What is the significance of the inauguration of a Welkin & Meraki space at La Défense on November 1st?

Alain Brossé – We are very proud to be in this building at La Défense, with a perfect location on the forecourt. The Trinity Tower is a magnificent building, with terraces on every floor. It makes a difference for the well-being at work. We will be occupying 3,420 sq. m. of space, and we manage the 25th floor, which is dedicated to services. There are two fitness areas, meeting rooms, an auditorium for 160 people, a terrace with a view of Paris…

Has the design of this new site evolved with the crisis?

Alain Brossé – We worked to improve the product during the crisis, and the meeting rooms are even better and more welcoming than what was initially planned. And we have developed a hybrid offer to meet a strong demand from our international clients with the rise of telecommuting and the issue of costs related to work spaces. Our offer allows them, for example, in the case of a team of 50 people, to take a smaller office to bring together 25 people in the offices, and to provide badges to the other 25 for 100 euros per person, who will also be able to access the premises from time to time if necessary.

La Défense embodies a centralisation of work, which may have been challenged during the crisis with teleworking. Did you not hesitate to opt for a decentralised geographical location?

Alain Brossé – Of course, there are always changes to which we must adapt. But I don’t think that this will affect the ratio of office space used in Paris. What will change is flexibility. And we are here to meet that need.

two new sites in Neuilly and near the Paris Opera between March and May 2022

After having put your projects on hold for months, should we expect to see a series of openings in the coming weeks?

Alain Brossé – We will open two new sites in Neuilly and near the Paris Opera between March and May 2022. But this does not mean that dozens of Welkin and Meraki sites will be opening around the world in the coming months! We are very aware of where the demand for our product is concentrated, and we are a player that favours controlled and profitable growth. This is also what helped us during the crisis: between March and the end of September, the market dropped by 43%. At Welkin and Meraki, we grew 22% in occupancy and 32% in revenue. This proves that we are located in places where there is demand, and that our positioning is the right one.

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Are you planning to open new stores abroad?

Alain Brossé – We are going to open a Welkin and Meraki address in London at the beginning of next year, and in Frankfurt in the summer of 2022.

Have your extra-European ambitions not survived the crisis?

Alain Brossé – Covid has “put our feet back on the ground” in terms of internal growth.We’re going to expand our base in Europe, especially in Paris, which we love, but also in London, Frankfurt, Milan, Madrid, Geneva and Dublin, before looking at markets further afield. We will first increase our base in Europe, especially in Paris, which we love, but also in London, Frankfurt, Milan, Madrid, Geneva or Dublin, before looking at more distant markets. But we have requests for the United States and Asia.

What is the status of the recovery at Welkin and Meraki?

Alain Brossé – Today, at the group level, the occupancy rate exceeds 70%, and growth is reaching 2 to 3% per month. Occupancy rates are not as high as before the crisis, but we are getting close. We feel that the market has been revitalized since September, and we are seeing an increase in demand. We can feel it in France, but also in Belgium, the Netherlands and England.

The offer on the coworking sector is more and more dense: how to differentiate?

Alain Brossé – The Welkin and Meraki brand is recognised internationally as a premium operator. Premium does not mean luxury: we are oriented towards a corporate clientele of multinationals. Our sites are distinguished by specific access control, based on a system equivalent to that used by NATO. Our standards are therefore very demanding, as large international companies, banks and government institutions need us to meet certain requirements in terms of security, redundancy and confidentiality. Our access control is PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) certified, with a network based on two entry points, for total redundancy. The offices also offer the highest level of acoustic standards: the heads of Google and Apple can hold their meetings in two adjacent offices without hearing a single sound from the competitor. For our clients, this is a prerequisite, and it sets us apart in the market. We have also paid particular attention to the lighting, for optimum comfort. We also have a catering service, in collaboration with a Michelin-starred chef, which promotes healthy, organic cuisine. Our standards may seem excessive, but they have been proven in our various facilities.

it is quite difficult to identify the trees in the coworking forest

The term “coworking” covers a wide variety of realities: could we imagine a classification equivalent to that of the hotel industry, to make the offer more understandable?

Alain Brossé – Yes, it is quite difficult to identify the trees in the coworking forest, and I am not convinced by this name. For me, the real name of our activity should be flexible offices. Coworking is more about start-ups, small companies that have just launched themselves. I say this with a lot of respect of course, but these clients have other needs, notably with more flexibility than the companies we host, with very short contracts, a more colourful design, events to bring this community together. Our positioning is different: we may be a little bit more “boring”, but we’re really focused on doing the work, allowing our clients to do half the work they want to do.They can do their job with perfect focus. After twenty years of experience in this sector, in my mind, coworking corresponds to the three-star category. We don’t want to open the most beautiful spaces, but the ones that are most adapted to our clients’ needs. Indeed, in the future, we should think about a quality charter to guide customers, as in the hotel business, according to the services available. In France, there is no association of business centres, whereas this exists in Belgium and Germany. This would make it possible to define these different standards.