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Recent research* from PWC found that 83% of employers say the shift to remote work has been successful for their company, and fewer than one in five executives want to return to the office as it was pre-pandemic.

For organizations that compete for highly skilled staff, it’s likely that a greater focus on remote working will endure beyond the pandemic. While this could have been the preference of some staff pre-Covid, the majority have now experienced homeworking for a sustained period and created working spaces and adapted routines accordingly. In addition, employers have had sufficient opportunity to assess the levels of productivity achieved by their remote teams.

Post-Covid working models

This poses a conundrum for those organizations that maintain large expensive offices in prime locations. It is likely they will adopt one of three approaches. Firstly, ask staff to return to the daily commute and risk becoming uncompetitive in their ability to hire and retain staff who value flexibility more than they did pre-pandemic. Secondly, go full remote and forgo the prestige of a city center location and space to hold team meetings and welcome visitors. Or thirdly, move to a smaller office, offer a fully flexible working model, and retain a meeting space for team meetings and visitors. Of course, the substantial overheads associated with city center locations will also weigh heavily on any decision.

The PWC report shed light on challenges facing hundreds of thousands of businesses across the world. For the gas stations on those commuter journeys, and the retailers, restaurants and cafés that see a surge in lunch time trade from office staff, the implications are huge. In terms of location planning and site analysis, more than ever before, past performance will not be indicative of future results.

A new normal?

Those working in real estate and site selection teams will need to understand the new movement patterns resulting from post-Covid working practices. Sites that previously were considered prime may no longer justify their premium rates. Similarly, once unattractive locations may offer greater value as consumers adopt a more localized focus.

As the PWC article explains, many employers will embrace greater remote work or hybrid-employment conditions going forward. The natural consequence being traffic patterns and footfall, in some locations, may change profoundly. For many in retail, this means update and adjust their analytics to rescore optimization and utilization. Take a concept that relies upon workplace employees and high occupancy office buildings – that portfolio strategy will obviously need finetuning in the months ahead. Of course, that means knock-on consequences for others in the supply chain. Many retailers are now looking at smaller, more micro community stores closer to population hubs in response to these changes in consumer behavior and remote work.

Mass mobile

Over the past couple of years, we’ve all seen the emergence of mass mobile data in the marketplace. The applications are numerous, and perhaps more important than ever. As retailers and shopping center owners navigate the coming months, and our return to the “new normal”, understanding shifts in consumer movement will be critical. Leveraging mass mobile data can allows us to see changes as they happen, look for trends, and better anticipate the movement of our key customers both now and in the future.

Changing demographics

Another shift we’re seeing in consumer behavior ties directly to demographics. With a new US census coming soon, location decision makers will draw on demographic data providers to model the changes in income and workplace population density affected by the pandemic. Real estate teams will need to understand these changes and shifts in demographics, combined with mobility data, to better understand which locations will continue to make sense for their concept/offerings. Locations that did not appeal to them pre-Covid, may now be much more appropriate.

Getting the full picture

Mobile and demographic data are just some of the tools available to help support your strategy in 2021. Utilizing loyalty data and understanding how to create a compelling omnichannel proposition are also going to be crucial as retailers adapt to the new normal in their markets.

Aligning changing dynamics and data and adjusting our real estate strategies to reflect these new norms in consumer behavior, as well as new opportunities and risks in real estate, will determine our success.

To learn more about how TAS can help your organization navigate the new normal as it happens, get in touch today. 



Greg Rutan