was by Charter Hall of Home HQ Nunawading for $48 million to the private Arkadia investment group.

The Australian head of retail investments at Jones Lang LaSalle Simon Rooney, who advised Charter Hall on the sale, said yields in the bulky goods sector remained very high by historical standards, and offered potentially very attractive returns for those willing to move up the risk curve and take a counter-cyclical position.

"Major players include Brett Blundy [BBRC], Arkadia, Sentinel and more recently Altis and Blackstone," Mr Rooney said.

According to Jones Lang LaSalle research, the drivers of the bulky goods sector were improving. The cuts to official interest rates were positive for a recovery in residential construction, which was a key driver of the performance of the bulky goods market, and also had positive implications for the broader retail sector.

Retail analyst at JP Morgan Shaun Cousins said, after the release of the retail sales figures, the outlook for discretionary retailers was mixed, with the consumer sentiment stronger, yet the extent this resulted in sales growth was dependent on category (home/experiences preferred) and retailer.

At Moelis & Company, economist John Barrett said there was a definite correlation between house sales and a rise in demand for retail, including bulky goods.

"With a change in government, record low Reserve Bank of Australia cash rates and rising house prices, we expect retail sales to close the gap with house prices as consumers have more equity and the 'wealth effect' kicks in after five years of consumer lockdown," Mr Barrett said.

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