Reading: COVID-19 decimates office take-up

An analysis of office transactions in the first half of 2020 has revealed the dire effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Greater Reading office market.

With only 65,466 sq ft of office space let in the first six months of the year, the statistics from agents Hicks Baker are on track to equal (and may even eclipse) the market’s weakest ever recorded performance.

Out-of-Town deals dominating

Hicks Baker Research has been compiling office take-up data since the early 1990s and market activity is currently at the lowest level since the post global economic crisis of 2008. Only five lettings in excess of 5,000 sq ft were concluded in H1/2020, all of which were transacted in motorway accessible business park locations. There were no deals in Reading town centre, which is unprecedented.

Most of the reported activity out-of-town has centered on Winnersh Triangle, where the 31,743 sq ft let to HP Inc is (by some distance) the largest office transaction so far this year. Further reported deals to Hollister Medical (10,700 sq ft) and FLB Accountants (expanding into 6,500 sq ft) at Building 1010 and 250 Wharfedale Road respectively means that this estate alone accounts for over 75% of total activity in the Greater Reading market in the first six months of 2020.

The letting of 12,917 sq ft at 1310 Arlington Business Park, Theale to Commvault Systems (announced in July) is not included in the H1 figures but further underlines the current dominance of out-of-town lettings. Significantly, Commvault is relocating from Apex Plaza in the town centre. However, it remains to be seen if this is indicative of a sustainable trend towards business parks with good parking and more open space as office occupiers shun public transport which, until the current pandemic, was considered to be one of Reading town centre’s strengths as a business location.