London and the 'New Normal'3 April 2020There is consensus that the current world situation will lead to a reshaping of the way we live globally and, of course, this extends to the way in which we’ll shop.Prior to the pandemic, it was thought that the UK’s propensity to shop online had plateaued with the web accounting for around a quarter of our total retailing spend. The picture was pretty much the same with food shopping with online accounting for around 7% of UK supermarkets’ total revenues. However, the new habits formed in the past few weeks and in the months to come may change those proportions.In a survey of more than 2,200 marketers conducted by Econsultancy and Marketing Week last week, 71% of UK marketers predicted that there will be an increase in ecommerce usage as a result of coronavirus. A substantial number people who were previously reluctant to shop online for whatever reason have been compelled to do so and will form habits that they do not relinquish in future.But if this is the general retailing landscape, what will the legacy of the pandemic be for London? Well, of course, the immediate impact has been profound as social distancing remains the key weapon in fighting the spread of Covid-19.However, looking further into a future when there will be respite from these measures, London will remain the ultimate experiential shopping city. Its blend of high fashion, street style, heritage and innovation is unmatched in the world and that will not change. The challenges in the medium-term will be around who is able to come and shop in London. It has for decades been a focal point for international tourism and, in that context, a resumption in global air travel will be key to bringing shoppers back.Whilst London’s high-end, luxury retailing streets will retain their cachet and attraction, the shops serving the middle-market will have to redouble their efforts – especially if the impact of the pandemic on the economy means more muted consumer spending. In order to woo shoppers, brands will need to use all their ingenuity to revamp their offer at accessible price points.The pandemic is also changing the way we think about our lives and the world we live in. as we head towards the ‘new normal’, the rise of ethical, socially responsible brands will accelerate, and London will have to explore how it can meet people’s hunger for experiences and excitement as millions come out of self-isolation.Author:Matthew ThompsonMatthew.Thompson@colliers.com+44 20 7344 6817
Up Close With Watch House3 April 2020Whilst at university, Roland Horne started a business which designed and installed high-end aquariums. Then a passing conversation with a friend eventually led him to founding Watch House – one of the most distinctive café brands across London.So Roland, from fish tanks to pulling flat whites, how did that happen?I’d been running the aquarium business for about five years straight out of uni when a friend asked me to go into a joint venture with him to open a coffee shop concept. I was going to finance it, and he was going to run it. In the end he had to pull out. I thought: “Let’s just go for it” and found a great little space on Bermondsey Street, London Bridge: £6k a year rent, no business rates, five-year lease, Council landlord. So the worst case scenario if it all failed was that I’d be down £30k if I had to close the door and wait for the lease to run out.The first Watch House opened in September 2014 and it flew; it went really, really well.What was the secret of its success?Providing excellent coffee and food in a space that you really actually wanted to be in seemed obvious to me but nobody really did it. At that time, there were the big coffee chains where the product was OK and the service was generally good but they weren’t exactly inspiring places to be in. I felt there had to be a better way.And then you took a year off?(Laughs) Yes, well I’d gone straight from uni into setting up my first business and never had that break. So my partner and I took our sabbatical travelling through many coffee plantations and when I came back in 2016 I realised that the scalability of A1 coffee/F&B was very appealing to me compared to the aquarium world. Whilst the profits were great - the value of the aquarium business was always going to be in the people rather than the product. So I sold my shares and we opened the second Watch House near Tower Bridge which also flew from the off.You must’ve thought: ‘Wow, this is easy!’I did but I soon came back down to earth. We were lucky on the first two sites, and when we opened a third store on Fetter Lane in Holborn, got an alcohol licence and tried to do all-day dining but that really didn’t work in that location. I’d forgotten to ask myself the key question: ‘As a customer, would I go to this place!?’