Is it time to draw a line in the sand with Brexit?

In March 1836 at the battle of the Alamo, a 26 year old lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army, William B Travis, drew a line in the sand and asked 182 soldiers to step over the line and lay down their lives for a just cause.

Move forward 183 years and today we have 650 MPs who have been presented with an imaginary line in order to bring the Brexit debacle to an end. However rather than step over it, the majority appear to be staying firmly behind it, walking along it or leaning against a backstop.

While this dysfunctional group of individuals recreate a Punch and Judy show with lots of noise and little action, businesses are either waiting for an outcome or taking matters into their own hands.

James Dyson and Sir Jim Radcliffe CEO of Ineos are both very bright guys, so it is worrying that they have moved their business interests to Asia and Monaco, respectively.

So what is happening to the property industry for those waiting patiently behind in the UK for a modern day William Travis to encourage the powers that be to step over the line?

The retail sector remains under pressure from reduced spending from nervous consumers. The traditional high street is also under pressure from e-tailing and an unfair rent and taxation system. Despite protestations, the Government has failed to produce an even playing field between the two, and its soft gesture of granting a third off rates for some small businesses is unlikely to stem the tide of failures and high street vacancies.

When it comes to leisure and city living, there has certainly been a change to eating out attitudes by millennials, leading to a growth in takeaways and restaurants. However lack of certainty has dented confidence and is affecting dining habits, leading to closures from the likes of Jamie’s Italian, Carluccios and, more recently, Giraffe and Ed’s Diners.

The office sector also has a tough year ahead but the market seems to be relatively stable as a result of prudent development over the last ten years.

And then there’s the industrial sector where the land has, for too long, been the poor relation in terms of value, when competing head to head with residential. But things have now changed dramatically. The last couple of years have witnessed record lettings for units over 100k square feet, speculative build is returning to the market and the international investment sector is sitting up and taking notice.

This demand has certainly been fuelled as retail moves from high street to warehouse, leading to increased demand from e-tailers for their ‘last mile’ delivery and the need for larger hubs.

In addition there has been a surge from businesses needing to stockpile and extend their supply chain in the face of uncertainty over Brexit.

Although demand from the latter may be short term until the Brexit deal is done, the sector remains confident, as long as the product and location is right.

Only time will tell but a shortage of industrial space for occupiers will inevitably result in short term higher costs which more than likely will be passed on to the retailer putting even more pressure on the beleaguered sector.

In the meantime, as MPs are dragged kicking and screaming across the line, Potter Space will continue to invest and develop in its five strategic industrial business parks in the UK.


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