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High rents and lack of space

Could space sharing be the solution for business owners?

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Particularly in large cities it’s becoming increasingly difficult to rent commercial premises. For one thing, rent prices are rising, putting pressure on businesses – especially smaller ones. Added to this is the fact that, like on the housing market, available space is becoming increasingly scarce. The solution could be space sharing. This is a model where business owners share the same space, in a similar vein to co-working. Read on to find out more about the advantages and the best way to set up shared spaces.

A library and a cafe

A library and a cafe coming together can produce a creative and cosy space. (Photo: Timur Kozmenko on Unsplash)

The concept of the sharing economy

Whether it’s car sharing, streaming subscriptions or co-living , use of certain products or services by multiple parties has long been an established part of everyday life. This is because the sharing economy, with its motto of collective use rather than individual ownership, saves money and resources, as well as helping to strengthen a sense of community.

In full keeping with the ideals of neo-ecology , these new business models combine sustainability and profitable growth. One exciting example is furniture rental . People who move home frequently can rent high-quality furniture and accessories for a monthly fee. This creates a homely feel, is good for the environment and quite literally lightens the load of the next move. The co-living trend takes things a step further, with people – primarily young professionals – sharing furnished homes for a short period. The furniture stays put while new residents come and go – in a very similar way to space sharing.

Renting commercial spaces jointly

Commercial spaces are in short supply across Germany. As a result, businesses are unable to expand, so they give up – or simply don’t move to certain locations in the first place. This is strangling the economy and reducing revenue for towns, cities and local authorities. Commercial premises can’t just be plucked out of thin air, so an alternative solution is needed.

The space already available actually has plenty of untapped potential, because often businesses only use their spaces at certain times. This means that several businesses can share infrastructure, increasing the number of active companies and expanding their reach. Platforms such as SHQUARED allow a wide range of companies to come together and explore possibilities. A cafe might turn into a restaurant or a bar in the evenings. Craft businesses could share a workspace or make that space available for workshops. Shared retail areas are another potential way of exploiting synergies. For example, a coffee corner in an interior design store will attract more customers and invite them to spend more time in-store.

Turning a restaurant into a bar

Unsplash) Bild 1 (space sharing in der möbelbranche-bar und restaurant-ranjith alingal-auf unsplash) Copy: Turning a restaurant into a bar in the evenings not only looks good, it also creates a place that can be used by more people, saving space and resources. (Photo: Ranjith Alingal on Unsplash)

Other benefits of space sharing

The use of commercial premises by multiple parties offers several benefits:

  • Cost savings: Rent prices are rocketing, particularly in urban areas. For micro-businesses it can be difficult to absorb these outgoings, especially if they only open on certain days – perhaps because of a lack of staff. On top of this there are the costs of electricity and gas, which have risen dramatically in 2022, as well as broadband fees and maintenance costs such as cleaning and repairs. Space sharing helps spread the load and reduce business expenses.
  • Conservation of resources: Shared use allows for optimal utilisation of resources – one of the basic principles of the sharing economy. If two or more companies share furniture or equipment, for example, these items only have to be purchased once and are used more frequently.
  • Innovation: Sole traders, start-ups and small businesses often face big risks, and it’s not unusual for them to be personally liable. Renting commercial spaces jointly enables them to reduce running costs, along with the associated risk. This promotes innovation and boosts the local economy, which in turn creates new jobs, increases tax revenues and makes places more attractive to investors.

Partition walls, or even telephone booth

Modular furniture set-ups

While space sharing offers plenty of potential, it’s not without its challenges. Even when companies make common cause, it’s important that they are set apart spatially. From employees to target groups, a wide range of needs must be taken into account. This is where clever interior design concepts can help. As in co-working spaces, room dividers can mark out different areas without being constrictive or blocking light. Small meeting rooms or office telephone booths can provide privacy for activities such as making phone calls.

Multifunctional and modular furniture can be adapted as needed with minimal effort. Connective systems give particular freedom when it comes to arranging the space. Shelves can be added or removed quickly as needed, for example. Colours, shapes and designs should be as minimalist and understated as possible. A few accessories can be enough to create different vibes. The lighting concept should also be customisable, for example with integrated dimmers or coloured filters.

Shared use as a model for the future

In times when resources are scarce and prices are rising, businesses need creative, sustainable solutions . Small and medium enterprises are the driving force behind the economy, and they need space for production, warehousing and selling. By renting shared commercial spaces they can save costs, conserve important resources and benefit from synergies – which is what the sharing economy is all about. This brings advantages not just for businesses, but also for towns, cities and local authorities.

Modular furniture and flexible interior design concepts which take account of different employee and customer requirements can help get the most out of a single space, enabling it to be used by multiple parties. Interior design brands and architecture firms can benefit from the resulting opportunities to offer furniture systems and advice that fit this brief.

You can find out more about these and similar trends and topics in the interior design sector in our magazine by imm cologne newsletter – click here to subscribe .