Shopfront rentals hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic — The story told by 20,000 listings.

Country/area: Taiwan

Organisation: The Central News Agency

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 27 Aug 2020

Credit: Lee Yi-ying, Sung Yu-tai, Lin Chi, Chen Ying-yu, Huang Shu-fang

Project description:

Even though Taiwan has fared better in containing the COVID-19 pandemic than much of the rest of the world, shop owners around the island have suffered from a sharp shortfall of tourists and a fluctuating level of consumer confidence. For this project, we gathered some 20,000 listings over two years on rent.591.com.tw, one of Taiwan’s top online real estate agencies, to study changes in the shopfront rental market in the country’s six major municipalities.

Impact reached:

Beginning in March 2020, one could easily detect an increase in the number of “To Let” signs in the streets of Taipei, Taiwan’s capital. We sought to verify what we saw by using concrete figures and expanded our outlook toward other five major cities around the island. Our goal was to help readers get a comprehensive view of the climate in which Taiwan’s shopfront rental market found itself and feel the impact of the pandemic on Taiwan’s economy.

Techniques/technologies used:

We used Python, the popular web crawler, to retrieve data from one of Taiwan’s largest online rental agencies and turned it into charts and graphs.

What was the hardest part of this project?

In the past, discussions about rentals in Taiwan tended to focus on the residential part of the market. The release of data and discourse on shopfront rentals have been few and far between. After obtaining the raw material, we were able to categorize according to the size of the premises to let or the number of days each shopfront was available for example, and cross analyze the information in order to present aspects lacking in previous news reports.

What can others learn from this project?

As rental data used to be provided only by real estate agents, the fact that we used a computer program to retrieve and analyze data from a rental service website means that, in a way, we were able to regain control of data and the right to its interpretation instead of using second-hand information interpreted by others. 

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