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COVID-19 Impacts on Turkey Real Estate

Cigdem Isozen • 10/06/2020

Parallel to governments around the world, restrictions on lock down were eased gradually along with the curfew imposed for the Eid holiday is lifted, beginning from 1 June in Turkey. 

Following the contraction revisions of Turkey’s 2020 GDP growth from Oxford Economics by 5.1% and Standard & Poor by 3.1%; Fitch and IMF have updated their expectations that the Turkish economy will shrink by 3% and 5% respectively. Moody’s Analytics is forecasting a parallel projection by reducing growth forecast and foresees the economy to contract by 5% from 1.4% in 2020. Yet, all these credit rating providers’ expectations show similar outcome that the Turkish economy to grow by partial rebound in the range between 3.5% to 7.1% in 2021. Therewithal, despite the ease in monetary policy, weakening in local currency and contraction of economy due to the pandemic will weigh on investments.

While putting health & safety first, key focus turns to the concept of ‘‘returning to work’’ in the office market. Mandatory remote working has led a new shaped workplace outcome with new focus on well-being, productivity and cost optimization. As many office-based employees achieved to find a balance in their work life within a strong team collaboration through the pandemic, companies have to consider the current workplace experience which is essentially driven on who should back to the office and why in order to provide flexibility and choice to work from any workplace at least some level, where these assessments are relied on data based-approach carried out by Cushman & Wakefield’s proprietary Experience per Square FootTM (XSF) tool, analyzed from more than 40,000 respondents worldwide. Furthermore, as future of workplace evolves with healthier workplace environment in line with technical infrastructure, office building supply will be subject of reclassification in the near future.

New developments in the retail market towards footfall count in shopping centers following the re-opening. Some progress has been recorded in the number of visitors which was 20% of the regular footfall count on 11 May, accelerated to 40%, approximately with 2.6 million where the overall turnover increased to 55-60% from 40% of the regular turnover on 1 June. Nevertheless, extension of ‘‘rent holiday’’ arrangements and the exemption of service charges remain to be highly discussed where the Turkish economic stability package is expected to boost the low retailer demand.

Along with the sharp rise of e-commerce in the first two months of the pandemic; e-commerce and online sales tripled to 183% in the first eight weeks of the lockdown compared to the same period of last year according to data provided by Nielsen in Turkey. This distinct increase in e-commerce is likely to accelerate the omnichannel strategies which will provide the brick and mortar retail to gain momentum in mid to long term within short term warehouse requirements.

Turkey has resumed intercity travel as of 1 June thus the hospitality market is preparing to experience some expected rebound with a gradual increase in hotel occupancy, particularly in apart hotels, whereas resorts complete preparations to operate their facilities with social distancing measurements. 

 


 

25 May

Revisions of Turkey’s 2020 GDP growth and currency volatility remain on the same level at the end of May. The government’s fiscal response to the outbreak has brought the policy rate down to 8.25% in order to support post pandemic recovery. Furthermore, seasonally adjusted confidence indices in services, retail trade and construction sectors displayed improvements in May with increases by 10.8%, 5.0% and 31.1% compared to the previous month, respectively which boosted economic confidence index increasing by 20.4% to 61.7 in May.

Following the social distancing measures to be effectively applied in workplaces along with the collaboration of occupiers and investors, ‘‘new normal’’ has leading office market to be rapidly evolved into ‘‘new shaped’’ form where the flexibility is the key takeaway. Workplace will have to be underpinned with a clear focus on wellbeing as social distancing policies are likely to drive the gradual embrace of the remote working transition to offices within health and safety standards, team collaboration, some level of working from home and feasible variety office locations.

A survey carried out by Cushman & Wakefield in Turkey involving with 1,147 respondents from 303 companies (207 foreign) in Turkey, showed that 86% of all respondents notably favor the trend towards remote working at least two days in a week in a post pandemic era. In addition, 65% of respondents indicated a strong individual productivity by working from home, therefore these two highlights particularly provide a parallel expected outcome in considerable ‘‘new shaped’’ office market.

Along with easing restrictions, gradual re-openings of shopping centers in line with the recovery readiness regulations are accelerating in Turkey while the distinct decline in footfall count is expected to indicate some progress. Extension of ‘‘rent holiday’’ arrangements and the exemption of service charges are the notable priorities in order to boost the retailer demand, whereas some momentum has started to be gained in high streets within the acceleration in footfall count and retail sales. Meanwhile, food & beverage category sales are highly anticipated to experience turnover challenges in the medium term, particularly in shopping centers, while ready to wear/shoes category is most likely to attract the interest of potential customers in both shopping centers and high streets.

