Our thanks to the British Property Federation for its Digital Webinar on finding the right warehouse space. The key points were:

  • 2020 has so far seen the highest take up of warehouse space driven largely by growth in the grocery sector as a response to the pandemic.  Online retailers will continue to contribute to this growth and a lack of supply, falling vacancies and rising rents will be seen as a result;
  • more warehouse space may need to be built at ports along with a more efficient use of the Thames to get goods into and around the country.  Alternative ports, rather than just Dover, will become increasingly important in reducing freight bottlenecks;
  • the success of the high street post-Covid will partly depend on whether or not people feel safe.  The amount of E-Commerce will nevertheless continue to increase – should there therefore be an “urban services” use class which recognises the role that logistics plays in supporting the high street?
  • 46% of retailers expect to continue deliveries in response to online sales even after the relaxation of the rules which see more shops open as a result.  As more shops open, the challenge will be in getting more stock from the warehouse and back into stores.  More investment in technology and automation will be required to cope with this demand;
  • logistics is an important job creation sector and there needs to be greater awareness of the different roles in this sector particularly with regard to technology and software development in response to automation;
  • the right balance needs to be struck between building the right number of homes and the necessary amount of warehouse space to correspond with it.  The two elements are not mutually exclusive;
  • warehouses are leasing more quickly.  The challenge lies in bringing more sites into the system.  The planning use class system needs to be reformed to increase the amount of warehouse space.  There needs to be greater collaboration between government departments and also increasing involvement from departments such as Highways England to raise the awareness of logistics as “national infrastructure” and ensure that further sites are built; and
  • the pandemic has bought logistics more into the national consciousness as a key player in supporting local communities and creating jobs.