M42 and Solihull office market research — Q1 2023
Q1 delivered a modest total, but the quantity of smaller transactions indicates good activity from a Solihull office market that sprang into life in January.
Larger deals will complete in Q2, although Solihull office market stock of all sizes is dwindling. The uncertainty caused by the September budget put some decision-making on hold. This was visible in the Q1 2023 stats as the total of 24,300 sq ft is filled with deals in the 0-5,000 sq ft bracket, most of which completed at the end of the quarter.
Q1 2023 stats
2 4 , 3 0 0
total take-up (sq ft)
5 , 0 0 5
largest transaction (sq ft)
Solihull office market at a glance
- Key transactions – absence of large deals puts focus on smaller occupiers
- Education sector takes the largest space – city centre and out-of-town topped by education
- Activity returned in January – occupiers resume decision-making following uncertainty
- Smaller deals and serviced offices – last year’s smaller-occupier trend continues
- Hockley Court – a time and place – smaller deals put focus on unique courtyard schemes
- Variety is the spice of the Solihull office market – Solihull attracts a broad range of sectors
- Availability – stock diminishes across the market but new refurbished options available
- Refurbishment costs – fit out expenses rise and drive letting strategies
- Outlook – what’s ahead and how are working trends evolving?
Key Solihull office market transactions
|Office building||Size (sq ft)||Occupier||Business sector|
|Avon Business Centre||5,005||Energy & Utility Skills||Training / Education|
|2660 Kings Court||4,158||Leaf Complex Care||Care|
|3 Brooklands||3,500||AutoMoney Motor Finance (Mobile Money)||Financial services|
|Total||12,663||52% of take-up, 3 transactions|
Education sector takes the largest space
The market this quarter was topped by employer-led membership organisation, Energy & Utility Skills. The training company, which helps to ensure the gas, power, waste management and water industries have the skills they need, took 5,005 sq ft at Avon Business Centre in Shirley – relocating from Friars Gate, a short distance away.
In Birmingham city centre, there has been a range of education sector occupiers taking space over recent quarters, with Q1’s largest Birmingham office transaction being the letting of 45,180 sq ft to QA Higher Education at Louisa Ryland House. With education sector business a prominent trend in the city, could it be that we’ll see such organisations out-of-town too?
Activity returned in January
The lack of deals over 5,000 sq ft in Q1 is evidence of the slow enquiry levels seen last year, specifically from September onwards. This was due to a range of political and economic circumstances that saw occupiers hold off on decision-making, awaiting more clarity before moving forward with their plans.
In January, enquiries came back in strong numbers, and we can see that in the Q1 figures. Many of the deals that took place in Q1 were secured towards the end of March, having begun the process at the start of the year. There are larger deals that were also put in motion in January, but the larger the size of space, the longer it takes to complete the deal. We can expect to see these deals complete in Q2; had they fallen into Q1, we would have seen a significantly different total achieved by the M42 and Solihull office market.
Smaller deals and serviced offices
In Q1 2023, the smaller end of the Solihull office market was particularly active, with the majority of these occupiers either expanding or upgrading their office space. The 10 deals that took place were all 5,000 sq ft and below – a large number for this size bracket.
Last year, 0-5,000 sq ft and 5,000-10,000 sq ft delivered the lion’s share of the office space transacted in the Solihull office market – 65% of take-up and far higher than most years before this. The businesses in these brackets are generally too big to consider serviced offices. However, as office space is eroded further and smaller, sub-5,000 sq ft space disappears, there is only the option of serviced offices available.
The serviced office market in Birmingham’s out-of-town market is buoyant. In the same way that traditional office occupiers were reluctant to pursue plans in September through to December, so too were serviced office occupiers. In much the same way, January also saw serviced office occupiers spring to life with high levels of take-up. This is understood to be the case in out-of-town markets across the country.
Hockley Court – of a time and place
As smaller traditional deals have increased, it puts the spotlight on the sites securing the occupiers. One such location is Hockley Court, a courtyard of small, self-contained offices. Such a development wouldn’t be built today, as commercial property investors and developers would take a very different approach to a piece of land like that on which Hockley Court is built. The site and others like it now offer a proposition that is unique, and will forever be popular for their specific, hard-to-find offering.
Variety is the spice of the Solihull office market
The out-of-town office market in Birmingham is well known for welcoming a wide range of occupiers. Over the years this has been the secret to this office market’s success, with the broad appeal making it resilient in the face of sector-specific challenges.
