Lockdown exit points to better times ahead for business
Today the country will hear from Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on her planned route map to exit lockdown. The details have been widely speculated but one thing is certain: it will not be an easy road for any of us and we will have to endure many bumps and dips on the way.
And as the fog of the coronavirus pandemic slowly begins to recede, businesses are also starting to see through the haze. The government’s furlough scheme has been a lifeline for many but we need the high streets to reopen, offices to start buzzing and consumers to start spending again to truly kick-start the spluttering economy. The first minister has already said that from 28th May some “outdoor work could begin” which was the first clear indication that the construction sector may well be poised for a much-needed return.
Whilst I have spent a lot of time during lockdown fighting fires for landlords whose tenants are unable to pay their rent, it has been good to get back to discussing heads of terms with prospective tenants. Over the last two weeks I have noticed an uptick in commercial property enquiries, primarily through online portals. Encouragingly, interest has been shown in both retail and office premises in Ayrshire, Fife, East Lothian and Edinburgh.
Not all business has been decimated by the lockdown. One owner told me recently: “We supply cleaning and sanitizing products to the rail industry and have never been busier to the point where we now require an additional warehouse facility to cope with demand.” Another has instructed me to source 1,000 sq ft of storage for furniture arriving from overseas which this particular business expects to be able to sell when the high streets re-open. Others, meanwhile, are seeing it as their opportunity to start a business and are seeking their first premises. There is bound to be a hangover, but I am sure the commercial property market will, in time, rebound
Of course, a return to work for everyone can only happen with appropriate social distancing measures continuing to be respected and implemented across workplaces. The virus is falling back but it has not yet started to beat a full retreat. Our offices and shops are likely to be very different places for some time to come and people must feel safe to return. Making this work, like the road out of lockdown, will require some tricky chicanery.