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Commercial property investment falls as Brexit impasse continues

Commercial property investment across the Midlands has fallen as the ongoing Brexit impasse continues to have a negative impact on the market, a new report has revealed.

Lambert Smith Hampton’s (LSH) latest UK Investment Transactions(UKIT) report, says that at £10.9bn, Q1 investment volume across the UK dropped to its lowest quarterly total since the aftermath of the EU Referendum in Q3 2016.

Heightened investor caution in the weeks leading up the UK’s scheduled exit from the EU has clearly been reflected in investment activity. £10.9bn of assets changed hands in the quarter, 26% below average and a substantial 34% below Q4 2018, the largest recorded quarter-on-quarter percentage fall in five years.

Adam Ramshaw, LSH’s regional director for the Midlands, said that in Birmingham and the West Midlands a total of £313m of investment deals were completed in Q1, compared to £470m in Q4 2018. Compared to the same quarter last year there was a 33% drop in investments, with a 54% decrease on the figure for Q4 2018.

Across the East Midlands, there was investment of £197m in Q1, a year-on-year decrease of 67% and a 66% drop compared to Q4 2018, added Adam.

The national impasse was most clear with larger lot size deals. Q1 saw only 19 transactions in excess of £100m, the lowest number since Q4 2012 and significantly below the quarterly average of 31. That said, the total numberof recorded deals in Q1 was only 15% below average, indicating a stronger tolerance to current uncertainty across the wider market.

The market was in some respects turned upside down in Q1. For the first time on record, the three traditional core sectors accounted for less than half of volume. Offices took the brunt of the drop-off in Q1, with volume at a ten-year low of £2.7bn, down a substantial 60% quarter-on-quarter and reflecting a moribund period for large-lot size deals in Central London.

Meanwhile, a perfect storm of structural change and Brexit uncertainty saw retail volume sink to its lowest quarterly total on record, at just over £1bn. Industrial volume dropped to £1.4bn in Q1, far removed from the record £2.2bn in Q4 2018 but only 18% below the trend.

Other sectors proved notably more resilient. Hotel & leisure volume of £2.6bn in Q1 was its strongest quarter in 13 years, boosted by a number of portfolio deals and the UK’s largest deal in Q1, Queensgate Investments’ £1.0bn acquisition of the Grange Hotel Portfolio. Collectively, the specialist sectors also bucked the trend in Q1, with volume of £2.7bn being 35% above average and fuelled by twelve Build to Rent forward funding deals.

The heightened caution in the UK market in Q1 was evident across each of the main investor groupings. Quoted property companies were the least acquisitive buyers compared with trend, with volume of £680m at below half the average, followed by UK institutions where volume of £2.0bn was 35% below average. While investment from overseas investors was also subdued by recent standards, tellingly, they remained major net buyers of UK property, to the tune of £3.3bn in Q1.

The All Property average transaction yield moved out by 14 bps in Q1 to stand at 5.48%. While all the main sectors moved out, retail saw the largest outward movement of 68bps to stand at an average of 6.21%.

Ezra Nahome, CEO of Lambert Smith Hampton, said: “Q1 turned out much as we expected, with investors of all persuasions opting to take a backseat in the crucial run-up to the UK’s scheduled EU exit date. For the first time ever, the so-called alternative sectors collectively accounted for well over half of total volume, a telling reflection of the direction of travel in the market and the insatiable demand for long-income deals.

“While many will be relieved the UK avoided a no deal Brexit outcome, frustratingly, the EU’s extension to later in the year will only act to preserve uncertainty in the market. Despite the generally sound fundamentals of UK real estate investment, this is likely to prove detrimental to the rebound in volume we had been expecting for the latter part of 2019.”

By Rachel Covill

Source: The Business Desk

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North’s commercial property market reports healthy start to 2019 and further positivity ahead

THE north’s commercial property sector enjoyed a positive start to 2019, according to the latest market research.

The new report from Lambert Smith Hampton, which covers the first three months of the year, shows the total investment volume of £42.5 million was almost three times higher than the same period a year ago (£17m). However, that figure is 47 per cent below the five-year quarterly average.

The latest Investment Transactions Northern Ireland Bulletin is a continuation of consistent investment witnessed over the last year, but the total of five transactions last quarter is the lowest in five years.

