Mayfair has long had a prestigious reputation, attracting big names and ambitious start-ups alike lured by the luxurious retail offerings, appealing green spaces and rubbing shoulders with the crème de la crème. That being said, now more than ever following the pandemic, there is an emphasis on surrounding amenities and creating an enticing office experience, we are seeing leasing momentum gain pace. A pace that has pushed activity beyond pre-pandemic levels as firms have scrambled for space in this area of London.
Annual leasing totals have been increasing year-on-year since 2020, with 2022 seeing the largest volume of space transacted since 2007 at 844,392 sq ft. This was stimulated not only by a greater number of firms leasing space but also by the first mega-deal transacted since pre-2004, signed by the Blackstone Group who took 225,000 sq ft at 57 Berkeley Square. This leasing momentum has continued into 2023, with the H1 total up 28% on that recorded during the same period in H1 2022, suggesting that we may see leasing at the end of 2023 exceed the total for the previous year.
Despite the increased number of firms leasing space, Mayfair remains a market dominated by the financial and corporate sectors, jointly accounting for 90% of total leasing in the first half (H1) of 2023. However, the financial sector has seen its share of leasing reduce in 2023 so far, coming in at only 46% compared to 69% in H1 2022. This has primarily been the result of increased leasing by the corporate sector. Whilst the corporate sector’s leasing has fluctuated somewhat year-to-year, over H1 2023 it has become the most active sector for leasing space in Mayfair. However, this was primarily due to Chanel’s pre-letting of the entirety of the 38 Berkeley Square development, equating to 83,000 sq ft. Moreover, as in 2022, in 2023 we saw considerably more financial firms leasing space than corporate at 22 businesses compared to 10. As such, the reduced share of take-up commanded by the financial sector in H1 2023 was not reflective of a wider process by which other sectors are gaining ground in Mayfair but is instead reflective of how a single large deal in a market of this size can change the narrative.
As we see firms continue to be attracted to Mayfair and in particular the best-in-class spaces, they are not put off by the high rents. A squeeze on the volume of available Grade A spaces of all sizes has led to a two-tier rental market, with the clear emergence of a super-prime class of spaces commanding rents of £190.00 per sq ft, 27% higher than the current Grade A average of £150.00 per sq ft.
The highs in rents for both super-prime and Grade A spaces are the result of significant growth over the past 12 months, up 19% and 25% respectively. As such, whilst Mayfair provides a prestige, amenities and central location that many firms want to give their employees/clients as a part of their office experience, a top-quality office offering in this market comes at an ever-increasing cost. On the other hand, Grade B rents have remained at £85.00 per sq ft for a fourth consecutive quarter. Given that this amounts to an increase of only 3% over 5 years and that secondhand space accounts for 91% of the space available in Mayfair, those less quality-conscious occupiers will find that there are significant opportunities in this market to lease space, with many of these spaces being of a more-than-satisfactory quality.
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