Furthermore, e-commerce in Turkey is estimated to be one of the fastest growing top 5 countries with a compound annual growth rate of 12% (CAGR 2018-2022) according to data provided by Statista, thus based on this approach the acceleration in the demand for short term warehouse requirements is highly expected to remain in the upcoming periods within the distinct increase in online retail.

 


21 May

In Turkey, 2 months of the COVID-19 pandemic has passed along with the adaptation to the ‘new normal’. Following the contraction revisions of Turkey’s 2020 GDP growth and currency volatility, inflation is likely to be supported by lower oil prices and weakening demand. Moreover, the seasonally adjusted consumer confidence index recorded at 59.5, an increase of 8.5% in May compared to the previous month that projects an optimistic consumer tendency in this pandemic era. 

While approaching the return of the workforce in many organisations, the key implications are going to be social distancing measures which is likely to be the driving force for long term office demand. Collaboration between occupiers and investors regarding health & safety plans in workplaces will ease to find a balance between flexibility and affordability, as these two key parameters are highly expected to determine the ‘newly shaped’ office market. 

There is gradual reopening of shopping centres across Turkey with social distancing requirements. Both shopping centre owners and retailers are obliged to fully apply the pandemic regulations. Extension of ‘rent holiday’ arrangements and the exemption of service charges remain a hot topic of discussion, while some shopping centre owners have agreed to extend these agreements. In line with the pandemic, footfall count has significantly decreased by 82% to 3.4 million people in the first 3 days of reopening compared to regular average visitor count in the 3 days before the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, customer interest has accelerated in high streets along with the heavy foot traffic and increased retail sales thus the recovery is more likely to be experienced on high streets than in shopping centres. 

Following the gradual resumption in manufacturing/distribution facilities, similar recovery readiness regulations are to be applied in the industrial and logistics market.  

Turkey has extended travel restrictions until 3 June where passenger count recorded a distinct decline by 41.1% in YTD April 2020. Along with this expected outcome due to the pandemic, the Turkish hospitality market is getting ready for the tourism season, which is expected to start over followed by the Eid Holidays while domestic tourism demand is expected to resume in June. As health & safety concerns will drive the market, hotels are restructuring their facilities to ensure social distancing protocols and certification processes are to be determined in tourism facilities. 

 


14 May

Following the ‘Oxford Economics’ latest revision showing a contraction of 5.1% for Turkey’s GDP growth in 2020, Standard & Poor’s is forecasting a parallel projection whereby Turkey’s economy is to contract 3.1% in 2020. Nevertheless, along with the stable outlook affirmed by S&P, the expectations are that the Turkish economy is likely to start recovery from the second half of the year despite the currency volatility interruptions. 

In the office market, buildings will have to adapt to the challenges towards a ‘new normal’ essentially complying with further health and safety standards in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than the number of workforces returning to office workplaces, how both occupiers and investors respond to these protocols and prepare their social distancing and health & safety plans will differentiate their position in the office market. 

Shopping centres are opening gradually from 11 May across Turkey along with the required precautions in order to implement social distancing regulations. Retailers have started to re-open their stores on high streets and many are preparing their openings in shopping centres as of 1 June to fully apply pandemic measures. Extension of ‘rent holiday’ arrangements and the exemption of service charges are being highly discussed and remain to put pressure on shopping centres owners. Along with the rapid change in consumer behaviour, e-commerce and online sales increased by 171% in the first five weeks of the lockdown compared to the same period of last year according to data provided by Nielsen in Turkey. Thus, the acceleration in the demand for short term warehouse requirements is most likely to continue in the upcoming periods within the distinct increase in online retail. In addition, similar recovery readiness protocols are to be applied in industrial and logistics facilities and along with resuming operations, gradual efficiency is anticipated to be observed in manufacturing/distribution facilities. 

 


7 May

Economic growth forecasts are being revised along with the implications of the COVID-19 outbreak. The latest projections from Oxford Economics for 2020 Turkey GDP growth show a contraction of 5.1%, 680 bps below the assessment in March. This distinct outcome reflects a hit from the coronavirus pandemic as the projection of exchange rate increases are also slightly accelerated by the year end, thus these indicators will weigh on investments. 

New developments in the retail market towards preparation of re-openings, essentially re-engaging the consumers. The key approach will be to review each aspect of the process within social distancing disciplines including health and safety standards, new technology providing a touchless environment and improved logistics modelling which will lead the acceleration of the synchronisation retail supply chain and inventory. Some brands have started to re-open their stores in high streets and are now experiencing the implementations of the new regulations. In addition, many retailers are preparing their re-openings within the gradual activation of shopping centres starting in the middle of this month, officially beginning from 11 May across Turkey. 

