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Editor: Retail landlords are at the centre of a crisis on our high streets with growing customer preference for online shopping accelerated by repeated lockdowns. There could be further trouble ahead with the end to the eviction ban and reintroduction of business rates this spring.
News that Boohoo will purchase Debenhams’ digital business but not its physical stores is testament to the challenges property owners face.
But landlords need not stand idly by as retailers question their commitment to high-street space. Nor should they see their space as a one-dimensional asset made only for retail. If they wait for the axe to fall on the high street, it will simply be too late.
While the pandemic has created immediate challenges for offices, the future for flexible workspace is robust and bright, with demand growing outside traditional urban locations. In fact, JLL anticipates that some 30% of all corporate real estate will be flexible by 2030.
Retail property owners should think seriously about the revenue stream flexible workspace can guarantee post-pandemic. Their options to achieve this are multiple: leasing space to flex workspace operators, forming joint ventures, or managing their own product.
Now is the time for landlords to embrace flexible workspace, with office-based businesses wanting greater flexibility and employees hoping to access the in-person benefits of the office on a more agile basis and closer to home.
This model can play a pivotal role in the ‘levelling up’ agenda, encouraging footfall to working hubs that can reinvigorate the economy. Landlords should think seriously about how to best futureproof their assets for post-pandemic living. Flexible workspace could well be the answer to closing this gap.
Richard Morris, director, technologywithin