Opportunities in Serviced Offices

Colliers International has published a new report on the serviced or flexible workspace sector. Colliers outline how the workplace solutions providers have been hoovering up office space in London at a faster rate than any other sector apart from tech and media.

Flexible office providers have accounted for 18% of take-up across London during 2017 date. Central London is now home to over 7.8 million sq ft of flexible workspace from 4.5 million sq ft in 2009. This is a rise of 73% in eight years, although flexible workspace space currently only represents 4% of total London office stock.

2017 is set to deliver up to 15,000 desks by year end. Serviced office lettings appeared to have peaked at 1.4 million sq ft in 2015, however, 2017 is set to see that figure eclipsed with 1.2 million already let and a further 750,000 sq ft under offer.

WeWork has taken over 1.25 million sq ft of office space within the past 12 months. Blackstone and British Land have both begun in-house flexibile solution without leasing space to major providers like WeWork or Regus.

Paddington and City fringe, have seen increasing vacancy rates below 5,000 sq ft, and Victoria and parts of Midtown have seen void periods double in 2017. The City core has held up, but also seen activity from providers such as WeWork, Prospect Business Centres, i2, Regus and LEO.

Metropolis has researched nearly 20 specific requirements for medium/large London serviced offices in recent months. These new searches come on top of 25 recent transactions for space. Opportunities exist for agents recruiting occupiers for the large new flexible work centres, for fit-out contractors refurbishing usually previously vacant space, for furniture providers and removal firms handling the myriad moves to the new buildings.

Colliers say the need for short leases and flexible space, particularly since the Brexit vote, is driving demand for increasing volumes of flexible workspace space. Although, flexible workspace only represents 4% of London office stock, it looks set to become an important slice of the market, not just in London, but increasingly in regional cities too.

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£1bn up for grabs on Metropolis

With over 6,000 office movers reported on Metropolis each year, we looked at an estimate of the total expenditure on relocation costs by these companies. Metropolis  estimate the total size of the office movers market in the UK each year.

Firstly, we looked at the average size of move. Metropolis tends to concentrate on the middle and larger end of the office relocation market, the total size of all listed office moves in the last year planned and implemented was over 80 million sq ft. Making some adjustments for updates, where company plans are updated more than once in the year, we arrived at 50m sq ft of unique office moves, both completed (space found), still deciding (potential mover) and searching (identified requirement).

We calculated an average office move size during the year of just over 8,000 sq ft. We then applied this average to a number of industry cost estimates.

Office fit-out costs can range between £15-£60 psf. If we take the most conservative estimate of £15 psf over 50m sq ft, these moves could generate £750m of expenditure on fit-out. Much more per office mover in central London.

Office agent fees, conservatively estimated at 2% of annual rent. If all 25m sq ft of office moves currently planned, but yet to take place, were considered around an average of £20 psf then office agency fees offer a potential £50m.

Furniture can also be a lucrative area for suppliers. Assuming 300,000 staff will move or be moving in the future, as part of these 6,000 office moves, if half of the companies spent a modest £500 on each employee for desk and chair this would total £75m. Of course this would be supplemented by additional furniture and some much higher expenditure at blue chip companies.

Removals can cost upwards of £10,000 for a small office and 40-50 staff. So conservatively, assuming some companies do not move, some expand into adjacent space and some move themselves, say £70m of business a year.

Cabling and IT upgrades can also provide opportunities for suppliers. Leaving aside the booming fintech sector, every company needs ever more sophisticated IT systems. With over 50m sq ft of unique moves this market can easily exceed £100m.

Other professional fees for dilapidations, consultancy and disposal costs can also provide opportunities, but these can be difficult to generalise.

In conclusion, on the most conservative estimates the potential business being signposted on metropolis is well over £1bn per year. Probably in reality over £2bn if less conservative assumptions are made.

Sources: Cushman & Wakefield Occupier Fit Out Cost Guide; http://www.getamover.co.uk; Morgan Lovell Office Relocation Checklist; Savills; Metropolis;