Blog | Office Leasing | Offices

The fashion for fit-out – how traditional landlords are embracing new levels of office fit-out

Changing tenant demand has led to a growing number of office landlords offering a wider range of office fit-out – Category A+.

This new trend is being driven by cost, convenience and competition from co-working providers who have become known for offering hassle-free, ready to move-in-to space. Landlords that have begun to test this new concept, are already starting to see the benefits.

Category A+ fit-out sits in between a landlord’s basic provision of space, Category A, and Category B – a full, interior designed space instructed by tenants. Category A space has always been widely offered by landlords in the market. As well as requiring minimal investment, this basic provision enables building owners to target a wider variety of occupiers – all with varying needs. Tenants have come to expect this level of fit-out to provide basic mechanical, electrical and fire detection services and air-conditioning and ventilation, painted walls and toilet facilities. To entice occupiers and offset some of the expense of fit-out, landlords have typically offered tenants rent-free periods whilst their fit-out takes place.

Market change

But in a positive move to engage with and attract occupiers, landlords have begun testing the demand and benefits for three new tiers of Category of A under the umbrella of Category A+. These new levels of fit-out provide tenants with almost-ready-for-occupation office space to varying degrees, helping to significantly reduce the cost for tenants and speeding-up the move-in process.

Some landlords have embraced this approach, whilst others are still testing the market. Those landlords that have implemented Category A+ fit-outs have undoubtedly reduced void periods and have seen a positive impact on rents. Offering ready-to-move into space has helped building owners to secure tenants quickly and tempt those that struggle to envision how space can be utilised when viewing Category A space.

CAT A+ MARKETING SUITE

This level of fit-out requires no actual work to be undertaken and comes with a minimal capital investment made by the landlord. Unlike the traditional Category A model, part of the space is furnished with aspirational furniture and / or finishes and displays. The main objective of this model is to help showcase the space with desirable furniture, helping to differentiate space from one building to another and support the marketing strategy. Once leased, this furniture is often transferred to another building. A number of landlords, such as Derwent and Dorrington, have been offering the Category A+ Marketing Suite model for some time and have found it effective in providing prospective tenants with a sense of scale, helping them to gauge how much furniture they will require.

CAT A+ DEMO

This approach offers building owners some of the benefits of the Plug & Play model without the significant outlay. It is also most adopted by landlords that are not quite confident enough yet to invest in the fit-out themselves.

In this model landlords will make a larger capital investment, taking a light touch approach to fit-out that is likely to include

a tea point, meeting room, high speed fibre installation of backbone telecoms and more furniture than in the first model.

As well as showcasing space, the other key incentive behind this option is removing some of the burden of fit-out and speeding up the move-in process for tenants. Some elements of this fit-out are complicated and time intensive. For example, to deliver fully working telecoms can take six weeks, but within this model, landlords are offering space with a telecoms contract in place that can be transferred to tenants.

Whilst landlords that have implemented this approach have found it has boosted interest levels and enquiries, helping to reduce voids, it has been less effective in generating a direct uplift in rental values.

CAT A+ PLUG & PLAY

This cost intensive approach provides prospective tenants with a fully fitted solution to enable tenants to take immediate occupation of the floor. This can cost landlords anything between £45 – £95 per sq. ft. dependent upon on the level of quality of the fit-out. Landlords confident that they will get a return in investment are most likely to consider this a viable option.

Along with all the fittings offered in the other models, Plug & Play space comes fully furnished with a reception, meeting rooms and desks. This model is most popular with building owners looking to create a ‘show floor’ in a newly refurbished empty building or a newly-launched building with multiple floors to let. As well as enabling prospective tenants to visualise how they can use the space if they take a floor, they also have the option of taking space fully fitted out as demonstrated by the Plug & Play fit-out.

Due to the capital investment needed, Plug & Play is most commonly seen on offices with smaller floorplates as it is most attractive to small businesses. These businesses are more likely to consider traditional office space alongside a serviced office option and are less likely to have a dedicated member of the team to manage complex fit-outs. The time and cost saving of Plug & Play is seen as a significant advantage

So far, the Category A+ models have proved effective for every party involved and offer businesses greater choice. Whilst the co-working sector has changed the rules of the game, Category A+ fit-outs demonstrate that traditional landlords can, and are, evolving to keep up with fast-changing tenant demand.

James Neville

Partner Office Leasing - City Commercial Development Consultancy

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