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Three ways to drive sustainability in our neighbourhoods

By News

It can be easy to forget that as developers, governments, architects, urbanists, and/or creative agencies – we hold an immense power to influence sustainable actions in the places we create. This is critical, as while sustainability is a priority to many, it can often be overwhelming to know where to start and create an impact on an individual level. For example, a poll by the American Psychological Association discovered that 56 per cent of US adults consider climate change to be the most important issue facing society today, yet four in ten have not made any changes in their behaviour to reduce their contribution to the issue. This trend, where values often do not follow through to action is common worldwide.

Now, initiatives are emerging to help make sustainability convenient, a bastion of collective pride, and influence more conscious consumption in our neighbourhoods and cities. The following are a set of my favourite case studies with some learnings to inspire.

Collective pride and identity 

Cities and towns are beginning to reframe their identities through the lens of environmental issues on which they take an active stance whilst simultaneously encouraging greener choices by residents and visitors. In the United Kingdom, 705 communities have achieved “plastic-free” status from Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), a national maritime charity which unites whole communities against single-use plastic, including straws, cutlery, carry bags and coffee cups.

 Why it works:

“Plastic-free” status is achieved through SAS’ criteria: lobbying government support; encouraging businesses to abolish single-use plastic; raising awareness with schools and youth groups; arranging events; and establishing a steering group for the long term. This approach rightfully considers the entire system at play and helps to ensure holistic change beyond a short-term ‘moment’ or flashy campaign.

(UK towns aren’t the only ones going plastic-free – Milan, Montreal, and Taiwan, are among other global cities with similar goals.)

Putting it into practice:

For developers and local councils, consider creating similar ‘sustainable toolkits’ or cheat-sheets with your communities to achieve eco outcomes in ways that are easy, share responsibility and take a long-term approach.

Conscious consumption 

Another angle to this movement is the championing of eco-conscious businesses to influence consumer choice. One particular initiative is “Think Sustainably”, launched by the Demos Helsinki think tank and supported by the City of Helsinki government. Local businesses, galleries and restaurants are scored based on environmental and social sustainability criteria which include accessibility, discrimination prevention, waste management and greenhouse emissions, among other metrics. The website (responsible for marketing the city) displays a green seal on participating businesses, allowing visitors and locals to make eco-minded choices.

 Why it’s clever:

The website is also Helsinki’s front door to prospective visitors, international business and future talent. Credible sustainability initiatives like this can be a strategy for city growth and competitiveness, by attracting the growing cohorts of ethically minded people – namely Millennials and Gen-Z, the majority of whom are much more willing to spend more on sustainable products than Gen X or Baby Boomers. As these consumers come of age and become more influential in business, they have a greater potential to exercise their preference for places which resonate with their values.

Putting it into practice:

For retail asset owners, Mainstreet organisations and Business Improvement Districts – deploy initiatives to celebrate sustainable local businesses, and consider setting your own ‘sustainability standard’ for your tenants.

Reframing convenience

Undeniably, high levels of car ownership place a significant toll on urban liveability and global emissions. Yet for many it is a lifestyle convenience or necessity which is hard to give up. To counteract this, developers and city governments are implementing strategies to reduce car usage – primarily by making it inconvenient. In doing so, public space is reclaimed and walkability enhanced. The commercial incentive is the creation of places that are more liveable, attractive to talent and tourism.

A key example of a low-car development is the district of Ørestaden in Copenhagen. Car ownership is disincentivised by the absence of street parking, having the city’s most expensive parking permits, and locating free parking 1 kilometre from the village centre.

The proposed district of Merwede in the Netherlands also uses similar tactics, with parking being highly expensive, unallocated, and at a ratio of one space for every three households. Similarly, zero-emissions neighbourhood in Dokken, Norway, by architecture firm Third Nature, has also designed-in car-free areas.

Why it works:

While the measures has seen the rate of car ownership in Ørestaden being 27 per cent lower than the rest of the city – harsh disincentives cannot succeed in isolation. The district counterbalances this change with adequate public transport connections to deliver a convenient and liveable urban experience.

