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VIEWPOINT: What does 2013 hold for the future of commercial properties? 5 March 2013

The number of empty properties continues to reflect the persistent lack of growth in the UK economy. Recent figures suggest there are as many as 734,000 empty homes across England, but the staggering total number for the UK as a whole is thought to be closer to a million (914,000, as estimated by the charity, Empty Homes).

According to figures collected by the Local Data Company (LDC), the share of commercial properties and shops lying empty in Britain has hit an all-time high of 14.6 per cent. With news of continuing pressures on high street retailers, from online sales and resulting from background economic pessimism, and with some very large businesses such as Jessops, JJB Sport, Comet and HMV going into administration, the overall figure for vacant properties in 2013 seems bound to grow.

As if these background circumstances weren’t bad enough, small businesses have also recently found themselves under extra pressure from the banks. In June last year, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) announced that it had found serious failings in the sale of products to small businesses, which had offered protection against rising interest rates.

Following this announcement, banks including Barclays, HSBC, RBS and Lloyds have agreed to review the sale of individual IRHPs (interest rate hedging products) and to provide redress to customers, based on principles outlined in the FSA report. Is this audit process likely to result in more rationalisation and administrator appointments during Q2 and Q3 of this year, consequently causing more empty properties throughout the UK?

Enhancing the processes

If numbers are going to increase, how can we most effectively manage empty commercial properties?

At GMS we’ve seen a significant increase in the demand for our services supporting the commercial property sector. We’ve been primarily focused on void property insurance compliance services, such as initial and ongoing inspection, hazardous and combustible waste removal, fire risk assessment and manned guarding.

However, as numbers of vacant properties increase, we’ve recognised that it is vital to utilise and integrate new technology strategies to streamline the void property management process. We’ve developed enhanced reporting to customers and efficient invoicing processes by introducing e-commerce facilities and secure online accounts.

With the aim of offering a complete, ‘joined-up’ service to clients, we’ve also developed a Utility Management Service, which not only saves money for individual clients and for property portfolios, but more importantly can also offer a highly economic service to practices and businesses on a full-time engagement (FTE) basis. GMS manages the whole utility supply process, from procurement of the most competitive rates on the market to the negotiation of supplier guarantees (if required) and the validation and approval process of billing details and invoice payments. This new innovative service also ensures our clients’ compliance with regulation.

Whilst the future for the property market remains volatile, it is vital to manage empty properties as efficiently and economically as possible, ensuring the maintenance of its value.

GMS is a one-stop provider of comprehensive void property services across the UK, and with its expertise, experience and advanced technological resources it can support all property management requirements throughout the uncertain coming year and beyond.

For further information:

Neil Male is Executive Director of the GMS Group. The GMS Group offers security and allied services to a wide range of clients.
Phone: 01527 889180,

The group includes:
GMS Security Services Ltd, Property Support Services Ltd, Caretaking Services Ltd, Legal Services Ltd, Screening and Vetting Ltd.

Formed in 1997 to serve the insolvency market, the GMS Group has grown this year to an estimated £9m turnover and 300 staff operating nationally. As well as serving over 100 national insolvency companies, GMS operates in all sectors with a range of clients from small local businesses to high-profile international organisations such as Jaguar Land Rover.
Ex-professional footballer Neil attributes his success to an excellent management team and superb staff, and is forecasting a turnover approaching £12m within two years.



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