Research reveals pandemic has accelerated ‘flight to quality’ offices in Edinburgh

MORE than half the office space transacted in Edinburgh city centre during the pandemic has been Grade A, with larger occupiers vying for the best available stock, according to new analysis from Knight Frank.

The commercial property consultancy found that 56% of the office space let since November 2020 – when it was announced the first vaccine had been developed by Pfizer and BioNTech – was Grade A, compared to 21% Grade B and 23% Grade C.

Knight Frank added that the figures supported the view that occupiers were taking a so-called ‘flight to quality’ office space – characterised by organisations looking to secure the best space available – to support corporate social responsibility aims and retain and attract talent.

Technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) companies accounted for nearly a quarter of take-up in Edinburgh during that time, followed by the finance and professional services sectors which accounted for 12% and 11% respectively.

Knight Frank said the findings follow research which highlighted that all the new-build space set to complete in the Scottish capital during the next two years has already been pre-let.

However, the firm revealed that more than 230,000 sq ft of major refurbishment projects are set to be completed over the next two to three years and smaller occupiers are ‘increasingly looking for flexibility’ in lease terms.

Toby Withall, partner at Knight Frank Edinburgh, said, “When the dust began to settle from the immediate impact of the pandemic and business started to get underway again, it became clear that the way occupiers thought about their property needs changed. Many began looking at it as a strategic tool for attracting new talent and retaining existing teams, while also supporting their wider ESG – environmental, social, and corporate governance – goals.

“We have seen that play out in Edinburgh in the type of space that larger occupiers are looking for: high quality space with strong sustainability features and a focus on staff wellness, supported by access to a wide range of nearby amenities. These are particularly relevant to the tech sector, which has accounted for the largest share of take-up of any sector in the city since the pandemic began – but they are also increasingly prioritised by professional services, the finance sector and many others.

“With space matching that profile at a premium, there are other options for occupiers to consider, much of which can offer greater flexibility for smaller businesses – another key trend fuelled by the pandemic. Refurbishments can enhance the sustainability of older stock to accredited levels and, therefore, could be particularly well placed to absorb the demand from occupiers for functional space in which they can grow and contract as they require.

“Nevertheless, for occupiers of all sizes, all of this underlines the importance of acting quickly to secure the best office accommodation – a point only reinforced by the fact that all new-build space set to be delivered in the next two years has already been taken.”