In an increasingly competitive environment, the flexible space sector has once again demonstrated its growing value to the UK economy.
According to a new report by the Business Centre Association which surveyed 47 operators covering 647 centres, the sector grew by up to 32% to 1st January 2015 contributing an outstanding £8bn of GDP per annum.
Up to 2015 centre openings, turnover and employment within the survey sample in the sector grew exponentially with employment within centres rising by around 19% compared to a national average of just 4.3% comprising 26,000 new and growing companies and 135,000 employees.
In Scotland, rates rose by up to 32% as new centres opened catering to the demand of the most diverse base of customers in the country.
Flexible business space provider Bizspace, which contributed to the research, operates nine centres in Scotland, which are at 74.7% occupancy. In the year to date it has seen enquiries rise by more than 50%, with occupancy and renewals also on the increase.
With uncertainty on the wider economic horizon in the wake of the BREXIT vote, the sector is in an exceptionally strong position to withstand a downturn. Looking to the future Emma Long, sales and marketing director and Scotland sales manager for Bizspace, said: “At Bizspace we aim to go the extra mile to support all our customers, and flexibility is something which has always been one of their most vital requirements. We expect this to only grow in importance as businesses increasingly realise the importance of survival in an unstable economic environment.”
Bizspace offers its customers a simple one-page licence agreement with no minimum fixed term and the ability to move to smaller or larger premises as required. Its ethos is to act as a ‘silent partner’ to its customers, to be the space that Britain’s small businesses are proud to call home by truly understanding what’s important to them: making things easier and celebrating their successes.
The survey also reveals that whilst co-working is the new watchword for some, it continues to be offered by only around 50% of the sample. However, the influence of the co-working ethos is recognisable across more flexible space offerings with break-out spaces, café spaces with full wifi accessibility and a blending of facilities to provide a wide range of services.
According to Andrew Butterworth, Chairman of the BCA, the strength of the sector lies in the focus it puts on the customer: “For successful flexible space operators, it is all about service, understanding the customer and being close to the customer is central to what we do. We, along with other operators, are concentrating on our positioning in the market place and making sure that buildings are targeted to the right type of occupiers whether that means priority given to collaboration, events, wellness and well being or more traditional approaches. We can easily adapt our buildings and models to meet and anticipate demand. It is this which gives the sector such resilience.”
Whilst economic forecasts may be troubling much of the economy, the flexible space sector looks set to continue to capitalise on its ability to reflect and respond, offering an increasingly rare stability to local economies.