The deals struck in the first three months of year were largely dominated by the office sector, with the largest transaction at the start of 2019 a local government department’s £16m purchase of James House at the Gasworks in Belfast.

Other notable transactions included the £9.6m sale of Donegall House to a private investor group, as well as retail operator Henderson Group’s £7.6m acquisition of a portfolio of petrol filling stations, which they already occupied as tenant

While there were a flurry of large retail transactions at the end of the year, retail was notably absent at the beginning of 2019.

Looking ahead a significant pickup is forecast in the second quarter of the year, with 21 deals either completed or agreed, totalling approximately £75m.

Lambert Smith Hampton director of capital markets, Martin McCloy said the local market continues to be impeded by ongoing political uncertainty.

“It is generally accepted that the six-month extension to the EU/UK withdrawal date and preventing the UK crashing out of the EU in a ‘no-deal’ scenario was the best outcome at the end of the March for the UK and Northern Ireland. However, there is no doubt that the continuation of this period of uncertainty will continue to frustrate the investment market,” he said.

Since the EU referendum in 2016 there has been a steady decline in investment activity in Northern Ireland, with the quarterly average

of the ten quarters pre-referendum (£101m) more than a third less more than the average during the same period post-referendum (£63m)

Coupled with the lack of a Northern Ireland Executive it has led to a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude, which has created a lack of supply to the market. That being said good quality assets remain in demand, according to Mr McCloy.

“Properties with solid fundamentals will remain attractive to investors. A recent report by MSCI reported that Belfast was among the top performing UK office investment markets in 2018. Coupled with the strong office occupier market, we expect that in 2019 office investment will become the predominant asset class in Northern Ireland, over taking retail,” he added.

By Gareth McKeown

Source: Irish News

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Prime UK commercial property rents increase 0.1% in Q1 2019

UK prime commercial property rental values increased 0.1% in Q1 2019, according to CBRE’s latest Prime Rent and Yield Monitor. At the All Property level, prime yields moved out 6bps over the quarter. Overall results in both prime rents and yields were driven by the continued outperformance of the Industrial sector.

Q1 2019 marked the ninth consecutive quarter of Industrial outperformance, with prime rental values increasing 1.0%. This is the sector’s lowest quarterly growth in prime rents since Q4 2015 as the stellar increase of 8.3% p.a. over the previous three years slows to more trend levels. Industrials in the North West reported the biggest increase in prime rents over the quarter (4.3%). Industrial prime yields were stable overall in Q1 2019. At the regional level, Scotland reported a -15bps decrease in prime yields while the Yorkshire & Humberside and North East markets reported increases of 29bps and 25bps respectively.

At the national level, High Street Shop prime rents fell -1.0% in the first quarter of 2019. This was an acceleration of the falls reported in Q3 (-0.4%) and Q4 (-0.4%) of 2018. Shopping Centre prime rents fell ‑1.3% over the quarter, while Retail Warehouse prime rents decreased -1.0%. Overall, High Street Shop prime yields rose 12bps in Q1. Prime Shopping Centre yields increased 12bps over the quarter. Retail Warehouse prime yields rose 25bps.

Office prime rents increased 0.6% overall in Q1 2019. Sector results were pulled up by the Central London (1.0%), Eastern (1.1%), Yorkshire & Humberside (1.2%), and North West (2.1%) markets. No UK region reported a decrease in prime Office rents in Q1. Prime yields for the Office sector were relatively stable overall in Q1 (+1bp).

Robin Honeyman, Senior Research Analyst at CBRE UK, said: “Falls in the Retail sector pulled down the All Property results in Q1 2019, despite the relative strength of Office and Industrial performance. Our Prime Rent & Yield data continues to show prime Retail coming under pressure, both in pricing and rental values.”

By David Tran

Source: SHD Logistics

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UK Commercial Property Set for Rebound

There’s a lot of cash on the sidelines waiting to snap up UK property assets once certainty on Brexit is known, according to real estate investment trust managers. However, they warn the market could see some short-term pain in the meantime.