Putting it into practice:

For developers and architects working on new builds, consider implementing strategic design decisions, initiatives and services which offer alternative options for sustainable lifestyle choices.

Change must come from all tiers

While the case studies presented offer a tight cross-section – what I find most heartening is that they come from multiple directions – grass roots, city governments, architects, urbanists, and tech-platforms. Climate change is everyone’s opportunity to create a better future, and as professionals in the built environment we have the ability to pick up the pace, in lieu of slow-moving federal systems.

For more key trends set to positively shape our neighbourhoods, download the full Nimble Neighbourhoods report here.  

About Brickfields Consulting

Brickfields Consulting offers specialist property research and strategy consultancy. By unlocking market knowledge, we enable you to capture the true value of your assets. It is our belief that only in understanding their market, can owners fully realise the potential of place. This belief has created a market reputation which is built on a decade-long track record of delivering innovative solutions through an adaptable mindset.

Over the past decade Brickfields Consulting has worked to deliver commercial workplace strategies for major landlords, including AMP Capital, Mirvac, AXA, ISPT, Frasers and Dexus.

Permanent WFH Inevitable

By News

Significant disruption as majority of commercial tenants believe permanent working from home inevitable.

Following the recent announcement that ANZ is shifting to a permanent ‘working-from-home’ (WFH) policy, commercial landlords should justifiably be concerned.

Research conducted in October 2020 with office tower (10+ storey) decision-makers indicates that 56 per cent expect that they will have changed their working-from-home policies within the next 12 months. Conversely, only 12 per cent thought they would not change their WFH policy within the next 12 months.

Research leader David Grant, Director of Brickfields Consulting, indicated that “even if only a portion of these tenants act on this intention, basic calculations suggest that there will be significant vacancies. The challenge for commercial landlords as the pendulum shifts in favour of tenants should not be under-estimated.”

Since March 2020, CBIT (COVID Business Impact Tracker) research has been measuring the changing behaviours, perceptions and intentions of office tower decision-makers. The research has utilised Australia’s largest online panel to gather responses from capital city professional workers who have a strong influence on the re-lease decision. Throughout the past six months, the research has asked the same questions to determine changing workplace trends. After conducting research in March, May, July and October, clear patterns are emerging which have significant impacts for the owners of office towers.

“The commercial property industry is starting to realise that COVID is a pivotal moment, where enlightened tenants have more confidence than ever before to reinvent the role of the physical workplace,” said Grant. “Where there is change, there is opportunity. To minimise future risk, the most prudent landlords will double their efforts to engage with tenants with the goal of understanding their individual set of requirements.”

The CBIT research indicates that this future intention is only continuing to grow. During May the proportion of tenants who anticipated changing their WFH policy was only 48 per cent.

“The fact that this trend is increasing supports the view that businesses have not only survived, but succeeded without physical workplaces,” said Grant. “This is a pivotal moment in the evolution of the modern workplaces where tenants expect landlords to justify why they should return. And this needs to be pretty compelling.”

The research provides an indication as to how commercial landlords should invest their time and money in encouraging tenants to return.

“While earlier on in the pandemic, office tower workers indicated that they valued face-to-face collaboration. This is now viewed less positively with social aspects being the main source of attraction to return to the office,” said Grant.

The increasing desire for a social experience provides a starting point for commercial landlords but could also pose challenges with the need for distancing ever present.

Other changes worth investigating include a pay-for-use model facilitated by smart-building technology, rather than the traditional square-meterage model.

“While the pay-for-use model has valuation challenges, the benefits for tenants are clear in time of uncertainty,” said Grant.

“In a climate like this, the only certainty is that doing nothing is the worst option. Only those landlords willing to invest time and money into understanding their tenants’ needs will be able to create and sustain compelling workplaces,” said Grant.

About Brickfields Consulting

Brickfields Consulting offers specialist property research and strategy consultancy. By unlocking market knowledge, we enable you to capture the true value of your assets. It is our belief that only in understanding their market, can owners fully realise the potential of place. This belief has created a market reputation which is built on a decade-long track record of delivering innovative solutions through an adaptable mindset.