Parallel to the retail market, organisations have to collaborate in order to maximise adaption of the workforce back to the office from working remotely. While employers have to focus on new health & safety regulations and create a social distancing plan in the workplace, property owners will prepare the buildings by ensuring the cleaning and safety concerns to provide the most effective return migration.  

While moving toward recovery, the industrial and logistics market will also have to maintain the same protocols in order to reach the efficiency in manufacturing/distribution facilities and warehouses following the halting period. Automotive companies are preparing to resume their operations starting from this week, while the manufacturing capacities are expected to face a gradual recovery. 

Following the decline in hotel occupancy across Turkey recorded in March, tourism income and visitor numbers have decreased by 11.4% and 15.1% y/y in the first quarter, respectively. Out of all expenditure types, accommodation expenditure dropped by 15.7% y/y. Apart from this anticipated outcome, the Turkish hospitality market is preparing the tourism season with policies in line with social distancing measurements. While putting health & safety concerns first, infrastructures will be mapped around health care, ventilation and thermal cameras while increasing health staff and equipment. Furthermore, there will be restrictions in the number of people at restaurants, beaches and entertainment and leisure venues and resorts will limit all-inclusive and open buffet packages. Occupancy in apart hotels, on the other hand is anticipated to be at its highest level. 

 


30 April

Turkey remains in the critical weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, and new infections are in a downward trend and a new wave in the country is not expected.  

In line with the transition to the ‘new normal’, most shopping centres are planning to gradually reopen starting around the middle of May in order to cover the start of the Eid holiday period. Meanwhile, the extension of a ‘rent holiday’ period within the exemption of service charges are being discussed following the re-openings as footfall and turnovers are anticipated to witness a slow recovery. 

As workplaces will have to adapt to social distancing principles, new workplace strategies will emerge and will likely be the driving force of long-term office demand. Return to the office will require a holistic approach to health & safety in the workplace, remotely, from home and during commute. Organisations adopting this approach will be able to ensure a smoother and quicker return to the new normal for their staff. 

Supply chains have been hit hard from the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, geography i.e. partial re-shoring, and technology i.e. adoption of Industry 4.0, are expected to form the basis of a global production strategy to become more agile and mitigate production and distribution shortfalls should an event like this ever happen again. Turkey is very likely to benefit in the long term given its strategic location and strong work force. A further push in Industry 4.0 adoption will only accelerate this trend. In the meantime, social distancing will need to be addressed for manufacturing and distribution facilities in the short to medium term which will have repercussions on output and space requirement. Increased online sales have already led to a higher demand for short term warehouse space. Logistics 4.0 appears as the overarching theme in production and distribution and driving demand for industrial space

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the hospitality industry has been greater than on many other sectors. Travel restrictions have resulted in a significant decline in occupancy and revenues as a result. Hotel occupancy has declined to 28.6% with a decrease of 55.2% y/y in March 2020 across Turkey, while occupancy in Istanbul recorded at 29% with a decline of 59.8% y/y in the same period according to STR data. According to Oxford Economics with the expected decline of inbound arrivals in 2020, Turkey will be one of the least impacted countries with a drop of 34% in 2020 among selected European countries. The overall outcome in the hospitality market is anticipated to be felt well into the third quarter, however along with the softening in travel restrictions, some rebound is likely to be observed starting in the last quarter of the year. 

 


23 April

Turkey is in its fifth week of a quasi-lockdown and economic growth forecasts are being revised. The latest forecast from Oxford Economics shows 2020 GDP growth reducing to 1.7% where Fitch Rating’s is expecting Turkey’s economy to grow 0.8% in 2020. Moody’s Analytics, on the other hand is forecasting a more vulnerable reflection of the COVID-19 pandemic by indicating a contraction of 1.4% in GDP. In line with the revised economic growth forecasts, the expected exchange rate increases by the year end will overall have an impact on the transaction activities. 

Along with return to office protocols underway in many organisations, social distancing measures are likely to be part of wider implications for long term office demand. Leasing activities indicated an acceleration during the first quarter whereas demand is likely to slow down in the upcoming period. Yet, pent up demand is likely to pick up quickly post pandemic in line with major driving forces of workplace optimisations and flexible office space by focusing on health and safety concerns. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put pressure on the retail market, ‘rent holiday’ arrangements have been adopted widely and service charge recovery remain during the lock down period. Meanwhile, as one of the leading supermarket retailers indicated an increase of four-fold in its online sales, e-commerce sales increased by 160% in the first three weeks of lockdown compared to the same period of last year according to data provided by Nielsen in Turkey. Demand for short term warehouse requirements have accelerated despite the short-term headwinds, as consumer behaviour has been evolving rapidly parallel to the striking rise in online retail. 