Equity investors have been vocal in putting forward their expectation of cash flowing into the UK stock market once Brexit is resolved, no matter what deal we get. While it’s unlikely to be as dramatic in property, the asset class remains more resilient than many expected.

There’s money waiting to buy UK real estate, predicts Calum Bruce, manager of the Ediston Property Investment Company (EPIC), from both domestic and overseas buyers. “Once there’s some clarity, there will be a period where people will just digest what’s happen, formulate a strategy and then look to implement that strategy,” he tells Morningstar.co.uk.

Simon Marriott, investment director at London & Scottish Investments, agrees, though has sympathy with those continuing to hold off committing just yet. “I’m a believer when there is some certainty, anything other than no-deal, prices are going to get stronger,” he says.

Bruce explains that there is plenty to like about UK property, particularly for overseas investors looking for a safe haven in an uncertain world. “The UK ticks a lot of boxes for these investors,” he adds. These include a stable economy, favourable political climate for the asset class and yields higher than many other cities both in Europe and elsewhere.

“But why would they invest now if they think there’s going to be a slip in value and their euro or dollar will go further in a few months’ time? That’s why we need some clarity so these investors can go ‘right, now’s the time to come in and invest’.”

However, it seems likely it will be some time until that Brexit fog clears. While Prime Minister Theresa May’s extension to the Brexit deadline is flexible, odds are it will, again, go right down to the wire on October 31.

Therefore, this predicted pick-up in activity is likely to be a 2020 phenomena. Indeed, Nick Montgomery, manager of the Schroder Real Estate Investment Trust (SREI), thinks we’ll see a correction before any recovery comes about.

“Are we at the top of the cycle? If you look at the average for the market, we think values will fall,” he explains. “We’re not expecting a return to 2009 where values fell by multiples of 10%, but we are expecting a correction.”

As a result, he’s been selling some of his lower-yielding assets, including most of his retail portfolio, in order to build some cash and give him firepower once that correction comes.

Despite being late-cycle, Montgomery says there are plenty of opportunities around with “immense polarisation” between sectors. Below, we highlight three areas REIT managers are seeing, or expect to see, opportunities in the UK property market.

Regional Offices
Being the big hub, particularly for financial services firms, and capital, London will garner many headlines when it comes to the outlook for UK offices. However, many are now seeing opportunities some of the other larger cities in the UK.

Both businesses and the Government are beginning to spread their workforces around the country. The BBC has recently set up camp in Salford, while accountancy firm PwC has a new 80,000 square foot office in Leeds.

“These cities are not back-office locations anymore,” says Marriott. “These are all high-quality locations in their own right, with highly qualified workers who have made life changes [to] move out to the provinces because it’s closer to where they were brought up or their quality of life is better [than in London].”

With the UK one of the world leaders in artificial intelligence, companies are looking for more office space around university cities, too, like Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Durham.

Montgomery says Schroders is one of the biggest owners of commercial real estate in Manchester, having identified it as one of the “winning cities” in the UK moving forward.

“[Manchester has] great public sector leadership and a disproportionate share of public sector investment, which has drawn people into the city centre, with the population doubling over the course of the last 10 years or so,” he explains.

Retail Warehousing
Unsurprisingly, many are downbeat on the future for retail. Structural headwinds, including the increasing move to online shopping, have meant a lot of retail firms have either gone bust or are on shaky ground.

Those that have survived are now looking to downsize their store estate or reduce the rents they pay as shoppers increasingly eschew a trip to the high street or their local shopping centre.

However, there are still opportunities in retail. Bruce is the most bullish, arguing that the doom and gloom headlines don’t tell the whole story. “Retail is evolving; I don’t think it’s in terminal decline,” he says.

True, he cautions, retailers that have failed to adapt, evolve or change to the new environment will fall by the wayside, but others have done so and are well set to take advantage. Indeed, Bruce likes out-of-town retail parks in places like Hull, Barnsley or Sunderland, which lend themselves most to the click-and-collect model..

As ever, it’s all about good stock selection, of course: “not all retail warehousing is equal”. While the likes of Next and others are known to be looking at decreasing the rent they pay, they are also happy to increase their costs for units in good, profitable locations.

“We have a retail park in Prestatyn and have completed four rent reviews with River Island, Next, Card Factory and Costa and have got an increase on all of them because it’s a good park in a good location,” says Bruce.