When it comes to excellent variety of occupiers, Q1 2023 was no exception and not just regarding the range of sectors. There are a variety of stories behind the deals, from downsizing to upgrading and some doing both. This particular set of drivers for relocation has been common, as occupiers have improved their office space to enhance their ESG focus but reduced their office stake in light of the working flexibility they now offer their teams.
Q1’s details behind the deals include:
- Leaf Complex Care, supporting people with learning disabilities and complex needs, expanded with 4,158 sq ft at 2660 Kings Court, one of two deals in the quarter at Birmingham Business Park.
- Finance provider, AutoMoney Motor Finance (Mobile Money), took 3,500 sq ft at Brooklands in Redditch – the letting represented a downsizing of its office stake.
- Fire and security equipment supplier, Zicam, secured 2,540 sq ft of space at 9 Topaz in Bromsgrove.
- Ethically-sourced seafood supplier, Simply Seafoods acquired 1,938 sq ft at 9 The Pavilions in a relocation within Shirley from its existing offices at Avon Business Centre.
- Salvino Del Bene, Italy’s largest distribution expert, took 1,600 sq ft at Coleshill House.
- Recruiter, Rubicon took 1,277 sq ft at 14 Hockley Court, expanding out of serviced offices.
- Cabling infrastructure installation specialist and supplier to Virgin Media, ABS Installations took 1,268 sq ft at 15 Hockley Court. This is the company’s first dedicated office space in its 25 years of business.
Seeing businesses expanding out of serviced offices or otherwise taking their first traditional space is an excellent sign from the market, indicating prosperity and growth.
The prevailing theme for the Solihull office market for several years now has been lack of space. This has been particularly true of larger high quality office space but is now also true in other size brackets. Consequently, there is a restrictive environment for occupiers who have fewer and fewer options to relocate.
Birmingham Business Park, arguably the market’s most prominent office location, now has a record low level of vacancy, some 3-4%. This is an excellent demonstration of the severity of the drought in certain areas of the market. In Birmingham Business Park’s case, the situation is unlikely to improve massively as there are no opportunities, although one building will return to the market in due course, following refurbishment, offering c.60,000 sq ft.
Elsewhere, we have seen a few notable buildings have become available that offer occupiers new options and should free up the Solihull office market for increased movement.
Refurbished offices back on, or coming back to, the market
|Building||Location||Size (sq ft)|
|Portland House||NEC / Birmingham Airport||61,000|
|One Central Boulevard||Blythe Valley Park||60,000|
|Blake House||Eagle Court Business Park||37,000|
Rising refurbishment costs
As new build developments for offices have been virtually non-existent across the Solihull office market in recent years, the emphasis has firmly been on refurbishing existing office buildings. To secure occupiers, landlords have had to improve the quality of their vacant office space to a high standard, ideally Grade A. Importantly, those that have refurbished their office space have let it fairly promptly, although fewer and fewer buildings remain that offer such an opportunity.
Demand for office refurbishment has pushed up the cost of fit out services to new heights. This is true not just of the Solihull office market or the country, but across Europe. Indeed, recent studies report that the cost of office fit out has increased by 9% across the continent in a year.
As landlords seek to recoup this investment, rents will inevitably be pushed on further still and proactive marketing strategies and incentives, similar to those being used in Birmingham city centre, are likely in order to secure high quality occupiers quickly.
With the larger deals we expect to complete, we should see a healthier total from the Solihull office market in Q2 – the square footage could be as much as double that of Q1.
In addition, rents are being pushed on in every size bracket now. Whilst larger space will command record rents, so too will smaller space as availability reduces.
The return to the workplace continues and as occupiers have a better picture of what their office usage is – particularly if they are a company offering flexible, hybrid working – they have a greater sense of their office space requirements.
Statistics show that whilst working from home is a prevalent trend, it’s not for everyone. Recent data from the Office for National Statistics ‘Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN)’ found that 40% of people had worked from home in the past 7 days – just over double that of 2019. However, the average number of days spent working from home was 1.5-2 days a week, with 28% of those surveyed both working from home and travelling to work. This shows that offices still very much have their place in business, providing vital face-to-face collaboration and enhancing team wellbeing.
See full details of the transactions featured in our M42 and Solihull office market research.
Want to know more?
Contact Malcolm Jones0121 233 2330