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Switcheroo: UK Retail Assets Rise In Value As Offices Decline

Retail warehouses led the growth in capital values.

It is only one data point, and only covers a short period of time, but it is perhaps significant: In May, UK retail real estate values rose on average, while UK office values declined. 

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, retail values have plummeted by more than 25%, while offices have remained broadly flat in value, in spite of the debate about whether demand for office space will decline in the wake of Covid-19.

But for the first time since well before the pandemic, the direction in which capital values are travelling in the two sectors crossed over, according to CBRE’s Monthly UK valuation index, albeit the movements are small. 

Retail capital values rose by 0.1% on average in May, CBRE said, the first increase since December 2017.

This growth was driven entirely by retail warehouses, which posted their strongest monthly capital growth in over six years at 0.8%. The sector has seen a notable uptick in investment in the past six months, as investors bet that shoppers will continue to drive to out-of-town destinations where they can “click and collect” goods, or that some retail warehouses can become distribution centres. Brookfield and M7 Real Estate have both spent more than £300M in the sector recently. 

Meanwhile, high street shops posted only a small decline of 0.1% and capital values for shopping centres dropped by 1.2%. 

Retail rental values declined 0.3% in May. All retail subsectors recorded declines in rental values over the month. Retail total returns were 0.7%.

The office sector saw capital value growth of -0.2% in May. This reflected negative capital value growth across every subsector, except for City of London offices, which reported no movement. While the best offices in London continue to retain their value, older assets outside the capital are suffering, CBRE said. 

The office sector reported a 0.1% fall in rental values. Outer London and M25 offices was the only subsector to report non-negative growth in rental values, down to 0% from 0.1% in April. Office sector total returns were 0.2% in May.

“May posted solid growth at the all-property level with more evidence of retail having reached a trough in values as the sector posted positive capital growth for the first time in over three years,” CBRE Research Analyst Toby Radcliffe said. “Meanwhile, office sector values, especially outside of central London, continued to drift downwards. In May, retail reported greater capital growth than offices for the first time since October 2016, illustrating the changing fortune of the sectors. However, whether this marks the start of a new sector hierarchy remains to be seen.”