This market commentary is based on Burston Cook’s first hand experience and knowledge in the commercial property sector as one of Bristol's leading commercial property agents and Bristol’s most Active commercial agents, in terms of the number of transactions we handle on a year to year basis. We also have regard to National and International reports and trends.
2019 proved to be an excellent year and indeed a record year for BC although this all now seems a distant memory following the impact on all world economies of Covid-19.
The first quarter of 2020 got off to a good start in Bristol with healthy demand being experienced across all sectors with the exception of High Street retail and some sectors of the restaurant/leisure markets.
The only major concerns during the first quarter were in regard to the potential impact of BREXIT negotiations following the UK’s withdrawal as a member of the European Union on 31st January. Following this, there was still a great deal to sort out and negotiate in order to decide what the UK’ s future relationship would be with the EU, otherwise known as the ‘transition period’. Without entering into too much detail in this commentary, the uncertainty surrounding these negotiations and the impact this might have on UK businesses was likely to cause some concern in the business world in 2020 and beyond, which could well impact upon the commercial property market, however, this has now been superseded somewhat by the more immediate and drastic impact of Covid-19 on the UK and world economies.
Post Covid -19 ‘Lockdown’
At Burston Cook we were making some preliminary preparations for a foreseeable slow down of the market during February, when it was becoming clearer that Covid-19 was spreading to the Western world, however, it was impossible at that stage to foresee the extreme impact we have since all had to bear.
It was becoming clearer during the week commencing 9th March that the Covid-19 tidal wave was fast approaching and our Directors first met on Thursday 12th March to make plans, followed by a more immediate meeting as early as the 16th March where we put in place plans to work remotely -which we actioned on 18th March!
As expected, during the weeks of full lockdown, new agency business dropped dramatically and we were unable to carry out inspections, however, during this time we were working hard to service and maintain all transactions in hand, all existing instructions and we continued to work closely with our clients to help them through the crisis.
During this time, the Government policies to combat Covid-19 and indeed to assist businesses evolved almost on a weekly basis and businesses are started to come to terms with the issues at hand although, it was clear this this was like nothing seen before. This was not a recession, but an almost immediate seizure of trade and business across the majority of business sectors.
Businesses across the board have worked day and night to put in place procedures to help navigate their way through the crisis, to utilize Government assistance, to cut costs and to find new ways of maintaining and creating business opportunities, although the majority of businesses are finding it very hard to predict or plan their future business strategies for at least the next 6 months and perhaps in some sectors, as far as Spring 2021.
Post Easing of Lockdown
To Allow Inspections/Viewings
As soon as we were allowed to carry out viewings and inspections, BC had already put ion place PPE measures to ensure that our offices can be properly and safely staffed and inspections and viewings carried out.
We have been very pleased with the volume of enquiries received across all sectors since this time and surprised by the significant number of applicant enquiries we have received for local retail shops and restaurants, although mainly up to rents of c. £30,000 per annum exclusive. Industrial/ warehouse enquiries have been healthy and whilst we continue to receive office enquiries, many are not poised to make immediate decisions and wanting to see how the next few months play out.
To Work from Home or the Office? …
Our feedback from major occupiers...
Following widescale reports of companies potentially resorting to a greater degree of working from home practices after Covid-19, we can report that from extensive feedback we have had from Bristol’s business owners, office occupiers and employees, working from home for the majority will not become the norm. Employee feedback suggests that for many, they do not have a long term home working facility and even if a space can be set aside at home, the feedback we have had would suggest that there has been an impact on morale together with a feeling of isolation and a loss of human contact in a business environment has had a negative impact on motivation, team spirit, team collaboration, the inability to separate home life from work life, difficulties in mentoring, poorer communication and generally missing team camaraderie and the efficiencies in working as a team under one roof. Equally, employers recognise all these issues and in addition are aware that if staff are encouraged/ forced to work from home after Covid-19, it will only be a matter of time before staff will need to be recompensed by their employer for their space used and costs incurred…
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In the meantime, please stay safe, healthy and positive.