The London & Scottish Investments team, which runs the Regional REIT (RGL), have only a small portion of their portfolio allocated to retail and that is overhang from portfolios they have bought.

Despite taking the decision not to consciously invest in retail when they launched their product back in 2013, they also have no plans to sell their two properties, which comprise a shopping centre in Bletchley and retail park in Swansea, any time soon.

“These are yielding well north of 8% so there’s no reason for us to sell them,” says managing director Derek McDonald. “We’ve got one very small void at Bletchley and none at Swansea and we’ve not had any CVAs, so why rush to sell them when they’re not hurting you?”

Central London Offices
Clearly, this one’s most at the mercy of the outcome of Brexit negotiations – and the UK leaving without a deal would not be positive for the asset.

But Bruce says the office market in the capital has been more resilient than expected. “There are people hedging their bets, but I don’t think it’s been as dramatic an exodus as people expected.”

True, the market has hitherto been too expensive for Bruce to justify getting stuck into, and pricing is still not there just yet. However, he’s encouraged that “more things are coming across our desk which we’re interested in doing something with”.

“Rents are probably under pressure more than they are in other parts of the country, but in the main there’s been pretty good take-up and supply is at a reasonable level.”

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Industrial demand to the fore in commercial property sector

Demand for industrial space is dominating the East of England commercial property sector as interest in retail continues to falter, according to new research.

The Q1 2019 RICS UK Commercial Property Market Survey also reported anecdotal evidence suggesting a lack of movement on Brexit continues to deter investors and occupiers across the board.

Across the sector, demand for the East of England’s commercial property dropped in the first quarter of 2019, being mainly driven by the lack of interest in retail units.

Some 37 per cent more respondents reported a fall in the first quarter of 2019. The rise in online shopping continued to sustain the industrial sector where respondents continued to experience a steady rise in tenant demand.

Demand for the East of the England’s industrial units continued to outpace supply, the report also found. This quarter, respondents reported a fall in the number of available units for sale, resulting in more respondents expecting rents to rise in the coming three months.

The latest survey data also supports recent reports on the number of empty shops on the region’s high streets, as the number of vacant retail units have been increasing over the past 15 months.

Alan Matthews, of Barker Storey Matthews in Huntington, said: “There is no doubt that the uncertainty of Brexit is being felt across the board. I believe the outlook for our region in the medium to longer term is positive but expect to see considerable volatility over the next 12 months and possibly longer.”

RICS economist Tarrant Parsons added: “Trends across the UK commercial property market in the early part of 2019 have continued in a similar vein to those reported last year.

“The industrial sector remains a clear area of strength while the retail sector continues to be challenged by the growth in e-commerce.

“Brexit uncertainty is again cited to be a negative influence on market activity, causing some occupiers and investors to hesitate as they await further clarity on the future direction of policy.”

Source: Insider Media

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Central London commercial property market investment up over a quarter

Commercial property investment in Central London (the City and West End) rose to £3.2 billion in the first quarter of 2019, a 28 percent increase on the £2.5 billion invested in Q1 2018, according to new data from Savills. The firm also claims that investment volumes in Central London in Q1 2019 were also higher than those in Q1 2015 before the UK’s referendum to leave the EU, when they reached £3.14 billion.

According to Savills, US buyers have been the most active investor group in the Central London market in the year to date, accounting for £1.43 billion of transactions (45% of the total), although this has only been across four properties. Domestic buyers are leading the way in terms of numbers of deals acquiring 23 assets, totalling £906.6 million (28%).

Savills highlights that, despite uncertainty in the market, there have been significant capital flows into Central London real estate in Q1 2019. Citigroup’s acquisition of its EMEA Headquarters at 25 Canada Square in Canary Wharf for approximately £1.10 billion is clear evidence of continued confidence in the Central London market.

The sale of 25 Canada Square (pictured) is the eighth deal above £1 billion to trade in Central London over the last five years, joining the likes of 1 Plumtree Court, EC4 (£1.16 billion) and 5 Broadgate, EC2 (£1 .0 billion) which sold in 2018. Savills figures show that 2019 has been a year which has picked up pace, with only 15 properties trading in January to February. March, however, saw 24 deals transact totalling £2.09 billion.

