Chief executive, AshbyCapital
We all hope for a marked improvement in the second half of the year; there is every reason to believe that will happen unless there is a second spike. All businesses are facing difficulties, with both landlords’ and tenants’ revenues hit. Experience, creativity and action will be key to grasping the opportunities that will certainly emerge; those who are quickest to adjust to customers’ reordered priorities will thrive.
As we return to work, transport remains a major challenge, with a balance needed between sustainability and safety. Cycling facilities will move up the occupier’s agenda and we may reconsider alternative transport methods such as electric scooters, with opportunities for building owners to adapt their offering to provide more charging points, for example.
The shape of the recovery will be determined by how long the lockdown lasts and how it is eased with regard to social distancing, business support, foreign travel, tracking and testing.
Retail and hospitality are suffering most, but have received significant government support. While some weaker operators will fail, stronger businesses will survive. Within retail, shopping parks are the relative winners: they are most able to accommodate social distancing, are easily accessible by car and increasingly operate as hubs for click-and-collect and drive-through food.
The death of the office has been overstated. While we have discovered we can work effectively from home some of the time, we are social beings and want separation between home and work. Changes already under way in terms of flexible working will accelerate: just as retail has had to work harder to give people a reason to leave home, the office needs to encourage collaboration and interaction to remain relevant. This challenges property professionals to be even closer to our customers’ needs.