Over the past decade Brickfields Consulting has worked to deliver commercial workplace strategies for major landlords, including AMP Capital, Mirvac, AXA, ISPT, Frasers and Dexus.

Holistic Havens

By News

Holistic Havens – Appealing to homebuyers through inclusive residential product

The case for localised living and socially inclusive neighbourhoods has only been made stronger in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Going forward residential communities with holistic levels of amenity, robust community and wellbeing will be seen as increasingly desirable by homebuyers who attribute value to socially connected communities.

In Brickfields latest trend report; ‘Nimble Neighbourhoods’ we refer to these places as ‘holistic havens’, being tailored to niche demographics and enriched with diverse housing product, as well as retail, cultural, and shared facilities. The imperative is to support growing aging populations, counteract loneliness, and enable personal and collective wellbeing. For property owners and developers looking to leverage this trend, these are the key areas to watch:

City microcosms in outer-urban areas

As cities become increasingly unaffordable, suburban areas represent an opportunity to emulate the vibrancy of city life through mixed-use housing product, rich in amenity. This can appeal to Millennial buyers that are less car-reliant, seek affordability and value the diversity of urban living.

A particular example of this is Mehr als Wohnen in Zurich. The 45,000 square metre urban quarter was delivered in a partnership between the City of Zurich and 50 partner organisations. In an interview with Brickfields Consulting, Ueli Keller, one of the founders, imparted that the intention was to create a microcosm of Zurich with a “different built environment and different people living together, and where one can find more opportunities”.

The development’s success is in its breadth of housing typologies, such as student accommodation, co-housing, multi-generational living, and subsidised homes – thereby drawing together diverse demographics. A localised lifestyle is also achieved by the presence of retail, commercial and community tenancies, including workspaces. Residents have all they need within a 10-minute walking distance, thus reducing car dependence. Overall, the result is a flourishing and socially diverse community, appreciated by residents and appealing to the market.

High-density multi-generation housing

With demographic shifts towards an aging population – forecast to grow 56 per cent by 2030 – the way we approach aging in residential communities will require a rethink. Multi-generation housing product is one solution, and proves to be a growing trend in Australia, with an estimated 20 per cent of households being multi-generational.

While home builders recognise this opportunity, Brickfields Consulting has seen the emergence high-density solutions occurring internationally. A particular example is Dongsimwon house in Seoul, designed by Sosu Architects. The six-storey structure combines ground-floor retail and three apartments for three generations; parents and their two daughters. Kitchen and dining areas in the parents’ apartment are designed to be shared by the whole family, creating efficiency in the plan. Flexible partitions throughout the house also enable the creation of independent rooms if required. Solutions such as this keep older generations close to their families and the local amenity required for their livelihood.

Pivoting hospitality assets

Commercial developments such as hotels, which were typically insular in use, are now diversifying their product offering to connect more with their local communities.

A particular example undergoing this change is Zoku, a work-live hotel in Amsterdam with a mission to reduce loneliness. When Brickfields Consulting interviewed Veerle Donders, Concept and Brand Director at Zoku, she expressed the belief that “hotels should take back this central role within their neighbourhoods to connect people and take care of one another – just like the inns of yesteryear.” In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoku adapted their hotel rooms into bookable ‘WorkLofts’, offered weekend wellness retreats as well as private dining experiences. Hospitality operators are wise to connect with their local audiences in this way – not just for at additional revenue streams, but to build meaningful customer relationships and thus a stronger presence in the local market.