. If I had, I would have said ‘no’ – it was too confusing. It launched and made a small profit, but it wasn’t Watch House and it certainly wasn’t me.So in the end we closed it for two weeks in 2018, completely revamped the concept and interiors including changed seating and we got rid of the alcohol. We focused on what we were good at: a best-in-class daytime café operator with great coffee and food and it began to really perform. It was an interesting lesson and today the site is our busiest coffee site.You seem to have picked up the pace of openings since then?Yes, we were trading really well at our first Tower Bridge cafe when Columbia Threadneedle, the developer of the nearby Courage Yard scheme, offered us a very large site on great terms, and that has gone from strength to strength.Last year we opened in Spitalfields, and about the same time sold an equity stake in the business to our venture capital partners Edition Capital. This ultimately enabled us to acquire the Fernandez & Wells sites which had four outlets that are now changing to Watch Houses. Since then we have completed our Series B funding round and we are really kicking on.So after Boris Johnson addressed the nation on March 16th did the sky fall in?It was a shock for sure, but we quickly saw the benefits. We were due to open our own roastery on April 1st which would have taken us to nine sites, but obviously that had to be postponed. And of course things got very serious when we chose to close all our outlets which we did relatively early on. But the furlough support for businesses has been a real game changer. With 80% of staff salaries paid by the Government, we can cover the shortfall and keep the business ready to move forward again. In addition, we also launched our Project Pool scheme which saw salaried members of staff sacrifice 25% of their income to subsidise the hourly members of staff. This has resulted in 100% staff retention during this period. I was really proud of the team for this.You sound pretty optimistic?Well, we’ve clearly all got a long way to go before the world looks even remotely normal again but yes I have a bullish outlook compared to most. We’ve always wanted to grow the brand but only in a sustainable and quality driven way. No one likes brand rollouts - largely because a lot have been done so poorly over the years. But there’s nothing wrong with having a multi-site operation as long as that operation is always about quality. Watch House is in a really excellent position to springboard out of this period so we are excited in some ways and can see the opportunities already starting to become apparent.And how do you achieve that?It’s about authenticity. Keeping faithful to where you started and continuing to guarantee quality and excellent customer experience. Bringing your staff into that culture is really the key. Too many places just throw you an apron and tell you to serve someone.There’s a chain in New York called Blue Bottle who are, in my view, the gold standard in terms of culture and having staff who understand what and why they’re serving. I went to what must have been 10 of their outlets one summer and there were all uniformly excellent. I later discovered that when you join Blue Bottle as a server you have a full five-day immersion course into the business - completely ‘off the tools’ - and their ethos before they let you anywhere near a customer. It was inspiring to me and we strive to better their approach.There’s always going to be a clear connection between that sort of commitment and the quality of your offer.
130 Wood St1 April 2020A rare city opportunity proves to be just the ticket for overseas buyerFound in the heart of the City and a stone’s throw from St Paul’s Cathedral, 130 Wood Street is close to many of the district’s shops, gyms and restaurants. It was this, coupled with the fact that the property is fully let to four tenants including Buzzacott and Louis Capital Markets that made it attractive to its new owners following a £55 million deal by the City investment team.Directly opposite the popular City shopping destination of One New Change, which also houses Madison wine bar and its spectacular views over London, occupiers are not short of places to spend their lunch break (and pay). Nearby neighbours in this renowned financial district include a range of international firms including Investec, London Stock Exchange and Commerzbank.The Grade A office building provides a total of 57,976 sq ft of internal space across six floors and there are ample outdoor areas that make the most of the views over St Paul’s Cathedral. Occupiers at 130 Wood Street can enjoy not just one, but two roof terraces alongside a first-floor courtyard terrace.The property was acquired in an off-market deal by a Japanese client of Colliers, with the price representing £950 per sq ft.
