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Agency backs business advising on shop-to-resi conversions

Franchise giant Winkworth says it has backed the start up of a commercial company advising on investment in retail or business premises for development or conversion into residential accommodation. 

Winkworth is giving few details away at the stage but says: “The early results from this venture are very encouraging.”

The sector is likely to be a growth one for agents to get into - early this week the Local Data Company, for business consultancy PwC, revealed that over 8,700 chain stores closed in British High Streets, shopping centres and retail parks in the first six months of this year. That is an average of nearly 50 outlets a day as the impact of the pandemic and changing shopping habits continue to hit many towns and city centres.

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The news of the start-up investment by Winkworth came in the agency’s latest trading statement to shareholders. 

On the sale side, Winkworth says it enjoyed a record month of completions in March 2021, prior to the extension of the stamp duty holiday, and in June 2021, with sales revenue over the first half of 2021 outstripping the whole of 2020. 

Peak activity was focused on the country markets, where the desire to move away from city centres played its biggest part. 

In H1 2021, gross revenues of the franchised office network of £36.4m were up by 92 per cent on the same period of 2020. 

Sales income rose by 195 per cent and lettings and management rose by 11 per cent to £11.8m - equating to a 32 per cent lettings and management / 68 per cent sales income split across the business at the half year.

Meanwhile the franchise giant says the rental market so far this year has been divided between house and flat demand, with houses and country locations leading the way, while London rentals suffered from the pandemic.

Winkworth claims that an absence of international workers, students, and young professional sharers hit the London rental market, although it says demand recovered as the first half of 2021 progressed and people started to prepare for the return to work.  

“While rents in the country markets grew significantly, those in London remained behind pre-pandemic levels, albeit with early signs of a recovery towards the end of H1” says the firm’s trading statement.

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