Is London over? There are plenty of doom-mongers ready to make that case after the pandemic flipped the world on its head.
But for answers, it helps sometimes simply to follow the money. Two new skyscrapers approved recently for the City of London and occupancy increasing at pre-existing buildings like 22 Bishopsgate bode well.
And Jay Drexler, Vice President for Office and Retail in Europe at Oxford Properties, is bullish about the coming rebound.
“We over-emphasise recency,” he tells me via Zoom from a re-opening Berlin.
“That would be true of any dramatic, large-scale global event.
“It’s not a matter of if, it’s when” people return to offices says the man whose retail property focus in the capital is on assets on Bond Street, St. James’ Market and the City’s very own historic Royal Exchange.
Occupancy of the Royal Exchange, despite the uncertainty around the pandemic, will be at the same level in Autumn 2021 as it was in the Autumn before the pandemic.
And new openings, including the fine wine store and bar OenoHouse, suggests things are set to keep moving in the right direction.
Drexler thinks those kind of tailored, high-end experiences will mark the future of luxury retail.
“Something unique like the wine store doesn’t have the cookie-cutter assortment of products that you can get online or you can get at the convenience store. It’s the uniqueness of a particular product and a particular offering,” he says, that will bring people back into the city.
But he also loves the history of the building he now manages.
“I’m from North America so the history of the cities we work in is something to wake up for.
“At the Royal Exchange, you don’t need to have a deep education, you just walk inside and you can feel it.
“Leveraging that history is certainly an opportunity.”
Drexler and his retailers certainly seem keen on adding a new chapter to the famous old building’s story – one of recovery from a pandemic that saw it empty for far too long.