How have consumer habits changed?
To understand what our consumer habits mean for property we need to look back to March 2020, when consumers went into meltdown and ripped up the rule book. This included panic buying toilet rolls, flour, and little moons (Japanese confectionary). Not to mention furlough, the job losses and independent retailers or pubs closing their doors for good. 40% of the nation’s workers eat lunch from or near work 2 or more times a week and the impact working from home has had on these catering businesses is huge.
Consumer habits have dramatically shifted, with most people choosing to spend online rather than run the risk of catching Covid-19 shopping in person. The non-essential shops have not been able to open for most of the pandemic so unless they have diversified with delivery, many have shut down. If you’ve ventured down to your local high street in recent months you will have noticed a big increase in the amount of vacant retail units. The closing down signs have become so frequent it has haunting echoes of 2008.
ONS data shows massive increases in online sales during the months of the pandemic and although this curve has tapered off the online retail sector is predicted grow a further 30% by the year 2024 according to Global Data.
The reopening after lockdown has seen a net 6001 decline in stores across the UK thus leaving a lot of empty retail spaces. Our consumer habits have changed commercial property but for how long?
What do we do with all these empty retail properties?
The empty units represent an unhealthy aesthetic on our high streets which could affect the publics motives to visit the towns and city centres. It is imperative that these properties are given a new lease of life.
The most obvious for these properties would be to satisfy the housing crisis and convert them into residential properties. However, a change of use is needed under a planning application and local planning departments can be rather difficult with applications at the best of times.
In March 2021 the government announced a monumental lifting of red tape to property investors and developers. From 1st August 2021, commercial to residential conversion will be allowed under new permitted development rights known as Class MA.
Properties under Class E will then be allowed to be converted to residential (Class C3 dwelling houses). There are several stipulations that must be considered when pursuing this development.
- The property must be vacant for 3 months prior to the application for prior approval.
- The maximum size of buildings that can be converted under Class MA is 1,500m2 floor space.
- Properties cannot be converted in areas of natural beauty (AONB), Sites of Scientific interest (SSSI), listed building or most obviously military explosive areas.
To help you take advantage of the Class MA gold rush, Nimbus Maps is launching a Class MA ELITE + Strategy. Learn more about how Nimbus Maps can help and our expert webinar series with Nimbus Maps Co-Founder, Paul Davis and Sky TV Property “Angel”, Ranjan Bhattacharya to ensure you make the most of this opportunity.