Is commercial property investment no longer a safe haven?

Commercial property pre-pandemic was considered one of the more secure options for money by investors, particularly by pension fund managers.

But the consequences of changing consumer behaviour, the aftermath of the pandemic lockdown and the retail High Street revolution would suggest a pause for thought and perhaps a rethink.

While the most obvious sector of business related property to be in trouble is retail it may prove not to be the only one.

Retail has been hit by a significant move to online shopping that has been building for several years, but it is also beset by what has been called an archaic rental collection system, whereby rents are payable quarterly.

The most recent Quarter Day was on 24th June (Midsummer Day) and it has been estimated that in the region of just 14% of retailers were paid their rent that day.

It was no surprise, therefore that Intu, owner of some of the UK’s biggest shopping centres, such as Lakeside and Manchester’s Trafford Centre called...

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The future of global sea freight transport post lockdown

The words “new normal” have become something of a cliché in predictions for a post pandemic world but there is little doubt that global sea freight transport is likely to be very different for some years to come.

Even before countries started closing their borders and taking other measures to protect citizens from Coronavirus the sea freight industry was facing pressures.

Much of the pressure relates to concern by the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) about the industry’s impact on the environment and specifically its use of sulphur oxides which is harmful and is considered to be the cause many premature deaths.

From January 2020 the IMO had imposed new emissions standards designed to significantly curb pollution produced by the world’s ships which will be no small feat given estimates that more than 90% of the world’s trade is carried by sea.

To achieve this target, it proposed to ban shipping vessels using fuel with a sulphur content...

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Tech offers growth opportunities post lockdown

It is likely that there will be many growth opportunities for companies to embrace the use of technology after the Coronavirus lockdown.

Many organisations and businesses have had to switch to a remote way of continuing to provide their goods and services and this has affected everything from medical consultations to teaching, even more online shopping and whole offices now remote working.

Having discovered that it is possible to function in this way it is likely that many will carry on doing so when restrictions are eased and this will provide growth opportunities for tech companies.

Among the beneficiaries already have been providers of online tools including conferencing facilities, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype, productivity and project management tools like Asana and Trello and online collaborative and co-creation tools like Miro and MURAL.

But for all their benefits there are also caveats in terms of speed and reliability of broadband, security and protection from...

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Directors should plan for innovative UK manufacturing to revive their businesses post-Coronavirus

UK manufacturing was in dire straits even at the onset of the Coronavirus lockdown, with the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) reporting output dropping at its fastest pace since 1975 in the first quarter of 2020.

As it progressed the pandemic and lockdown revealed many weaknesses in the global supply chain, most notably in the availability of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for frontline health and care workers.

However, it is often said that in disaster there are also opportunities and many businesses demonstrated their agility in switching their usual production to manufacturing both PPE and sanitising equipment, for example.

But, as attitudes change, so the opportunities for innovation increase and it is a good time for directors to start planning strategies for not only producing essential supply chain elements within the UK but also for devising new products to fit the new agendas.

The UK Government has announced two initiatives aimed to protect UK...

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The Phases for dealing with a pandemic involving Zoonotic diseases

coronavirus covid-19 May 21, 2020

In 1999 the WHO (World Health Organisation) devised a blueprint based on Phases for dealing with a pandemic, subsequently updated in 2005.

It set out six Phases, to provide a global framework to aid countries to prepare for a pandemic and plan their response.

The first three Phases cover animal transmission escalating to domesticated animals and eventually germs spreading to humans defined as a Zoonotic disease. These initial phases also deal with the preparation, capacity development and response planning activities, while the last three Phases deal with the response and mitigation efforts when a disease transmits from human to human.

Phase 4 deals with verified human-to-human transmission of an animal or human-animal virus and its ability to cause “community-level outbreaks”.  Phase 5 deals with the human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region and the sixth Phase is the Pandemic Phase where virus transmits from human-to-human in...

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The latest insolvency statistics for the first quarter of 2020 don’t tell the whole story

Astonishingly given the news coverage of a financial fallout due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the latest insolvency statistics for Q1 January to March 2020, show a decrease both when compared to the previous quarter and to the same quarter in 2019.

The figures, published by the Insolvency Service yesterday, showed a total of 3,883 company insolvencies with the majority again being in CVLs (Company Voluntary Liquidations).

This was a decrease of 10% compared with the last quarter of 2019, October to December, and of 6% when compared to January to March quarter of 2019.

Construction continued to have the highest number of insolvencies, followed by the wholesale and retail trade and accommodation and food services.

While these insolvency statistics cover the period before the lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic was imposed a drop in insolvencies is still surprising given that economies in the UK and EU had been slowing in previous months.

There is more clarity, however, from the...

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Time for a rethink? The global supply chain and short-term thinking

A time of crisis, such as the current Coronavirus pandemic, exposes the weaknesses of inter-dependency and systems and in this case, the global supply chain.

There is perhaps also no better time to review things and perhaps change from the short term thinking that seems to have dominated economics and businesses, especially in those economies like the USA and UK that rely heavily on the purchase of foreign goods.

It is clear that it will be a long time before life returns to normal and it is not yet clear what that “normal” will look like.

In the previous “normal” it was possible to rely on adequate supplies of raw materials for the production of various types of goods, such as food stocks on supermarket shelves.

But one of the first signs of the disruption to come was the rapid emptying of supermarket shelves as people panicked and bought large supplies of various items, for example toilet paper, hand sanitiser and pasta, in anticipation of the coming...

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Nurture your key relationships if you want to have a future after current crisis

It may seem premature to talk about what happens when the Coronavirus pandemic is over but SMEs need to think ahead and nurture those key relationships needed to ensure their business has a future.

Many of you have had to temporarily close your business and furlough staff due to Government restrictions introduced to try to slow the spread of the virus and many or you have seen your income plummet or cease altogether, with a devastating impact on your cash flow.

According to behavioural scientists it is natural to behave cautiously, even timidly, in the face of a threat, in direct proportion to its magnitude and to what is known about it. But amid the daily deluge of media updates, it is important to remember that we will tend to exaggerate the risk so the threat looms large in our minds.

So, it is perhaps natural to invoke a so-called “bunker” mentality in which self-protection overrides all else.

But as a business owner, no matter how dire the current situation, it is...

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Tax Relief For SMEs Impacted By Covid-19

covid-19 hmrc late payment sme Mar 19, 2020

HM Revenue & Customs has been told by the government to adopt a lenient approach with SMEs impacted by coronavirus that are unable to pay PAYE, VAT and other taxes.

It has set up a hotline for directors to call and ask for a “Time to Pay” arrangement if they're struggling because of the effects of the pandemic.

The number to call is 0800 015 9559.

HMRC will consider proposals for deferred payments or for spreading payments over time, say 12 months or even longer, and can waive late payment penalties and interest, but you must call them as soon as possible.

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