Coming Full Circle in Paddington16 March 2020After completing the deal within seven days of their first viewing, Moon Intelligence have now moved into their new office in Paddington.Founded in March 2018 by Alexandru Luneau and Sebastian Sabic, Moon Intelligence is a sporting algorithm start-up that sells the data from its sporting events predictions. The firm was operating out of a flat in the Paddington area when they approached us in search of their very first office space.In our initial conversation, the company was fully convinced that a self-contained floor on a conventional lease arrangement was what they should be looking for, but had been searching for something suitable for several months with little success.It's often the case with companies seeking their first workspace that more options are available than they realise or even know about, and so it was with Moon Intelligence. A lengthy discussion around their plans and concerns revealed a commonplace truth: that a conventional lease with its long-term commitment really didn't suit a fledgling start-up at this moment in its life.Given the very possible need for rapid expansion at potentially very short notice – a regular occurrence in start-up culture – we mooted the idea of serviced offices to give the company comfort around the length of time and agility in the event of a sudden change in requirements. And with the desire for close proximity to Paddington station, we suggested Moon Intelligence take a look at 19 Eastbourne Terrace from The Office Group. Not only is the site close to the station; it has a secret members entrance directly off Platform 1.The Office Group is the only serviced office provider to have a contract with National Rail and has a presence in numerous London termini including Kings Cross, Victoria and Liverpool Street. One of the company’s first locations, 19 Eastbourne Terrace wraps its comprehensive offering of meeting rooms, break out lounge, shower facilities, etc in a beautiful Grade II Listed building.Moon Intelligence took an office of approximately 600sq ft split across two rooms, with floor-to-ceiling windows, plenty of natural light and 12 desks in situ. The initial viewing took place on February 21st and, with the space, location, amenities and terms all ticking the right boxes, papers were signed and the deal closed one week later on February 28th. And proving the popularity of the location with its members, the previous occupant vacated to expand into a larger space within the building.The icing on the cake is that Sebastian used to work at 19 Eastbourne Terrace at his previous company: a true case of what goes around, comes around.
“I grow old…I grow old…I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled,” T.S. Elliot13 March 2020“I grow old…I grow old…I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled,” T.S. Elliot writes in his masterful poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.
You might be asking why on earth we’re quoting poetry about hipster fashion habits and we’ll tell you why.We’re shamelessly (mis-)using it by means of introduction to the Verse Building (poetry? Verse? Get it?!), which is located in London’s spiritual home of the trouser-rolling hipster, Old Street.What do you think of the segue now? Clunky? Yeah, maybe a bit.But there’s absolutely nothing clunky about Verse Building, or its sister development next door, the now-fully let, Chapter House.The scheme, designed by world renown architects BucklyGrayYeoman, combines state of the art design, connectivity and sustainability to bring just over 17,000 Ft2 of office space across 8 fabulous floors to the market.And perhaps the least clunky, most funky, sickest, slickest (how’s that for verse) part of renting here is the bespoke fit-out service on offer.You can work with a design consultant to get your branding in place and to configure the space to make your business model flow.Then dive deeper into detail and choose from a curated range of high-spec finishes: from flooring to feature-walls to kitchen cupboard finishes and everything in between.We’ve also created a streamlined paperwork process, meaning the time from initial viewing to moving into your fully fitted office is 8 weeks.And if you’d rather take the space open plan (CAT A), then that option is, of course, always on offer too. A range of rents reflecting letting, design and fit-out preferences is available.Whichever way you go, your offices will be part of a thriving environment in a building which has a commissionaire, air-conditioning, openable windows, almost 3m ceilings, cycle spaces, lockers and showers for everything your team needs.Verse Building is moments from the Northern Line at Old Street and no more than a 10-minute walk from the soon-to-arrive Elizabeth Line at Moorgate. Shoreditch High Street Overground is also 10 minutes by foot, and a whole host of buses connect every which way.Bars, restaurants, markets, music venues, shopping, art and fashion fill the area with colour, scent and sound. Some local favourites are Nightjar, Shoreditch Grind, and Lyle’s, but that’s really just scratching the surface. Speaking of which, the surface area of Old Street roundabout is undergoing one big transformational scratch and will soon be an open, public space designed for pedestrians and cyclists making the neighbourhood an even greener place to work.So roll up those trousers, before you get old, and come take a look. Call us on 020 7101 2020 to arrange a viewing.