Three Scenarios for a Post-COVID World

By News

Three Scenarios for a Post-COVID World

 By Stephanie Bhim, Associate Director, Brickfields Consulting

The COVID-19 situation is continually evolving in Australia. At the time of writing, the outlook is positive, with lockdowns gradually being lifted and the path to recovery becoming more visible. While things are optimistic, it is still unknown whether relapses will occur and how the immediate shocks will impact on long-term retail behaviours. At this point, it is clear that the crisis has accelerated some niche socio-cultural and economic trends in retail, such as online delivery, virtual communities and ethical buying to a mainstream audience. The benefits of these services should continue to support their mainstream uptake regardless of the societal effect of COVID-19. While the pandemic has opened the door to some retail services and providers, there are just as many who have been left exposed by the crisis. Generally, these retailers were under-performing well before March and their fate was merely hastened by COVID-19.

Despite reassuring health statistics in the past month, the way forward for the retail industry and shopping centres in particular is still ambiguous. In situations of extreme uncertainty traditional approaches to strategic planning can be misleading, potentially dangerous. To assist shopping centre owners at this time of uncertainty, we have explored three incremental (and plausible) outcomes, based on a spectrum of change, from minimal to moderate and on to significant.  We’ve paired these with emerging case studies in retail and technology innovations, supported by findings from Brickfields Consulting and Skyfii’s COVID-19 Business Impact Tracker (C-BIT) research, with comparisons conducted over April and May 2020. The data is up to the minute with how people are feeling and responding. Straight up, the May update is mostly good news; the negative impacts of COVID-19 are declining, with people being more likely to visit, spend time, and spend money at shopping centres (up between 2% and 7%). However, retail behaviours have undoubtedly changed – in many instances permanently. As such, we have not outlined a ‘no change’ scenario, as this is patently unrealistic.

Future 1:  Minimal spatial changes with an early re-opening – a return to business as (almost) usual

The unprecedented time has resulted in demands on consumers to drastically change their shopping behaviours. This has occurred from both top-down, with governments enforcing 1.5m social distancing, but also from inside-out, with consumers exhibiting big shifts in mindset regarding their perceptions and concerns around the shopping experience. As a result, we are now faced with a very different customer.

Naturally, one of the key shifts has been a fluctuation in online purchases. According to Brickfields’ and Skyfii’s C-BIT survey, there was a spike in online purchasing at the height of the pandemic in early April, with 30% of respondents agreeing they purchase more online, and 20% purchasing more take-away food. However, this tapered off during May, with a shift of 1–3% back to the pre-COVID retail benchmark. This is paired with changing preferences for delivery etiquette, as 35% would only consider home delivery with face-to-face drop off, 55% contactless home delivery and 11% personal (locker) delivery. Even in a minimal-impact scenario, we can assume that a certain proportion (around 10–15%) will continue to use these ‘new’ services. The evidence suggests, that the services most likely to remain are home delivery and drive-through contactless pick-up.

While online purchasing has declined from April to May, the expectations have been set for more efficient shopping experiences, tightened customer journeys, and fewer staff interactions. All of these will need to be translated into shopping centres. Apps such as Listonic and those developed by Coles and Woolworths already support customers to only go to the specific aisles they require. This was previously used by the budget-conscious to prevent impulse buying; however, now we are likely to see an uptick in wider usage by customers who prefer to ‘get in and out’ of stores quickly. It is worth noting that in late April both S-Centre and Mirvac Retail introduced customer contactless services in response to this identified customer need.

Another trend we are likely to see grow is contact-free shopping. This has already been deployed by Amazon with its Go Grocery stores that allow customers to scan their app on arrival, browse and collect items, walk out, and automatically have their Amazon account billed. Now Amazon has adapted this technology to license it to other retailers to integrate and deploy – without the use of an Amazon account. Here we are witnessing the first sign of scalability and the potential for this technology to hit the mainstream.

Further positive developments reveal the detraction of visiting shopping centres due to crowds reduced by 7% between April and May, as did the perceived risk of passing on COVID-19 to others, down by 6%. Though people are regaining a sense of normality, recent behaviours won’t erode too quickly. The emerging post-COVID customers will be far more hygiene conscious and accustomed to constant sanitising in public spaces. If shopping centres are to continue to support this sentiment, a baseline program and protocol of hygiene etiquette will be required. This should include sanitising stations that are more permanent and high quality in their presentation – that is, less plastic, ‘port-a-loo’ and ‘ad-hoc’ but more embedded and akin to wellness amenities or contemporary medical centres. Such an approach reassures customers that the centre takes a serious and long-term approach to hygiene. This is particularly important as the number of customers who believe the impact of COVID-19 will last beyond 12 months has increased by 4%, depicting a comprehension of ongoing ramifications.

