The rapid acceleration of online shopping has led to an unprecedented surge in demand for warehouse space in the UK. Builders are struggling to keep pace with requests for new sheds and extensions to logistics storage parks across the country, the BBC news website reports.
Until a few years ago, investors preferred to acquire retail and office space, but the pandemic has dramatically hastened the shift towards online shopping and homeworking. Shops now sit empty on every high street in Britain, while giant warehouses are proliferating on the outskirts of towns and cities.
New research commissioned by the UK Warehousing Association shows that in 2015, there was 428 million square feet of warehouse space in the UK. This has now risen by 32%, which is the equivalent of 2,396 football pitches. Moreover, there has been a shift in occupancy, away from high street retailers and towards third party logistics providers.
A logistics park known as Dirft, near Northampton, is a huge site with three rail freight terminals, and is buzzing with construction workers building new sheds which are let even before they are finished. Royal Mail are currently awaiting the completion of a super-sized parcel hub, the size of ten football pitches, which will process one million parcels a day.
15,000 people will be eventually employed at Dirft, who will require specialist training to work in a rapidly changing logistics industry.
Kevin Mofid, head of industrials and logistics research at Savills, said: “As online retail has grown, the type of people required in warehousing has changed as well, now it’s robotics engineers and data scientists. Warehouses have become huge centres of technical excellence to gain efficiencies.”
Peter Ward, chief executive of the UK Warehousing Association, warned that the government needs to integrate warehousing into planning policy, as it is now an essential part of the infrastructure; just as necessary as schools and health centres to the functioning of society.
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