Well, it's been an interesting time to say the least recently and again we are back in a supposed lockdown!
In our role as agents in the commercial property sector, one of the benefits is that you get to see patterns emerging before others do sometimes more often than not with the requirements that hit your desk (or dining room table these days). Further patterns can be seen as a result of the deals that you agree and complete as well as the mindset you live your life with and have a continual interest as to why you are often seeing the trends you do in the various property sectors.
Indications appear to be that secondary/suburban locations are becoming more popular and stronger trading locations than in previous years. Despite not being able to go inside we will have all recently seen massive lines of customers outside the local Coffee Shops, Butchers & Bakers (will we see the return of the candlestick makers?).
Over the last few months, we have seen a real surge for secondary positions and have completed lettings to home furnishing retailers, coffee shops, hair & beauty operators, financial service providers, tattooists, and several other operators in locations outside of the main city centres in spite of Covid and the economic climate.
So we ask ourselves what is the reason for this shift in shopping pattern that is giving strength to the suburbs?
I guess first of all we have to ask ourselves, who are the business owners choosing to locate to these spots and why? As a result of the economic situation, both pre & post-Covid are we seeing a greater number of people jumping out of the rat race and looking to control their own destiny, looking for premises that are affordable and close to home? I think this could be a major factor.
As opposed to those looking for a career change are those looking at geographical change giving up the commute and working from home. With so much home working, new customer bases have been created in villages and small commuter towns. Whilst not in the office, the need to pop out for some fresh air and treat yourself to lunch or coffee, get a haircut or indulge in some retail therapy still exists!
Another important factor could surely be cost! Whilst it doesn’t apply to all businesses, we are seeing many that are looking to adapt their model so they can save costs on rent and most importantly dead costs such as business rates! Where business rates can be eradicated by simply moving to more secondary and possibly smaller premises this is quite simply a sensible choice for operators where they can save a significant sum of money and adopt the profit is sanity viewpoint.
Shopping Local is another big factor... A big factor indeed, I believe. One of the real positives to come out of Covid has been the unity it created in communities in the first lockdown. Across social media, we saw many campaigns encouraging people to shop local. Constantly being in the vicinity of your local shops helped allow this whereas limited delivery slots at supermarkets forced this upon some shoppers. I know from my own personal experience we reverted to using local butchers, fishmongers & grocers and more often than not experienced a better product.
So changing times, lifestyle changes, online sales, parking charges, working from home, planning changes, small business rates relief and shopping local are just a few of the reasons that are making suburban trading locations that much stronger and potentially taking us back to the past and creating names such as 15-minute cities!