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COVID-19 Impacts on Poland Real Estate

Katarzyna Lipka-Nawrocka • 28/05/2020

In the second week after the reopening of shopping centres, the average footfall figures remained at 60-68% y/y (according to the data gathered by Polish Council of Shopping Centres). Compared to the first week after reopening the number of visitors on Saturday was 10% higher and amounted to 60%. The next update will show footfall figures after food & beverage as well as hairdressers and beauty salons reopened on 18 May. 

The reduction in physical retail sector caused by COVID-19, has accelerated online sales, which has had a positive effect on demand for logistics space. On the other hand, there are companies and industries more exposed to the negative effects such as manufacturing or automotive, hence some tenants are holding back their investment decisions and focusing on current processes. The future of the industrial market will depend to a large extent on how quickly the domestic and international economy will return to normal. 

As the epidemic situation in Poland is improving, building owners and office tenants are continuing to adapt office spaces and common areas to the principles of social distancing which improve H&S conditions in the workplace. This includes preventive measures such as special signage showing recommended flow and distancing between employees, additional use of disinfectants or touchless access to gates, doors and elevators.   

 


21 May

According to data gathered by the Polish Shopping Centre Council, the daily footfall level in 90 shopping centres from all over Poland in the first week after reopening ranged from 53% to 68% compared to the same period of 2019. Small and medium-sized shopping centres recorded an average of 72% of footfall, while large and very large centres recorded 63% year on year. Very positive data from Credit Agricole and PKO BP Research (credit cards and Blik payments) shows that their customers spent in retail schemes the same as, or more than, before COVID-19 restrictions, which indicates a high conversion rate (turnover to footfall). 

The improving epidemic situation in Poland allows for a gradual return of employees to offices. On 18 May, Cushman & Wakefield reopened all offices in Poland, including its headquarters in Warsaw and subsidiary offices in regional cities. Cushman & Wakefield offices have been adapted to the Six Feet Office guidelines, which ensures compliance with the principles of social distancing for all users of the office space. 

The e-commerce sector growth is influencing the development of last mile delivery facilities. It is also generating additional demand for warehouse space especially from the food sector, FMCG and related logistics operators. On the other hand, the decline in industrial activity, including the automotive sector, may be a negatively influence on market development in the coming months. The next stages of loosening the restrictions on economic activity in Poland bring optimism, although the situation in the industrial market is still very dynamic.  


14 May

As the pandemic situation in Poland gradually improves, we observe further easement of regulations such as reopening of shopping centres and hotels. 

Shopping centres have been able to open since 4 May with strict hygiene rules in place. Early figures from the first day of reopening (mobile data, Placeme) show footfall down by ca. 50% in larger cities. In smaller cities the situation looks more positive where declines were limited to around 20% compared to the pre-pandemic period. Most of the tenants decided to reopen their stores in shopping centres, however some retailers terminated their lease contracts.    

Although work from home is still the dominant style of work in most companies, more and more occupiers are deciding to reopen their offices. Maintaining a safe distance between employees and providing mandatory safety equipment are the key measures to provide a maximum level of security to employees. 

Despite challenges related to ensuring safety of employees, the warehouse sector in Poland is doing quite well. Tenant activity remains stable, largely powered by the accelerated growth in e-commerce sales. Some companies have seen their business hit hard by the current situation and have asked landlords for some temporary support in the form of reduced or deferred payments. Such requests are carefully reviewed by landlords on a case-by-case basis. Support is temporary and involves postponement of payments or lease extensions. 

 


7 May

Restrictions on shopping centres, contrary to earlier announcements, are lifted not in the third but as early as in the second stage of defrosting the economy, i.e. on 4 May. Stores in shopping malls can reopen under a strict sanitary regime. Cinemas, gyms and fitness clubs as well as beauty salons are still closed. Restaurants are only allowed to offer delivery or take-away meals.  

There is still a big question mark over the process of reopening shopping malls. Managers and owners need to quickly implement many security measures related to providing customers with safe shopping conditions. On the other hand, it is difficult to predict how customers will behave in this new reality, and whether they will, if at all, quickly return to their old shopping habits. Examples from other countries show that the process will be rather slow. 

Key market indicators for the office sector as of Q1 2020 are positive which proves strong market fundamentals. Together with the general softening of restrictions introduced by the Polish Government, we firstly observe that tenants are making the decision to re-open their offices.  

Despite very positive first quarter results for the industrial market in Poland, the current COVID-19 situation remains difficult for both tenants and property owners. In some sectors like manufacturing, tenants are struggling with enormous business difficulties and trying to keep afloat. Some companies are growing and developing at a much faster pace than ever before, largely powered by the accelerated growth in e-commerce sales. 

 


30 April

According to the Central Statistical Office, retail sales in March 2020 were 9% lower than last year and at the same time by 3.3% lower than in February this year. On the other hand, e-commerce increased - in March the share of online sales increased to 8.1% compared to 5.6% in February. Retail sales in April may decrease further, however, in the long run, much will depend on consumer sentiment and the pace of defrosting the economy. 

As expected, Q1 2020 ended with positive results for the industrial market in Poland. Total leasing activity amounted to 960,000 sq m, which is almost the same as in Q1 2019 and vacancy rate remained at a low level of 7%. Although the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacts investment decisions for some occupiers, especially in automotive and manufacturing sectors, the demand for large BIG-BOX warehouse units and urban logistics space should remain relatively unchanged in the medium term, due to growing volume of e-commerce.  

