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For a while Switzerland remained an island of relative tranquility amid the financial crises affecting most other European economies; but from 2011 onwards its position towards the geographical centre of the continent, combined with a strong currency, has begun to adversely affect the retail industry.

Switzerland’s retailers faced an unhappy new year when the central bank (SNB) announced in January 2015 that it was unpegging the Swiss franc from the euro. Figures from statistics house GfK for 2015 illustrate the problem. Overall retail turnover in that year is said to be down by 1.9% year-on-year, but for non-food this drops to minus 3.0% and for fashion specifically trade is down by 5.2%. However, it should be noted that most of this negative impact has been on the secondary areas of the Swiss market, and in particular regions neighbouring Eurozone countries, where consumers are flocking over the borders to take advantage of their stronger francs. In the two traditional retail powerhouses of Zurich and Geneva we see a different – and more positive – picture, as buoyant tourism numbers especially from Asia coupled with the intrinsic quality of retail offer continue to offset any domestic weakness. This is especially true in the luxury segment.

Vacant space is still very hard to come by in both Zurich and Geneva. The result is a regular game of musical chairs, as brands exit stores and new arrivals take their space, often paying key money running into millions of Swiss francs. Two of the most eye-catching recent moves in Zurich’s prime Bahnhofstrasse concern luxury brands. The Italian High Fashion brands Prada and Dolce&Gabbana have both secured impressive stores along the famous shopping-street and have replaced local multilabel fashion stores. Lululemon Athletica,  after having tested the market with a showroom for a year,  has found a flagship location of 500 sqm in the Old Town of Zurich which is open since July 2016.

In  Geneva, the Inditex Group has been behind several of the more prominent moves. It has shifted Bershka and Massimo Dutti from a pair of adjoining units that it now intends to convert into a massive Zara store.

Elsewhere, the biggest shopping centre project in the pipeline, the 50,000 sq m Mall of Switzerland in Lucerne, continues to make progress towards its launch date of October 2017. One and a half years in advance already 60% of the scheme is let, indicating that retailer demand for top quality space remains strong.

Our Top Tip For
New Arrivals

From Armani to Zara, Switzerland has become one of the most popular shopping destinations in Europe, with a broad range of brands and retail options in picturesque old towns or pleasant shopping centres. Shopping along the famous Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich or Rue Du Rhone in Geneva is not only an opportunity to buy new clothes or accessories, but also a catwalk on which to see and be seen. Come dressed chic and enjoy a coffee. The price is worth it.


Swiss Franc (CHF)
EUR €0.85
USD $1.05
GBP £0.75


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5.90 CHF

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