Ideas factory: creative workspaces in a former printworks on Wenlock Basin12 March 2020When it comes to getting the creative juices flowing, there’s little to beat sitting by a canal in with a coffee from the cafe in the cobbled courtyard of a former Victorian printing works, now home to a series of contemporary workspaces and alive with the positive energy of creative firms.Waterside, on Wharf Road in N1, sits on Wenlock Basin between The Regent’s Canal City Road and is part of the corridor that links Old Street roundabout to Islington. It’s a strip of the City Fringe that’s become a string of eye-catching architecture with residential and commercial developments along with numerous art galleries.The Waterside building is a former Victorian printing factory and we currently have three units available and another three coming up soon, making an excellent solution for businesses seeking the flexibility for future expansion without having to relocate.Currently on offer are: a ground and lower ground floor unit of 3,764 ft²; a second and mezzanine floor unit of 1,840 ft²; and a lower ground floor unit of 507 ft². Coming soon are: a lower ground floor duplex of 1,900 ft²; and a first floor unit of 1,596 ft². Each workspace is available either fully fitted as a plug and play unit, or with a Cat A fit-out for you to create exactly the kind of environment you want for your company.Much of the building’s industrial heritage has been retained including sandy coloured brickwork and stone reliefs, large factory windows, and plenty of exposed features along with galvanised conduit running overhead for wiring and services. The plug-and-play specification includes engineered oak wood flooring, contemporary lighting, meeting rooms, breakout areas, kitchenettes, desks and chairs.The one of the most noticeable things about Waterside is the thriving community atmosphere that permeates the entire development. It feels like there's always somebody somewhere to bump into, collaborate with or simply say hello, and there's a general sense of immense creativity at work along with a delight to be working in such a place.More than a picturesque urban setting, the location is ideal for attracting the very best talent your business with Old Street and Angel stations nearby and a simple walk along the canal taking you into Shoreditch or Islington for some of the best and eating, drinking and fun in London.Waterside also has a full-time on-site commissionaire, loading access and cycle storage. Lease terms are flexible and available from terms of 12 months upwards. If you like to discover if you'd like to find out whether waterside is suitable for your business please give the city fringe team a call.
Minister for Electrification?4 March 2020It now seems a long time ago since driving an expensive 4x4 – or ‘Chelsea tractor’ – around London was seen as a status symbol. Today, the emphasis in urban areas is – quite rightly - on sustainability and the environment. The issue of London’s air quality is now high on the political agenda and will no doubt figure prominently in the run-up to May’s mayoral election.In that context, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement regarding the ban on selling new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars being brought forward from 2040 to 2035 should have been welcomed.However, this may be a case of hitting the accelerator at the wrong time. Most vehicle manufacturers are now starting to produce electric cars on a mass scale and the sector is clearly adapting. But while the Government’s plans are welcome in terms of their commitment, the e-vehicle market is still in its infancy and the government should, in the first instance, be concentrating on a clear and cohesive strategy for nationwide charging infrastructure roll-out, or even appointing a ‘Minister for Electrification’, such is the important of this to the environment, UK vehicle manufacturers and the motor retailing sector.A combined undersupply of charging points both at home and ‘on the move’ together with apprehension over lengthy charging times is currently contributing to a lack of buyer confidence and ‘range anxiety’. Meanwhile, concerns over the ability of the current UK energy supply to meet future demand and the lack of guidance for landlords and developers for integrating charging points in to commercial premises is causing misperceptions.Charging a vehicle at your home is fine if you have off-street parking, but most central London residents don’t. Some London Boroughs are selectively placing charging points in lamp posts. This is a great initiative, but what happens when every vehicle is electric? We already see cables stretched for 20 metres along the pavement which is a safety risk and open to vandalism.There needs to be more consistency in terms of the approach to the infrastructure. At the moment it seems a ‘free for all’ approach has been adopted, so anyone with an electrical vehicle who arrives at a charging point does not even know what type of charge they are going to receive, and whether it will even work. And, as charging times improve, the need for higher levels of electricity is also required, but some locations are not able to provide the required capacities.Further infrastructure needs to be created, particularly at existing petrol filling stations and arterial route locations. Filling a vehicle with petrol or diesel takes a matter of minutes, but even e-vehicle superchargers take significantly longer.The addition of charging points at filling stations in town and city car parks, shopping centres, retail parks, supermarkets and new public ‘charging parks’ represents both a challenge and an opportunity for landlords and developers.But whilst it’s good that Prime Minister Johnson is attuned to society’s desire for a better environment, he first needs to show support for the required infrastructure. If the mass migration of drivers to e-vehicles is going to be a realistic and achievable goal, the UK Government needs to fully support both the property and automotive retailing sectors, including petrol retailers, - rather than simply bringing a deadline five years forward.Author:John Robertsjohn.email@example.com+44 121 265 7553