In addition, regular disinfecting and deep cleans will need to occur, and potential restrictions on capacity numbers or extended trading hours to spread out foot traffic and minimise crowding are also ‘quick-win’ solutions. Though the technology is imperfect, some centres are implementing thermal scanning of customers to detect elevated temperatures and prevent further spread. This is the case at Siam Piwat centres in Asia. In addition, technology providers such as Skyfii are exploring how imaging technology could be used to identify areas or aisles which are overcrowded. When this occurs digital signage would notify customers and restrict access.

Under the minimal-impact scenario, there would be few physical changes required. Shopping centres and retail tenancies would largely operate under the same conventions, with only minor changes at those points of congestion and high contact. Specifically, for many centres these areas of greater congestion and contact may only require an alternate operating model during peak weekend or holiday periods.

Future 2: Lockdowns continue – response is a re-purposing of space and shift in the tenant mix

The second scenario assumes that Australia and New Zealand will see continued relapses over the next 6–12 months. In this scenario, longer term lockdowns will inevitably result in a shake-up to the tenant mix in retail centres. Larger footprint operators such as department stores are likely to scale back their tenancy size, accelerating an emerging trend towards mini-majors. Further to this, tenants that were performing poorly prior to the crisis will be even further exposed, with many not being able to make rent and some closing altogether. However, there will be little respite even for the surviving retailers, as they will be impacted by a 20–30% reduction in incidental passing traffic. To survive, the retailers that are set to remain open, or at least delay closure, are those with a propensity to iterate their offering to key customer needs and non-discretionary spend.

This is already occurring in the hospitality sector. One such example is Leon, a healthy fast-food operator based in the UK, which has converted its restaurants into mini-supermarkets. Further to this, it will launch a home delivery service for ready-made meals. The action is a response to the shuttering of restaurants in the UK, but also to the empty supermarket shelves and a desire to provide comfort food in such times.

er this moderate scenario, there will be a degree of spatial repurposing in retail centres which could see the conversion of tenancies into ‘dark stores’, i.e., stock outposts which are optimised for last-mile delivery and carry lower staff overheads. This trend has been occurring strongly in the hospitality sector, with ‘dark kitchens’ taking up leases in urban areas to support the rise in online food orders. The most interesting are those that have taken a curatorial approach and aggregate multiple platforms. One in particular is Melbourne-based Kitchaco. The site supports 24 operators all served by Uber Eats, Deliveroo, DoorDash, and Menulog. In speaking to ABC News (2019), brand manager Hannah Godslevsky imparted that Kitchaco plans to offer 60 operators at each of its sites – intentionally with duplicates in cuisine. The move is an attempt to capture consumer data to iterate tenant mix and future property purchases accordingly.

While it may not be viable for a retail centre to duplicate offerings at this time, on a conceptual level, the aggregation of brands for delivery out of one location should be considered by retail centres as a compelling and holistic offering. This will be particularly valuable if the situation regresses and is met by a surge in online shopping.

Looking broadly at retail trends, customers’ hearts and loyalty will be captured by those retail centres and stores that can deliver a social dimension and contribute to a sense of community solidarity. Consumers are very aware that the COVID-19 crisis has inspired the action of many brands to stretch their current operations in creative ways to help those at the frontline or vulnerable persons in need. Such benevolent initiatives saturate social media, with consumers championing these efforts both online and with their spend.

For retail centres, this could translate as a form of ‘place governance’ and collective support for its smaller businesses that may struggle to survive. This approach is currently being undertaken by GPT’s MCTV initiative at Melbourne Central. The asset has bolstered marketing and engagement efforts to support its retailers and creatives to deliver playful and interactive content to their customers via instagram. The program will deliver tutorials, styling sessions, live music and comedy sketches among other events. The program intends to make sure their artists, comedians, musicians and retailers ‘see it through to the other side’. Such an approach also supports accelerating trends in livestream experiences and DIY culture.

