Bristol’s sustained activity helps increased confidence that the UK’s recovery will be faster and fuller than many expected

Jo Davis, managing director, Avison Young Bristol

Sustained increases in activity in Bristol have helped Avison Young’s UK Cities Recovery Index, which follows the ongoing impact experienced across sectors due to Covid-19 and monitors the diversity of market activity in our cities, cross 100 for the first time since the pandemic began. Readings across the sectors give increased confidence that the UK’s recovery will be faster and fuller than many expected. Three weeks after restrictions in England were eased on 17th May, the Recovery Index has maintained an encouraging rate of growth, helped by a boost from half-term, now reaching a national level of 106.9.

This confidence is supported by continued resilience in Bristol. The Recovery Index for Bristol has been tracking significantly above the National Index since July of last year, and is now 9 basis points above, standing at 115.7.

The Recovery Index for Bristol has been boosted by strong activity in the housing market that saw a strong surge this year, now standing at a new high of 157.8 on 7th June. This compares to the national Index standing at 124.6.

Jo Davis, Managing Director Avison Young, Bristol, observes, “The strength of the housing market recovery in the last nine months has exceeded expectations. It fell significantly over December, but this will largely reflect the typical seasonal pattern of activity, slowing substantially over the holiday period. We expect that it will stay relatively high over the coming weeks as transactions continue through the extension to the Stamp Duty Holiday.”

Bristol also shows its strength within the hospitality sector. The Hotel and Leisure Index for Bristol has shown a propensity to bounce back relatively quickly and has now reached a new peak of 154.0 on 7th June, helped by the further easing of restrictions, bank holidays and an improvement in the weather.

“It’s well documented that the challenges faced by the hospitality sector have been drastic. Yet the resilience in Bristol is a very encouraging indicator of people’s continued willingness to get out and spend money which will benefit the sector,” Jo adds.

“With the easing of lockdown restrictions and re-opening of all non-essential retail, the retail and leisure sectors are showing signs of recovery albeit with currently historically high retail vacancy rates in high streets and shopping centres. Retail demand is being driven more by local and regional occupiers rather than major multiple retailers, where requirements are still limited and likely to remain so until 2022. There is significant interest in the sale of the former Debenhams store in Broadmead, now in the market, with the property likely to be re-purposed for alternative uses to retail.”

Avison Young’s report also looks at Return to Office, and this is one area where Bristol tracks below the national figure. As of 7th June the Return To Office Sector Index for Bristol was 54.0, below the national figure of 68.5. This is the major lagger of all the sectors, likely reflecting that government guidance has not changed on where to work.

Jo continues, “Recent research indicates that the appetite for home working is waning for a large proportion of the workforce, with a steadily increasing percentage of workers now expressing a desire to return to the office, for at least part of the week. This has been reflected in a rise in enquiries for vacant office space, and a greater number of viewings taking place, with a focus on quality and flexibility, and more interest in ready fitted ‘plug and play’ options, leading to a positive outlook for the second half of the year for the office market.”