168 Shoreditch High Street4 March 2020Stand outside 168 Shoreditch High St and swing a cat and within a single swivel you’ll hit the Michelin starred Brat, members club Shoreditch House, hipster hotel and hangout Ace, and a near infinite number of other delights to boot.Drop the now-disgruntled cat and cooly enter this brand-new warehouse-inspired office building located within the very heart of the heart of Shoreditch, and you’ll see there’s as much to excite the senses inside as out.The first and second floors are available either open plan (CAT A) or Fully Fitted, meaning you have either a blank canvas to create your perfect space or a ready-to-go, fully furnished option for an instant move in.Linear handmade brick and black powder coated windows combine to recall the area’s industrial history while curtain walling and black vertical fins on the upper floors create an altogether dramatic visual impression.Naturally bright and airy interiors with substantial ceiling heights provide space to move and breathe. Windows span three full elevations and flood the building in daylight. Air-conditioning, state-of-the-art WCs, showers, elevators, and bike storage complete the facilities.The nearest stations are Shoreditch High Street on the Overground (less than a 5-minute walk) and Old Street on the Northern Line (just over 10 minutes by foot), while a choice of busses—linking to the City and beyond—stop a literal hop away.As well as the aforementioned local landmarks, you have top quality independent retail, further fine dining and food markets, gym and exercise studios, street art, and music venues all within cat-swinging distance too.The first floor space at 168 Shoreditch High St totals 5,874 Ft2, the second floor, 5,876 Ft2, and both are available.Call us on 020 7101 2020 to arrange a viewing. Bring a cat.
eSports: from sofa to shopping centre?25 February 2020eSports: from sofa to shopping centre?
The stereotype image of the video gamer is someone rooted to a sofa while a TV flickers in a darkened living room or they’re up in their bedroom gazing fixedly at a PC screen while jabbing at mouse and keyboard.
However, it seems that video gaming is moving from solitary pastime to spectator sport with the emergence of ‘eSports’– and this is could be good news for property landlords.
Last year, the eSports market grew to $1.1bn. That was year-on-year growth of about 26% and the sector is forecast to jump up to around $2.3bn within three years according to Forbes. Growth is also being fuelled by the competitive nature of gaming: in 2019, Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite offered prize money of more than $100m for competitive tournaments.
And like mainstream sports, the best players of these games are also attracting an audience. First, this was through online platforms like YouTube and Twitch but now it’s moving to physical spaces ‘game arenas’ where you pay to watch and learn from the best players who are often competing as part of corporate sponsored teams.
And, like regular sports, if you prefer to play rather than watch there are smaller centres. In London this trend has seen the expansion of the Belong Gaming Arenas introduced by the retailer, Game, to sit alongside their traditional retail stores, and for Wanyoo to acquire their first UK gaming café on Charing Cross Road. Wanyoo is Asia’s largest gaming café chain with 1,000-plus cafes in more than 50 cities.
Revenue streams are driven by playing fees – typically £5-7 an hour – or the cost of admission if you’re watching your gaming heroes in arenas such as Gfinity eSports arena in Fulham Broadway. And, of course, there’s lots of scope for adding on food and drink offers.
On average, Wanyoo’s gamers stay in venues for 3-5 hours. While audience dwell times are shorter, the game developers are looking at how they can embed advertising in the same way that you have hoardings around a pitch in a televised football game with companies such as Bidstack bridging the gap between game developers and advertisers.
And the cross-fertilisation of the digital and real worlds doesn’t stop there: celebrities like Michael Jordan, Drake and Gareth Bale have made substantial investments into the eSports sector.
The good news for landlords is that these eSport centres don’t have any particular property requirements other than size; they have taken units on high street locations and shopping centres, and are not too precious about ground, first floor and basement spaces!
The global eSports audience is now estimated to be around 450m people and, of course, many of the gamers who cut their teeth on Counter Strike, Quake and SuperMario more than 20 years ago are still playing today so the sector has a strong demographic profile.
And, if you’re not sure that eSports are here to stay then consider this: they’re under consideration for inclusion at forthcoming Olympic Games.