While major automakers remain to extend shutdown periods by a further 2 weeks to a month, one of the biggest German automakers announced to resume the manufacturing in Turkey, while within very few Turkish white goods manufacturers; chemical, pharmaceutical and ready to wear industrial categories mostly maintain their manufacturing processes. 

 


16 April

While adapting to the ‘new normal’ amid this pandemic, general assessments towards traditional workplace are expected to evolve within organisations. Social distancing, workplace strategy, space utilisation and health & safety considerations are already shaping the evolution of office use moving forward.

Working from home is likely to remain an important element of the workplace though not to the same extent as during the lockdown.  As such public transport and commuting to work is being addressed as part of a wider workplace strategy and will have an impact on choice of location. It appears as if overall space requirement is going to remain stable if not increase in the longer term as a result of space planning with implications for long term office demand

As the de facto shutdown of bricks and mortar retail remains, including the suspension of few Turkish brands’ online sales, shopping centre owners have widely adopted ‘rent holiday’ type of arrangements while the exemption of service charges is being discussed. Though operational costs have been reduced significantly during the outbreak most shopping centre owners are discussing service charge recovery during the lock down period. A number of retailers have accelerated their plans for return to business. 

The increase in online sales particularly of leading supermarkets and discount groceries maintain to drive short term demand for warehouses and last mile delivery related urban logistics solutions. Social distancing will need to be addressed from a distribution point of view. Meanwhile, major automakers extended shutdown periods by a further 2 weeks to 1 month, while very few Turkish white goods manufacturers resume the manufacturing with lower capacity.  

The hospitality market is experiencing operational challenges with the rapid decline in occupancy in the last month. Resorts as well as city hotels are both impacted most as foreign visitor numbers declined significantly. Nevertheless, the Turkish hospitality market seems to be one of the least impacted among selected European countries according to STR data. While occupancy has declined during the month of March year on year, the impact remains to be seen. 

 


9 April 

As the COVID-19 pandemic is developing, the outbreak has led to a reassessment of the trends surfacing in the property market.  

Unsurprisingly, the bricks and mortar retail market has been hit particularly hard. Following the de facto shutdown in Turkey, new arrangements are now being discussed around rent payments between shopping centre owners and retailers where the adoption of a ‘rent holiday’ has been brought forward to mitigate the economic challenges.  

Few shopping centres including the prime ones in major cities indicated to offer rent break during April. Leading grocery retailers in Turkey are hiring staff to meet the surge in demand from online shopping amid the coronavirus outbreak. A few Turkish brands, particularly fashion brands, have suspended online sales to minimise risk for staff and customers.  

The most visible impact in the office market will be around workplace density and staff commuting, considering the widespread work from home regime and potential longer-term social distancing measures.  
 
Temporary rent suspensions are in discussion though not to the same extent as in the retail sector. While demand for flexible workspace is likely to increase in the aftermath of the pandemic workplace density and shared workspace will need to be addressed for the longer term. 

The industrial market, on the other hand, can be considered less impacted despite supply chain disruptions. Major automotive companies have temporarily halted manufacturing in Turkey, yet the logistics market is set to gain momentum with warehouse leasing activities along with the urgent demand of e-commerce and online retailers.  

The residential market has started to adapt to the challenging market conditions, in line with the online title deed transactions system, which was seen in notable residential sales in the second half of March - approximately 25% of the total sales recorded in the previous month in Turkey.  

 

2 April 

Over recent days, the global spread of COVID-19 is having a dramatic impact on people, communities, and businesses in Turkey. The outbreak is expected to limit Turkey’s 2020 GDP growth to 1.7%, reduced from 2.8%, as indicated by Oxford Economics, while Moody’s has forecast a 1.4% contraction in Turkey’s economic growth.  

The real estate industry in Turkey is being affected by social distancing, working remotely, defacto shut down of physical retail and strict travel restrictions. As self-distancing is being tested in Turkey in line with global recommendations, many companies have started working remotely. This will lead to a reconsideration of workplace strategy including working remotely on a long-term basis or flexible office space with a clear focus on health and safety concerns. 

Following the Government’s decision to close down all social gathering areas related to entertainment/leisure - ‘non-essential’ - almost all shopping centres have been forced to close their doors. Many Turkish and international brands temporarily closed their stores both in shopping centres and on high streets.  

The physical retail market is expected to face major challenges regarding uncertainty in lease agreements., These remain in place and shopping centre owners are under pressure to allow ‘rent holidays’ with the exemption of store operating costs for the non-operational period. Notwithstanding, online retail is rapidly increasing, but limited to grocery shopping for the time being, resulting in a high level of demand for home delivery. 

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