Stephen Down, head of Central London investment at Savills comments: “Despite the well-noted uncertainty hanging over the UK at the moment, this has not stopped a number of commercial property investors from recognising London’s innate strength. Several of them actually see now as an opportunity and the deals that are offered to the market still seem to draw in a healthy level of prospective buyers, both domestic and international. We have seen a particularly strong appetite for commercial development and opportunistic stock, which is a response to the structural supply shortage that Central London is facing in the office sector.”

by Neil Franklin

Soruce: Workplace Insight

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Non-EU investment in London commercial property rose 75 per cent in 2018

Purchases of London commercial property by non-EU investors soared last year, rising 75 per cent on 2017.

But investment from within the EU dropped sharply, according to figures from real estate research company Datscha.

Non-EU investors racked up £8bn in purchases in 2018. That was almost 10 times the amount spent by their European counterparts, who spent £885m, representing a 68 per cent fall on 2017.

Asian and US investors were the biggest spenders. South Korean investors led the way, forking out a total of £2.4bn.

Investors from China and Hong Kong made over £2.3bn in purchases, a fall of more than two-fifths on the previous year. Their reduced spend is likely due to Chinese government restrictions on overseas investment.

Wework and Colony North Star’s share in the £580m purchase of Devonshire Square helped North American investment double to more than £1.26 billion.

Other sources of investment included buyers from South Africa, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Office space accounted for 95 per cent of overseas commercial investment.

The market for commercial property in the City was “influenced by the UK’s political uncertainty and weakening of sterling”, said Lesley Males, Head of Research at Datscha.

“This has still brought positive interest in the City of London from a number of overseas buyers wanting a stakehold in what we believe is an ever-appealing investment zone,” she added.

By Michael O’Dwyer

Source: City AM

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Wealthy overseas investors snap up Scottish property

Scottish commercial property attracted more investment last year from wealthy overseas investors than France, Japan and South Korea, according to new research.

Releasing its latest Wealth Report, property consultancy Knight Frank said its analysis had found that total investment from “internationally-based ultra-high-net-worth individuals” in Scottish commercial property totalled some $376.3 million (£283.6m) in 2018.

The figure for France was about $360m, Japan came in at $110m, while South Korea was just $10m. Scotland was placed eighth globally for cross-border private capital investment in commercial property, such as offices, shops and industrial sites, behind Canada at $770m.

The UK as a whole, including Scotland, topped the overall rankings at just over $8 billion, followed by the US at $7.4bn. Knight Frank said that total private investment in Scottish commercial property, which includes UK buyers, was £760.4m last year, a 26.3 per cent increase on 2017.

Private investors represented about 30 per cent of the more than £2.5bn that was invested in commercial property in Scotland during a “resilient” 2018, the firm noted.

Recent high-profile deals involving private investors have included Jenners’ historic department store on Edinburgh’s Princes Street, which was bought by a Danish investor for £53m, while the property company of Inditex fashion group founder, Amancio Ortega, acquired 78-90 Buchanan Street in Glasgow for £31m last year.

Alasdair Steele, head of Scotland commercial at Knight Frank, said: “Commercial property in Scotland offers solid returns for investors – particularly individuals, who can expect to see the value of their capital eroded by inflation if they keep it in the bank.

“There is a strong appetite for investment outside of London and Scotland is perceived as being relatively good value, even within the UK.

“Both Glasgow and Edinburgh offer compelling supply-demand dynamics and attractive yields. All things being equal, we expect that to drive rental growth over the next couple of years and, therefore, the potential returns to landlords.”

William Mathews, head of capital markets research at Knight Frank, added: “We expect that the appetite from private investors for commercial property will continue to increase as the number of wealthy individuals grows.

“Our latest Wealth Report shows that 21 per cent of ultra-high-net-worth individuals plan to invest in commercial real estate in 2019.”

By Scott Reid

Source: Scotsman

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Scottish commercial property market outperforms UK in several sectors

SCOTLAND’S offices, retail and alternatives property markets all significantly outperformed the UK markets in 2018, according to data released by leading property consultant CBRE yesterday.

