A prominent lettings agent and property management expert says the industry has been reluctant to recognise the increasing trend of consumers moving online.
“My own sector of estate and letting agencies has been slow to respond to the changes in consumer demand that has irrevocably moved future demand online. I do believe that the pandemic will force many companies in my sector to adopt entirely online strategies supported by local individuals and teams” explains David Alexander, joint chief executive of the Apropos property management platform.
“Virtual viewings, as a concept, would have been laughed at a year ago but are now the norm. Our business has experienced a substantial increase in activity in the last four months with completed rentals up 30 per cent in July alone and the number of new properties coming to our business achieving a record high after 40 years in the sector” he adds.
“All of this was done online, and our new landlords and tenants were happy to work this way.”
Alexander says he believes the likely surge in High Street insolvencies across many business sectors, spurred on by the pandemic, is only the latest element of a trend that was building pace before anyone had heard of Coronavirus.
“The aftermath from the pandemic will undoubtedly bring more sorrow to the centres of our towns and cities as the initial lockdown and subsequent measures will have had a disastrous effect on the viability of many businesses” according to Alexander.
“But the woes of the High Street have been happening for many years. High rents imposed by intransigent commercial landlords, the over-supply and rapid expansion of restaurants in the casual dining sector, and the shift to online buying have all contributed to the decline and this situation has simply been exacerbated and accelerated by the pandemic.”
He believes that all the traditional sectors visible on the High Street have seen a major shift in consumer sentiment, and it is incumbent upon those involved to respond positively to the changing marketplace.
“For retail and real estate there has been a major shift away from bricks and mortar premises to online and it is unlikely this will be reversed. These markets have resolutely shifted online and are unlikely to return to the way they were.”