SwitzerlandSwitzerland has a population of nearly 8 million, around a third of whom live in the five largest cities and their environs; Zürich, Geneva, Basel, Bern the capital and Lausanne.  Three of these cities (Zurich, Geneva and Berne) are ranked in the top ten of the Mercer report on the world’s most livable cities. The country is part Swiss-German speaking, part French and part Italian speaking and a small percentage speak a fourth language, Romanic. 

Switzerland is one of the most stable and prosperous markets in Western Europe.  It has long been one of Europe’s more affluent markets, with GDP per capita amongst the highest in Europe.  Household consumption has been stimulated by the steady immigration of skilled workers and by low inflation combined with low interest rates.  The latter are a result of the Swiss Franc continuing to be perceived as a safe haven currency within Europe.   As a consequence of its political independence, Switzerland serves as a home for many organizations, including the UN with its headquarters in Geneva. Around 250 NGOs, many also linked to the UN, have their headquarters in Switzerland.

There is strong demand for prime high street retail space in the major cities; particularly notable are the international luxury retailers who are willing to pay higher rents to secure space in the prime areas of Geneva and Zürich. These occupiers are gradually pushing out small, local shops and restaurants as their leases expire.

ECONOMIC INDICATORS*2009201020112012F2013F
GDP growth -
Consumer spending
Industrial production -
Investment -
Unemployment rate (%)
Inflation -
CHF/US$ (average)
CHF/€ (average)1.511.381.231.201.24
Interest rates 3-month (%)
Interest rates 10-year (%)

NOTE: *annual % growth rate unless otherwise indicated. E estimate F forecast
Source: Oxford Economics Ltd. and Consensus Economics Inc

Population 7.95 million (2011)
GDPUS$637.8 billion (2011)
Public sector balance 0.4% of GDP (2011)
Parliament Federal Council (seven members)
President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf
Election datesOctober 2015(Federal)
Retail Volume0.74%2.95%0.63%2.29%1.56%
Retail ValueN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A

Source: Oxford Economics Ltd

St. Gallen73,500
Source: http://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/portal/en/index.html

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Cushman & Wakefield, Inc. - Switzerland: 46.818188, 8.227512



Coop, Migros, Denner, Spar


Lidl, Aldi


Manor, Fust, Interdiscount


Ikea, Deichman (Dosenbach), H&M, Esprit, Inditex brands, MediaMarkt, Saturn, Fnac, Bang & Olufsen, Hornbach, Bauhaus, Obi, The Body Shop, C&A, Toys R Us

Food & Beverage Operators

Mövenpick, McDonalds, Starbucks, Domino’s Pizza, Burger King, Subway, Bon Appetit, Buffalo Grill

09.00-19.00/20.00, perhaps 21.00 one night.08.00-17.00 Generally closed,

While Switzerland may be one of the smaller markets in Europe, in terms of purchasing power the GDP per capita in 2010 was higher than in any EU country except Luxembourg. The projected per capita purchasing power in 2012 is CHF 38,000 (Euro 31,666).  This means that the total consumer purchasing power amounts to CHF 299 Billion (Euro 249 Billion).   Such a figure makes Switzerland a very attractive location for retailers.  The Swiss consumer is also among the most discerning shoppers in the world. They expect high-quality goods and are generally willing to pay for them.

Though still more restrictive than in the rest of Europe, Swiss retail opening hours have been loosening bit by bit in the past few years, although they vary by canton. Shops at petrol stations or railway stations and businesses that employ family members are now allowed to stay open for longer. Airports and tourist resorts are also granted an exemption.  The restricted Swiss shopping hours have led to cross-border shopping by Swiss consumers, particularly to Germany.

The Swiss retail landscape is highly developed, but characterized by high street shops which dominate retail activity in the country. This is, in part, due to a number of barriers placed on large-scale schemes, with developers having to follow tight planning regulations and schemes requiring approval by regional authorities (cantons) and local support via a public referendum. Furthermore, a shortage of suitable land (given the size of the country and its mountainous landscape), successful environmental campaigns against schemes reliant on car travel and opposition from local stores, have all contributed towards there being few out-of-town developments.

The Swiss retail scene is currently dominated by the high street though the balance is arguably shifting towards shopping centers Department stores remain important in Swiss retailing with a number of major operators including Manor (Maus Frères), Coop City, Globus, Jelmoli and Loeb.

