This was the title of today's Savills Impacts Webinar, a timely webinar which gave an overview of the impact of the pandemic on various sectors globally. Overall the tone was calm, and the forecasts, whilst obviously not optimistic, were a long way from the doomsday scenarios which seem to dominate the media. Whilst there will no doubt be changes in the short term, the feeling was that these would pass and that the property industry will return to something resembling normal in due course. There was a general consensus that these times will be remembered as a catalyst for change in the property industry, particularly for ESG.
In terms of investment, the flight to quality, focus on prime central locations and long income were discussed, as well as more opportunistic investments. The retail sector was used as an example of where opportunities might arise, for assets where rents have already been rebased or there is a repurposing angle.
It was felt that the high street might benefit because people will start to return to their local shops before using cars or public transport to venture further afield once lock down is lifted. The challenges facing experience led shopping malls were also discussed.
In terms of ESG interestingly, whilst some may have thought that during this time of uncertainty, the focus would shift away from the E and S, that has proved not to be the case. It is interesting how quickly legislation has been passed in recent weeks, and the speakers discussed their hopes that ability to move more quickly might transfer into how the government addresses environmental concerns once the current challenges have passed. All agreed that ESG is very much here to stay, and to paraphrase one of the speakers, it’s not a question of whether a tenant will pay more rent for an environmentally friendly building but whether a landlord can actually let a building that is not sustainable.
It was good to see Andrea Carpenter moderating the discussion, demonstrating the skills that she taught me at last week’s training course run by Women Talk Real Estate about participating in online discussions, and also to hear from Sophie Chick who will be joining me on Maples Teesdale's ESG focused webinar next month.
While the rise of online retail is expected to accelerate, shopping is a sensory experience and the desire for physical retail will remain.