Article for C2 Concepts journal

C2 Concepts is a firm of workplace designers with studios in Glasgow and London. I was commissioned to advise on the strategy and write the content for an overhaul of its marketing collateral – including its website and brochure.

The new brochure has a magazine style – including news stories and articles as well as more traditional elements such as case studies and a client list. This is one of the articles.

New cat on the block

With a broad mix of both occupier and landlord clients, C2 knows the office fit out market inside out. Just as we are seeing big changes in the way occupiers use workplaces, we are also witnessing parallel shifts in landlords’ fit outs. Most notable is the rise of the tenant-ready fit out – often known as cat A+.

Historically, most of our work for landlords has been category A fit outs and refurbishments. For anyone not familiar with property industry jargon, a cat A project is one that provides the basic elements of an office fit out within the structural shell of the building. The incoming tenant is then responsible for the category B fit out, which might include partitions, fixtures, finishes, technology and furniture.

This system works well for large occupiers, who often have both very specific cat B requirements and expert real estate and facilities teams to initiate and manage projects. For some smaller occupiers, however, a cat B fit out may not be an attractive prospect, seeming too time-consuming and expensive. Step forward the cat A+ fit out.

With these tenant-ready spaces, landlords are becoming service providers. They think of their occupiers as customers, and what these customers are buying is a ready-to-use workplace. Tenants who don’t want the hassle of a cat B fit out (and/or the commitment of a long repairing lease) will pay a premium for this ready-to-use space – especially if it looks good. They are paying for convenience, agility and – importantly – image. And if the building has shared amenities – from cycle storage and communal indoor and outdoor meeting spaces to fitness facilities and cafes – so much the better.

For landlords, the advantages are threefold. Tenant-ready spaces have shorter void periods; if an occupier likes the look of a space, they can move in and start paying rent very quickly. The need for traditional incentives – such as lengthy rent-free periods or generous capital payments – is reduced. And, of course, rents are higher because the customer is paying for a complete package. As a result, cat A+ fit outs begin to generate income for landlords more quickly than traditional cat A spaces.

Despite the advantages offered by tenant-ready offices, some smaller occupiers will prefer to lease a traditional cat A space and then commission their own cat B fit out. While a cat A+ space may be smart and attractive, it’s unlikely to express and support an occupier’s brand and organisational culture in the way that a bespoke cat B fit out will do. But with so many advantages for both landlords and occupiers ‒ especially for deals of 2,500sq ft or less ‒ we anticipate that cat A+ will become an increasingly popular option.