The current situation has had a relatively limited impact on the key office market metrics in Q1 2020 - total take-up amounted to almost 350,000 sq m, representing a 33.5% increase year-on-year and the vacancy rates are at a low level. Office buildings in Poland remain open and there is no legislation limiting construction works in Poland. However, a supply gap in 2022-2023 may emerge from planned projects being put on hold, possible construction delays resulting from protracted administrative procedures (among other issues) and limited labour availability.  

 


23 April

Since 20 April, the first stage of easing of restrictions on public life has taken place. All shops allowed to operate and which are up to 100 sq m can serve four customers per till, while larger stores can have one customer per 15 sq m.  

The second phase foresees the opening of DIY stores at weekends, as well as hotels and other accommodation places. The third phase will include the opening of stores in shopping centres, F&B outlets, beauty and hair salons, while the fourth phase will see the opening of gyms, fitness clubs, massage salons and solaria, cinemas and theatres. The dates for moving forward to the next phases have not been given yet and will depend on the spread of the coronavirus. 

The COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate the development of e-commerce in Poland. Many retailers have introduced online stores, social media selling and promotions. Shopping centre landlords and managers have started to work on health and safety improvements, which will be necessary after their reopening.  

Q1 2020 on the warehouse market ended with good results, however, there are already the first signs of a decrease in activity. Whereas tenants associated with the e-commerce industry are experiencing short-term growth, many other industries are already starting to feel the overall slowdown. 

Key statistics for the office market in Poland in Q1 2020 are positive, both on the supply and demand side. However, the ongoing activity of occupiers is slowing down, as many companies adopt the wait and see strategy and put on hold their relocation / expansion decisions.  

 


16 April

According to the latest information, the Polish Government is already planning to loosen some of the restrictions in order to stimulate economic activity, however, no details have been released yet.  

As for now, all previously implemented restrictions regarding shopping malls have been maintained and extended until 19 April. Retail is one of the most pandemic-affected sectors of the economy, however, it will be one of the first to stimulate the economic recovery once the restrictions are lifted. 

Key statistics for the Warsaw office market in Q1 2020 are positive as the total leasing activity reached a similar level as in the first quarter of 2020, which resulted in a further decrease of vacancy rate. However, the ongoing activity on the office market is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as a large proportion of tenants are in the wait and see position and some of them have already put their decisions on hold.  

Data coming from the warehouse market confirms that Q1 2020 will end with good results from the demand and supply side. However, the first half of April has already seen signs of a decrease in activity. Tenants associated with the e-commerce industry are experiencing short-term increases, but many other industries are already beginning to feel the general slowdown. Some tenants are already negotiating the possibility of rent reductions.

 


9 April

The first data summarising the Q1 2020 on the office market in Poland is relatively positive as most of transactions planned for Q1 were closed on schedule.  

Nonetheless, there is a certain level of uncertainty regarding tenant activity in the next quarter due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to GFK survey, approx. 49% respondents which are office-based employees in Poland currently work remotely. This situation is affecting the ongoing transactions processes because of availability of clients, difficulties in conducting viewings or negotiating lease agreements.  

Shopping centre landlords, tenants and the entire retail sector are suffering major losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The changes in retail will depend on the length of the pandemic and national lockdown. As customers avoid stores and crowded public places, retailers that are able to fulfill online orders through home delivery are doing better than those that cannot.  

Overall, the warehouse market remains relatively stable. At present, the adjustment processes dominate - securing the health of employees and adjusting the level of inventories in order to secure the liquidity of supplies, especially in terms of essential products.

We expect take-up numbers in Q1 2020 to remain positive as the result of high tenant activity in the period preceding the outbreak in Poland.

However, further effects of COVID-19 are difficult to predict in the medium term as Poland is in the early stages of the pandemic. 

 


2 April

Since 14 March all shopping centre operations have been limited to stores only selling essentials or providing essential services, including grocery stores, pharmacies and launderettes.  

On 25 March Poland went into full lockdown with the public banned from leaving homes except for essential reasons. Restaurants are only allowed to offer delivery or take-away meals. Standalone DIY markets remain open. The Polish Government adopted the assumptions of an ‘anti-crisis shield’ according to which lease agreements in shopping centres should be suspended for stores that are not allowed to operate. Both tenants and landlords are taking the initiative to incorporate the interests of both parties in the new regulations. 

We are currently observing adaptation processes in the warehouse market in Poland, especially visible on the demand side, as the development processes started last year are still ongoing.  

Companies from the e-commerce, food, FMCG, pharmaceutical, hygiene or cleaning products sectors are looking for solutions to meet the sudden increase in consumer demand. Tenants are increasingly interested in short-term leases, due, in part, to the bullwhip effect thanks to recent consumer stockpiling. 

In the first quarter of 2020, tenant activity in the Polish office market was at a relatively stable level. Nonetheless, since mid-March approximately 5-10% of transactions are on hold due to general uncertainty caused by COVID-19. Currently there is no legislation limiting construction works in Poland and most of the office construction sites continue. 

Total investment volume recorded by end of March 2020 in Poland exceeded €1.1 billion and it has been mostly driven by the industrial sector (€800 million). We can observe that deals in advanced stages are still pushing ahead and closing, however most investors have taken a ‘wait-and-see’ position. We expect further slowdown of investor activity as we come into Q2.  

Credit activity has partially slowed down. Banks are taking a different approach to financing specific sectors, with most optimism directed at logistics property. 

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