The industry may not quite be full of the joys of spring yet, but it appears finally to have left the winter of discontent behind it.
Property Week’s latest sentiment survey, conducted a year on from the start of lockdown one and this extraordinary working from home experiment, reveals almost 80% of people are more upbeat about the future than they were three months ago. While the outlook is not universally sunny, there is renewed optimism even in the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, including retail and hospitality.
There is still concern about the future of offices, which is hardly surprising considering the sector has experienced a full-blown existential crisis over the past year, but that concern is largely reserved for traditional offices. Most think flexible workspace will emerge from the pandemic relatively unscathed, a finding supported by new data from Kontor showing a 110% uplift in enquiries about flexible workspace since September.
The feeling is that while we will see more occupiers radically downsize their office requirements, others will simply switch from traditional to flexible workspace or expect more flexible terms on their traditional workspace.
Interestingly, Kontor does not see the hub-and-spoke model gaining as much traction as originally predicted. Me neither. While we may have changed the way we work forever, I think this will manifest itself as fewer days in the office, not a shift to suburban offices, unless by suburban offices you mean homes (and that’s the main reason the office is not dead – who wants to WFH five days a week?)
There is more evidence this week that the industry is finally taking its foot off the brakes. Southampton City Council has approved Sovereign Centros’s proposals for the £250m Leisure World scheme in Southampton and Hammerson has submitted an application to convert the Debenhams in Highcross, Leicester, into housing.
On the subject of Hammerson, it is great to hear how bullish its new chief executive Rita-Rose Gagné is about the future despite a miserable set of results. She also clearly possesses a sense of humour. How much of the estimated £250bn consumers are expected to spend when we emerge from this does she want Hammerson to grab? “All of it,” she quips. I like her style.
And now to us
You will notice something different about this week’s issue. Among the many brilliant suggestions made by our new Diversity & Inclusion Editorial Advisory board was the reintroduction of picture bylines to highlight the diversity of the editorial team. So, we have brought them back, starting with the section heads and feature writers. You can now finally ‘meet’ the team.
Many have not yet met each other in person (a third joined just before or during lockdown one). They are a brilliant bunch. Like many of you, they have had to overcome adversity but have kept going. Thanks largely to their hard work, Property Week is currently PPA business magazine brand of the year, it has a market-leading net audience of 401,074 (and counting) and it has seen its digital engagement levels soar.
Like you, they are more optimistic about the future than they were. They are also hopeful they will be able to meet you – and each other – soon in person. Fingers crossed.