Like many other industries, the UK market for suspended ceilings and partitioning suffered a considerable decline in 2020. Industry figures show a total year-on-year decrease of 16%, with a valuation of the sector at £283 million.
The primary reason for this decline is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is how the industry is recovering in the wake of this crisis, and what new challenges it faces.
Adapting to Unforeseen Conditions
Generally, the UK suspended ceilings and partitioning sector is well-established and mature. The principal source of income comes from the non-domestic sector. This was a significant cause for concern, as industry specialist Western Industrial noted: “We have noticed that this downturn mainly concerns construction and/or refurbishment projects involving offices, educational establishments and retail outlets, as well as healthcare infrastructure and entertainment & leisure properties.”
Since installing suspended ceilings usually forms part of the final phase of construction, the impact of the pandemic-induced delays on various projects only became apparent later on.
Slowly Gathering Momentum Once More
As restrictions were eased gradually after the height of the government’s lockdown measures in Q2, the market gradually began to recover.
Especially the priority given to commercial construction activity brought some relief, even accounting for the negative effects of social distancing on-site.
For the period July-December 2020, the UK suspended ceilings and partitioning market even registered moderate growth, which extended into 2021.
Adjusting to New Norms in the Wake of the Pandemic
Unquestionably, the pandemic has brought some lasting changes to the workplace. Many companies have decided to keep remote or hybrid work as a permanent option.
As a result, companies in a variety of different industries are rethinking their office strategies, especially their space requirements. In the medium term, this could carry on or even accelerate the modest downward trend in the office accommodation sector, which began in 2016.
How exactly the situation around flexible and remote working options will develop remains to be seen. On the one hand, there are some indications that the drift away from office-based work will continue. For instance, government insiders recently talked about a possibility of introducing a “default right” to working from home.
On the other hand, UK workers need to stay competitive on a global market. If remote work becomes the new standard in the UK, there is the danger that well-qualified workers from other countries could become cheaper to employ.
The office construction sector is already experiencing the impact of this complex situation. Many spaces are vacant or seeing low-occupancy periods, which is a negative signal for investors.
Nevertheless, some figures give cause for optimism. In London, for example, building projects have once more been increasing since Q3 2020, both in terms of pre-let newbuilds and major refurbishments. Generally, the focus of these projects has been on reconfiguring the interiors of office spaces, and on introducing environmentally-friendly and COVID-secure options.
These indicators allow a fairly optimistic projection for the UK suspended ceilings and partitions market. Experts believe that by 2025, it will grow to a total size of £335 million.