Under this moderate-impact scenario, shopping centre owners can assume that there will be the need for significant strategic planning to reframe the mix, experience and operation of their centres. This will also include exploring the financial viability of certain retailers and the proportion of specific categories. As a result, it is fair to assert that shopping centres will go through a 3–5 year period of reinvention, where internal spatial configurations are required.

Future 3: Longer and more frequent shopping centre closures

The scenario which represents the greatest amount of impact also presents the most significant opportunity for change. Under this scenario, shopping centres would be impacted for an extended period of time, and/or more frequently. As part of this scenario, we can assume that a vaccine is not available and the medical complexities of COVID-19 continue to challenge medical professionals globally. While this appears the least likely scenario to unfold, it is not unconceivable given the events to date.

Under this scenario where lockdowns become more extreme and shopping centres are closed over a long period of time – a shift to decentralised retail experiences could occur to keep operations going. This could see the deployment of light, quick, semi-permanent pop-ups in open-air areas such as car parks, street interfaces, under-utilised pockets on a site’s perimeter or even nearby laneways. We can look towards responses to extreme events, such as natural disasters, to gain a sense of how shopping centres may respond. A great exemplar of this was the Re:Start container mall in Christchurch, opening in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake. Built over an eight-week period, the site consisted of 27 tenants and a series of public spaces. It was short-term response to the lack of permanent buildings in the city, though only earmarked to be open for six months, the site was so successful it remained open until 2018. The vibrant design and open-air amenity proved to be a drawcard for tourists and locals alike. The engagement with the local community and volunteers was critical to its success, the process bestowing a sense of civic ownership.

This scenario seems unlikely given the positive outlook at the time of writing. Be that the case, customers will still have a pent-up desire to engage in social experiences – perhaps more so than ever, with many having formed stronger appreciations for the value of community. This is supported by the CBIT findings, which revealed an appetite for visitation and experience, as the proportion of shoppers wanting all retailers open (with precautionary measures) jumped from 32% to 47% in one month. Though the detraction towards crowds in shopping centres has decreased, there may still be a residual apprehension toward enclosed spaces, that could be counteracted by open-air alternatives.

Another tactic for creating decentralised retail experiences, albeit quite futuristic, is the deployment of autonomous shopping vehicles into a community. A particular example is Moby Mart, the world’s first staff-less, self-driving, mobile minimart undergoing beta testing in Shanghai. Using the Moby Mart app, customers can order a Moby Mart to drive to their location and purchase goods through contact-free payment.

The technology is intended to be a new retail platform that can be deployed through partnerships. This presents an interesting concept for shopping centres that could deploy an ‘edit’ of a collective of retailers that target a particular customer group. This might just suit the new-world customer who is increasingly savvy and comfortable with contactless purchasing.

As part of this scenario, there would also be the long-term opportunity not just to remix a centre, but conduct redevelopment feasibility. With up to 80% of tenants looking to break their retail leases, the financial justification may exist to conduct a major redevelopment of the centre. Under these plans, residential, commercial, and civic uses would all be on the table. This type of scenario could allow owners to dramatically reshape their centres for the post-COVID world, similar to how Frasers has created a new super neighbourhood model for Burwood Brickworks. A blank canvas should not be feared but embraced, and may well be the opportunity the industry needs to adjust to the immense social and technological changes present since the early 2000s.

Where to next?

Whether any of the mentioned scenarios comes to fruition is yet to be determined. However, one thing is certain: the value of supportive communications in times of uncertainty is clear. The CBIT data revealed a growing sense of dissatisfaction from customers about how well shopping centres are responding to COVID-19. In April only 6% were dissatisfied by the actions, and 8% by the communication of shopping centres. By May, that number had more than doubled for both the action (16% dissatisfied) and communication (19%). In troubling times, customers value care more than ever – as such the key to long-term loyalty and building positive relationships is clear communications and compassionate action.