Their research revealed that the annual Scottish all commercial property total return for 2018 was 5.6%, only slightly lower than the UK all property return of 6%.

Industrials in Scotland also had a strong end to the year, achieving the highest return of the three main sectors.

Office and industrials returns in Scotland have increased year on year, with offices achieving 8.2% compared to 5.9% in 2017, with industrials increasing from 7.9% to 8.6%.

Offices were 2% ahead of the UK figure of 6.2%, while retail returned 4.7% compared to the overall UK figure of minus 1.1%.

Alternatives continued to be the best performing sector in Scotland, and the only one to achieve double-digit returns in 2018, with 10.6% compared to the UK’s 7.5%.

CBRE said that given the current challenges facing the retail sector, it is unsurprising that at year end the outlook remained subdued.

Compared with performance for the whole of the UK, Scottish returns have been more resilient in the final quarter of 2018. At the all property level, the picture is very similar –with UK returns down by almost 1.5% and Scottish returns unchanged.

During the last quarter of the year, £642 million of stock was transacted in Scotland, demonstrating a strong final quarter, and bringing the annual total to £2.49 billion in 2018. This is broadly in line with the £2.5bn achieved in 2017.

The retail sector total was boosted by the controversial sale of Fort Kinnaird Retail Park, located on the eastern edge of Edinburgh, which was acquired from The Crown Estate by M&G Real Estate for £167.25 million, with none of that sum accruing to the Scottish Government despite the Crown Estate being devolved.

David Reid, associate director of CBRE, said: “It’s great to see the industrial and logistics sector in Scotland performing strongly again during 2018 with sharpening yields and increasing rental and land values within prime locations.

“With this backdrop we are seeing increasing developer appetite for speculative schemes and there are a number of occupier pre-lets on the horizon during 2019.”

By Martin Hannan

Source: The National

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Commercial property: High street challenges need addressed

The currently volatile environment for UK retailers presents a significant challenge to the commercial property sector. Along with the estimated 85,000 jobs lost in UK retailing in 2018 is the worrying rise in empty commercial units.

Figures published in the Scottish Retail Consortium-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor show hat one in eight high street shop premises lay vacant last month, with a 12 per cent town centre vacancy rate in Scotland, up the 11.1 per cent recorded last October.

Steps are being taken across the nation to repurpose some of these vacant premises for residential, hotel, leisure or community use.

However, UK retailers must also continue to repurpose their businesses to ensure they are relevant to the changing nature of consumer demands.

Many of those which managed to avoid insolvency last year are now embarking on store closure plans and rationalising their portfolios. The trend of traditional retailers extending their online offering also continues, with some smaller stores diversifying by installing convenient customer options such as Amazon lockers and becoming click-and-collect points for larger retailers.

Technological advances, including the use of mobile payment, scan and payment checkout apps, are also making the sector more efficient, while further progress in areas such as VR and AI offers an additional strand of support.

In spite of these positive developments, there is no doubt that many of the larger retailers will continue to struggle with the size and cost of their property portfolios. Debenhams is continuing discussions with its lenders and is not ruling out a company voluntary arrangement, while the new management at Marks and Spencer is promising dramatic changes in range, style and customer focus.

Meanwhile, other big high street names seek to negotiate reduced rents with their landlords to keep themselves trading. The changing nature of the marketplace requires retailers to make bold decisions to entice consumers and leverage value from their physical premises.

Apple and Selfridges are both successfully doing this by making shopping at their outlets an experience. Selfridges credits its successful Christmas trading period to the staging of festive events which drove people into its stores, and Apple delivers added value for customers in its premises by holding free events.

The progression of some online retailers moving to a bricks and mortar model could also make a positive impact on the commercial property sector. Amazon Go is reportedly looking at expanding its app-based convenience store brand into London with the potential of Amazon Books stores opening in the UK.

Physical premises supported by a strong online presence point to the future direction of travel in retailing. While we expect more casualties in the year ahead, the changes that are currently being implemented provides some comfort to commercial property landlords as retailing continues its challenging evolution.

The UK retail market is one of the most dynamic in the world and is the biggest employer in Britain; it is also one of the most adaptive to change. But landlords and tenants must act quickly to stem the tide of store closures and declining footfalls.

Source: Scotsman