What does the UK’s surge in online shopping mean for warehouse storage?

UK online spending has seen a surge in 2020, following the country’s lockdown earlier this year.

On average, online shopping’s share of total retail spending has increased by around 10%, peaking at 32.8% in May 2020—the largest increase since 2016. The chart below illustrates the growth since 2019 with figures from the Office for National Statistics:

The high street has tried several methods to combat shoppers’ growing preference for online shopping, such as the promotion of ‘click and collect’, which aims to give buyers the convenience of shopping online while also ensuring footfall instore.

The growth of online shopping, however, is inevitable and will only continue to increase—especially with the current circumstances.

With this shift away from the high street, how will storage and warehousing be affected?

Real estate investment company ProLogis estimated that for every €1 billion increase in online sales, an additional 72,000m2 of warehouse storage is required. The UK, however, is an under-warehoused country, which has led to low vacancy rates for several years now.

Savills’ ‘big shed briefing’ lists the vacancy rate at 6.58%, which may be a cause for concern considering the falling rates of speculative warehouse construction. As industry confidence increases, this will likely rise in turn leading to an even greater need for warehouse construction.

This is further compounded by online shopping infrastructure requiring a different approach to traditional retail when it comes to warehouse storage. It benefits much more by being in metropolitan areas rather than distanced from cities. These locations are much more desirable for more than just industrial operations, so prices can rise quickly, and competition can be intense.

With warehouse storage constantly requiring expansion, adaptability and future-proofing should be at the forefront of any perspective warehouse. Rubb prides itself in the adaptability of its fabric structures. Whole Rubb projects can be relocated, expanded, dismantled and stored or even sold to new users. Rubb’s fabric structures represent a stable investment and an ideal solution to the UK’s expanding warehouse requirements.