About Brickfields Consulting

Brickfields Consulting offers specialist property research and strategy consultancy. By unlocking market knowledge, we enable you to capture the true value of your assets. It is our belief that only in understanding their market, can owners fully realise the potential of place. This belief has created a market reputation which is built on a decade-long track record of delivering innovative solutions through an adaptable mindset.

Over the past decade Brickfields Consulting has worked to deliver commercial workplace strategies for major landlords, including AMP Capital, Mirvac, AXA, ISPT, Frasers and Dexus.

How property owners can insulate their business during COVID-19

By News

Leveraging the power of quantitative research tailored to customer and tenant sentiment

Top takes:

  • Retail and commercial property owners can continue to sustain operations at this time of crisis, by innovating and adapting to customer sentiment
  • However, misinformation and reactive decision-making is resulting in property owners failing to seize valuable opportunities and jettison business longevity
  • “The COVID-19 Business Impact Tracker” (C-BIT) – is a research product that tracks the sentiment of tenants and customers during the current crisis. Developed by Brickfields Consulting and Skyfii, the insights uncovered will allow property owners to be in control of their decisions, reduce risk and take hold of future opportunities as they arise.

It’s an understatement to say we are living in highly uncertain times. The global COVID-19 pandemic has seen property owners, tenants and their customers responding in extreme ways – understandably motivated by fear, and a desire to manage risk and self-sustainability. Equally, such times are also catalysts for innovation and seizing new market opportunities. In other sectors we’ve witnessed fine-dining restaurants transition to takeaway services, music festivals move to live-streaming, distilleries producing hand-sanitiser, and city councils waiving rents, levies and permit fees to support local businesses. It is truly a time to act on market need to support your own business and the wider community.

The property owners who will profit at this time are those who understand exactly how the crisis is impacting their specific audience, customer or tenant – and meet them with a meaningful response. This poses a challenge, where misinformation, panic and reactive decision-making are rife. An ability to review the facts ­– then innovate and adapt from an informed position – can mean the difference between shutting shop and keeping the doors open (provided legislation does not enforce otherwise).

To equip retail and commercial property owners with accurate and tailored data for these times, Brickfields Consulting, in collaboration with Skyfii, have designed the COVID-19 Business Impact Tracker (C-BIT). This research product tracks the sentiment of tenants and customers on a monthly basis. The insights uncovered will add certainty during this period of immense change – allowing property owners to be in control of their decisions, reduce risk and take hold of future opportunities as they arise.

In regard to retail centres, the survey has revealed an optimistic outlook, with 31.7 per cent of customers wanting to keep all locations open with precautionary measures, and only 19.6 per cent wanting all locations temporarily closed. However, owners must adapt their centre experience and communications to turn the tide on dissatisfied and indifferent customers. This is marked by 16 per cent of respondents indicating that they were not satisfied at all by the actions of their centre of choice in response to COVID-19. Further to this, 26.9 per cent were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. Likewise 19.1 per cent of customers found their centre’s communications did not meet their expectations, again with a significant proportion saying the centre met their expectations “somewhat well” (34.5 per cent). These insights are critical at a time where customers are anxious and will transfer their loyalty to centres that support them – or are feeling indifferent and could be met with an inspired experience.

If you’re a retail or commercial property owner interested in the C-BIT survey, the following outlines the data you can expect to capture and actions you can take in response.

What data C-BIT will provide

  • How your current tenants have adjusted their behaviours to suit the COVID-19 requirements
  • What direct impacts COVID-19 is having on your customers’ businesses and the financial capacity to meet their requirements
  • How you can better support your customers/tenants to help retain them long term
  • How your customers benchmark against your competitors’ customers

What this data will allow you to do

  • Minimise risk from the downturn by identifying exposed tenants/assets
  • Support key tenants through this period of significant change
  • Take action informed by how your portfolio compares to others within the market
  • Prepare for the market rebound by identifying how best to manage the recovery