We’re used to hearing about closely linked industries getting involved in Coworking. For many years, developers and landlords are housing Coworking spaces in their buildings to nurture future long-term tenants. Corporate furniture supplier Haworth use it to cultivate future customers and offer a showcase for their cutting-edge furniture. Staples, the office supplies company are opening one too. Some venture capital firms are using Coworking to stay close to future investment opportunities.
Increasingly, we’re seeing that Coworking is helping to support other industries which are struggling to find customers in a rapidly changing world.
Retail has long suffered disruption from e-commerce and are starting to look for alternatives. There are mummers that John Lewis are looking to offer Coworking space in their department stores to incubate retail-tech start-ups. Another UK department store chain, Debenhams, with over 165 stores, employing 30,000 people, hired the head of Amazon’s European fashion business to prevent their decline. Perhaps they could look at Coworking in addition to their new enhancement strategy that includes bringing more leisure experiences to stores?
Retail banking branches are closing, as they suffer declines in footfall due to online and mobile banking. Barclays bank decided to try to reverse the decline by opening ‘Eagle Labs’ start-up incubators in office space above their branches that they no longer use. Theirs is a CRE vision of ‘giving back’ to the local communities with the added potential of nurturing future business customers through becoming the trusted advisor.
They were sensible enough not to try to run it themselves, engaging a variety of established Coworking operators to design and run them. Barclays retail teams oversee the operation and, along with local business advisors, offer business support services. They now have nine Coworking spaces across the UK, from Jersey to Salford.
Now that one bank has successfully implemented this strategy, no doubt others will follow. When advising HSBC, they decided to use their branches as third spaces for staff only, due to security concerns. But we’re sure they’ll overcome this issue eventually. Their businesses are already using Coworking spaces in Hong Kong for a flexible office solution.
Where will the next cross-over come from?
We’ve seen restaurants that are only busy in the evenings giving up their spaces during the day to Coworking operators. We’ve been speaking to local councils in economically challenged regions to repurpose council office space for start-ups and struggling businesses. We’ve had tentative conversations with gym operators about creating a more ‘sticky’ destination for their members. We’ve already operated in a school during the holidays…so where next we wonder…?
Third Space UK Group Ltd was founded in 2016 to offer Coworking consultancy and act as Coworking operators.