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Kalakaua Avenue retail rents ranked high

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Retail rents on Waikiki’s Kalakaua Avenue tied for fifth-most expensive in North America, despite a volatile tourism industry that can leave some shop owners anxious.

Rent on Honolulu’s prime retail strip topped out at $300 per square foot per year this spring, placing it just behind New York’s Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue; Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive; San Francisco’s Union Square; and Toronto’s Bloor Street, which tied with Kalakaua, according to the Colliers International Global Retail report.

Kalakaua’s $300 rent is unchanged from a year ago, according to Colliers.

"Despite all the volatility in the travel sector, retail rents have remained stable," said Mike Hamasu, director of consulting and research at Colliers Monroe Friedlander Inc.

The recent decline in Japanese visitors after the devastating earthquake and tsunami has affected a number of retailers on the Kalakaua strip.

"Retailers that are real dependent on the Japanese market have realized reductions in sales in the range of 20 to 25 percent," said Barbara Campbell, vice president of retail, leasing and development for Outrigger Enterprises Group. "(But) because Waikiki is a really dynamic market and it’s a desirable destination that many retailers want to get their foot in the door, there’s very little space available on Kalakaua Avenue. They’re signing leases for the long term. They want to have their names on that street so they’re willing to ride the cycle."

The potential amount of retail sales is directly related to rents that can be charged in a given area, which is why the high density in Waikiki translates into high rent prices, Hamasu said. Retailers typically sign long-term leases with a minimum base rent that is required to be paid despite cyclical declines in visitor traffic.

Outrigger’s retail component has seen a more modest 5 percent to 10 percent drop in sales as a strong number of visitors from North America helped ease the pain of declines from the Japan market, Campbell said.

Waikiki’s retail vacancy based on a separate Colliers midyear survey was pegged at nearly 5 percent, up from the year-earlier vacancy of 2.2 percent.

Overall average rents in Waikiki have softened some over the past two years, though the prime locations "remain robust," Hamasu said.

"We track average rents that have actually gone down in Waikiki, but the top prime locations remained unchanged for the most desirable places on Kalakaua," he said.

The average rent in Waikiki this year is about $120 per square foot a year, compared with $128 a year ago and $126 in 2009. The peak rent was in 2007 at $136 a year.

"Definitely rents are comparable to other places that are high, but it’s well justified given the clientele," said George Kam, vice president of Quiksilver Inc., which has two Waikiki stores. "Kalakaua is comparable to the best streets around the world. The intrinsic value is there given our destination, the uniqueness of Hawaii and what Hawaii has to offer."

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