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Snow In April: Birmingham's Unseasonal Office Market


Recovery in the Birmingham office market is in the spring air, but data from the winter quarter shows a severe chill is still limiting growth.

Office take-up in Q1 2021 in the central Birmingham office market totalled 49.8K SF in 20 deals, date from the Birmingham Office Market Forum, which brings together the city’s leading office agents and Business Birmingham, showed.

Yet there are signs of vigorous life springing up out-of-town, thanks to the same pandemic that froze prospects in the city centre.

Thanks to a surge in online sales during lockdown, Lounge Underwear has taken IM Properties' 54K SF building at 1 Blythe Gate. The new UK HQ is at Blythe Valley Park, the mixed-use scheme on junction 4 of the M42 near Solihull.

The fast-growing fashion business will keep its existing 37K SF warehouse at the site as turnover leaps 250%.

It plans to create a 'lifestyle hub' to showcase its brands and provide space for product innovation and expanding staff numbers, due to hit 200 next year.

CBRE & Savills act on behalf of IM Properties at Blythe Valley.

Lounge Underwear's new M42 corridor head office

Elsewhere in the Birmingham office market the news was more frosty.

The largest city-centre deal in Q1 2021, concluded on 1 January, was the Department of Work and Pension’s signing for 16.5 SF at Galliard/Apsley’s Summerhill Road site. Since then the pace of deal-making slowed to a crawl.

The figures show no change from the equally flat fourth quarter of 2020 when 40K SF was recorded in 13 deals, but is less than a seventh of take-up in Q1 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic put the city’s office market in the deep freeze. That far-away time saw the city record a record-breaking take-up of 339K SF in 16 deals.

“In a quarter where office market activity continued to be hindered throughout by the national lockdown restrictions, it is no surprise that the Q1 take-up outcome remains well below long term averages," JLL Office Agency Director Jonathan Carmalt said. "However, it is encouraging that several smaller transactions have concluded with 20 deals representing the highest quarterly total since the end of 2019. 

“Birmingham agents have seen both a significant increase in the number of new office requirements over the last month or so, and some mature requirements moving forward positively. Birmingham office leasing activity and take-up levels are therefore expected to increase over the remainder of the year, as the roadmap out of lockdown proceeds and more normality returns to market conditions."