Although rocked by some recent corporate out-migrations, the market remains strong in its amenity offer and its educational infrastructure augurs well for a growing role in the tech sector.
Guildford has, for many years, rightly considered itself as the flagship commercial and residential location in the Surrey commuter belt. The high street is one of the most popular shopping destinations in the UK, as evidenced by Guildford taking third position in the latest Knight Frank High Street Investment Ranking.
Excellent schools abound and the town is also home to both the University of Law and the University of Surrey, providing an excellent recruiting ground for businesses seeking highcalibre graduates.
It has not all been plain sailing recently, however. The recently confirmed exit of major blue-chip Ericsson - and going forward, possibly Sanofi as well - to the Thames Valley provides cause for concern.
There is also an affordability factor: young workers have difficulty getting on the local housing ladder, with new apartments often commanding prices of over £600.00 per sq ft.
As a result, certain business sectors within the regional office market, such as insurance and other mainstream financial services, may choose locations such as Redhill or Woking which may be more affordable for staff.
Despite this, Guildford remains the number one Surrey location for professional services, with accountancy and legal services providing good levels of on-going market activity. This is particularly the case in the town centre core, where top office rents are now touching £34.00 per sq ft, an all-time high.
In addition, the town is well-placed to capture a growing share of the burgeoning tech market. The University of Surrey is highly rated in many fields of science, technology and R&D, with the centre for 5G mobile phone technology based on campus. Also, encouragingly, in re-positioning the town at the forefront of the value-add industry, computer games is also a major growth story – in some circles Guildford is known as the ‘Hollywood of Gaming’.
Other than the traffic, this is a genuine lifestyle location, matching the charms of St Albans or Windsor and with rents to match for best stock. Some businesses – especially their senior staff, perhaps – will be attracted to the town, although their staffing profile will increasingly dictate locational choice with employee turnover, a critical factor these days.
The knowledge economy is the trump card for the South East of England over other regions and indeed other European locations. Accordingly, the town’s relationship with its two universities look vital to the longer term retention and capture of high margin businesses and skilled staff, and can provide a major differentiator over competing locations such as Woking, Farnborough and Weybridge and indeed, over those further afield as well.