Fuelling debate: will occupiers pay more for eco-friendly workspace?18 December 2019From the chairman of RIBA’s sustainability group to the mayor of New York City, there is a growing number of industry experts and public figures questioning the wisdom of building ever-more air-conditioned glass skyscrapers if the property sector and cities want take climate change seriously.
Even as far back as the late 1940s, the Swiss architect Le Corbusier was a vocal critic of the world’s first full air-conditioned glass tower, the UN Secretariat in New York, attacking it as unsuitable for the local climate. But the gleaming aesthetics took hold a city’s global credentials are often judged by the height and mass of its glittering skyline.
But the problems of regulating the temperature of glass buildings go back further than that, with a visit to London’s Crystal Palace a very different picture than the beautiful sketches we see depicting the Great Exhibition. The reality was of huge canvass curtains hanging around the interior to keep the giant greenhouse from overheating – something that proved horribly difficult to control – and blocking out much of the building’s glass aesthetic and natural light.
According to The International Energy Agency, the built environment produces around 40% of global carbon dioxide emissions, with the energy used on cooling alone now accounting for a chilling 14% of all energy use. As temperatures rise, so air conditioning needs to work harder, using not only more energy but increasing the wear and demand on systems with the likely result of shortening their lifespan.
As we have seen with the New Routemaster buses in London, the simple act of opening a window and letting in a breeze can be more pleasant, more reliable and more popular than air-conditioning, not to mention more eco-efficient. But the realities of big city noise and air pollution are an obstacle in applying this to many new office buildings, despite an estimated energy saving of around 60-70%.
We are conscious to plastic bags, excess packaging and littering the oceans, with changes in awareness bringing about major changes in habits. But what about the spaces we work in? The technology exists to build more energy-efficient buildings – and many landlords and developers we speak to in the early stages of their projects express an enthusiasm and desire in attaining a BREEAM rating – but the big question hanging over the conversation has been whether occupiers would care enough to put their money where their sustainably statements are. The latest research from CoStar answers that question with a resounding yes.
Over the last decade, BREEAM-rated buildings have attracted a significant premium, with an average increase in value of £374 psf since 2009, almost double the national market average of £196 psf.
The UK has around 1,700 office buildings with a BREEAM rating, with London hosting about half of them with just over 800 accreditations, making up about 3.5% of the Capital’s total office inventory. That percentage is the highest in the country and includes one of the world’s most sustainable offices, Bloomberg Place, where technology and innovation include smart ventilation, water conservation and half a million bulbs of efficient LED lighting.
In second place for numbers is the South-East with just over 150 buildings, although that accounts for just 1% of the total office inventory. In percentage terms it’s Wales that takes second place with 2.1%, followed by the North East and Northern Ireland, both around 1.5%.
It should be noted that these buildings are usually not 100-storey crystalline towers and tend to use materials other than glass and steel. But if we are to continue building upwards to cope with increased capacity, perhaps the answer lies in birthplace of the skyscraper, New York City. The origins of the world’s most recognisable skyline were in tall buildings of brick and stone that are no less striking than contemporary glass structures: no-one could accuse the Empire State or Chrysler Buildings of being inconspicuous or, in today’s terms, non-iconic. Could reinterpretations using the materials of then with the design of today and the technology of tomorrow be the solution to tall cities and high efficiency?
So if the demand is there and backed by hard evidence that occupiers will pay significantly more for an environmentally-friendly workspace, why are we not building more efficiently more often? Perhaps the missing link is simple awareness in the property sector. If more landlords and developers were aware of the financial opportunity of efficient buildings, surely an increase in delivery would follow? When looking at the increased amenity given to buildings to attract higher rents (gyms, wellness suites, cafes, lounges, terraces, etc), landlords have shown that they are all in.
As agents, we are uniquely positioned to convey the message. With such willingness among occupiers to pay a premium, yet with each UK’s region’s extremely low supply of BREEAM rated workspace, there is huge potential to not only build, but also to upgrade existing office space, in way that makes sound financial sense, delivers greater ecological rewards and lays the foundations of a sustainable future for expanding cities.
In short, a win-win solution.
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