Another uniqueness is that most of our tenants are small businesses, most with less that 10 employees. This means that we are dealing with owners, rather than managers or agents. This means we get to find out really what is going on for them.
And in difficult times, such as we are now facing, they share with us the pains they are going through. A sudden loss of customers, which has afflicted many, is akin to grief, and that can lead to anger and depression. The Jennings Team have to be there to listen….it is part of our role.
And so initially there was a sombre atmosphere on the business Park. For a while there were hardly any cars on site. Some took a break.
And then change started to happen as business owners adapted to the new reality. Our tenants are entrepreneurial, and they will search for opportunity, and they did. Some switched to supplying PPE, or PPE suppliers. Some found their market growing, others have cut costs to suit their reduced sales income, still others faced with no sales in their chosen market, have found new marketplaces for their products, or adapted their products for the new markets.
However they have done it, we have been thrilled that almost all of our manufacturing tenants, and most are in some form of niche manufacturing, have weathered the storm so far, and some are expanding. A few have accepted our financial support by the way of rent relief, which we offer willingly to those most in need.
Our offices are a different story. The new norm for offices is to be able to work from home. Our offices, which thankfully are only a small portion of our buildings, are no longer buzzing with activity. Very few meetings are held in our meeting rooms, despite our extensive Covid precautions. We think it likely that many office workers will continue to work from home, at least for some of the time. We have converted one of our offices into a ‘hot desking’ facility to retest the market for part-time office use.
On reflection, and so far, the pandemic has been no worse for us than any other recession. Our tenants are nimble, entrepreneurial, and loyal. We do what we can to support them, just as we have in previous recessions.
We are aware that things could get worse as we enter the second lockdown, but against that we are in a rural area less affected by Covid than the urban areas, and we are fortunate to be well positioned close to the thriving Oxford Science and Technology scene.
We remain cautiously optimistic.