There is an existing stock of some 2.4million sqm of shopping center space in around 170 schemes across Switzerland.  The shopping center market is characterized by a number of medium-size schemes, many of which are centrally located and support the key shopping streets. Many centers are relatively old and small.  Major traffic hubs such as train stations and airports and also sports and entertainment venues have integrated large retail schemes.  The largest shopping center in Switzerland is Shoppi Tivoli in Spreitenbach (Zürich area).  The Glatt shopping center in Wallisellen (Zurich area) has achieves the highest turnover at around CHF 14,613 per sqm.  17% of all retail spending takes place in Shopping Centers.

Retail park space on the other hand is extremely scarce. Stand-alone retail warehouse units and clusters can be found in some parts of the country, but they tend to be fairly limited, both in terms of quality and size.  The retail warehouse market has developed predominantly in suburban areas of the main cities with the presence of international operators such as Hornbach, Jumbo, Lipo, Ikea, Interio, Media Markt and Obi.

On the other hand, the number of factory outlet centers per capita is above the European average, with seven schemes amounting to 97,600 sqm spread across the country. Most of the Swiss factory outlet centers were built in the 1990’s. The first Swiss scheme – Foxtown Mendrisio – opened in 1995 and has since established itself as the premier Swiss factory outlet center. Subsequently, several factory outlet centers have tried to emulate it with varying degrees of success.  The subsequent phase of development brought two additional outlet centers to the market, namely: Aubonne Outlet and Outlet Village Alpenrhein, which opened in 2006 and 2009 respectively.

Online and mail-order generates CHF 5.3 billion in revenue and accounts for approximately 5% of the total retail sales in Switzerland. Home electronics/PC and textiles together produced a CHF 1 billion turnover.

It is possible to enter the Swiss retail market direct, though many also use franchises or enter via concessions/shop-in-shops.

There are no restrictions on foreign companies either buying or renting commercial property in Switzerland.

With regard to rents – especially on the main shopping streets – the market is highly untransparent. Although it is possible to move into an empty shop within a few weeks of receiving building permission, on the prestigious shopping streets, depending on their needs, retailers can wait months or even years for the right space to become available.  Also, since many buildings in the city centers are listed buildings, it is usually not possible to make structural changes.  Permits are required even for erecting a shop sign.


New Entrants to the Market


Lease TermsFor retail, 10 year lease terms are most common. There is no compulsory length for a lease but Swiss law requires rents to be indexed to the Swiss CPI on leases with a minimum length of 5 years (see below). Rents are quoted in CHF per sqm per year. Break options are negotiable.
Rental PaymentPayable monthly or quarterly in advance. Percentage/turnover rents are common in shopping centres and are paid in addition to a base rent. A 6 month deposit / bank guarantee is required. Key money is often paid in the retail sector due to the restricted supply of space. The amount of key money depends on the remainder of the lease term, the fit out and on the rent the current tenant is paying.
Rent ReviewWhere the tenant has a fixed term of at least 5 years, the rent is increased annually in line with the consumer price index. Where the tenant has a fixed term of less than 5 years, the rent may be reviewed in line with changes in the bank base rate of interest. The tenant has no security of tenure after the lease expires unless he can prove exceptional hardship. If a landlord breaks the lease early and not at a contractual break option, he is liable for all related damages or costs that arise. Rent is increased annually in line with the Consumer Price index only if there is an indexation clause in the contract. Consumer Price Index - “Landesindex der Konsumentenpreise”.
Service Charges, Repairs and Insurance External/Structural repairs are the responsibility of the landlord. Internal – the tenant. Service charges are payable. Utilities and any other facility or services are normally included in the service charge, although each item must be clearly stated in the lease contract.
Property Taxes and other costs Tax law varies between cantons. In contrast to the shopping centers, most of the individual units on the main shopping streets are not subject to value added tax (currently 8%).
Disposal of a LeaseDisposal of a lease is permitted when it is considered reasonable. No early termination. No reinstatement responsibilities apart from at the end of the lease when the tenant is responsible for reinstating the premises with the exception of wear and tear. (After assignment of lease, tenant remains liable for 2 years).
Valuation MethodsSpace is measured on the basis of net internal area including toilets, corridors, internal walls and lobby. Excludes lifts and stairs. For valuation purposes floors are allocated different rates, with the ground floor commanding the highest value. No zoning as such.
LegislationThe Swiss civil code of Obligations, last revised in July 1999. Revision of rental legislation is in progress. There is no official standard lease document in Switzerland. A contract is normally drawn up and signed by all relevant parties. Leases are legally binding.