The rise of the warehouse

Look at most industrial estates and they will likely have some huge warehouses dominating the landscape. Gone are the days when manufacturers used to operate out of little outbuildings and workshops; today, they’re housed in huge factories across the country.

large warehouse filled with packages and items

Now that the internet has disrupted consumerism, warehouses are badly needed, to store all the wonderful stock sold online. Amazon is a major player here, with a huge number of warehouses (sorry, fulfilment centres) in the UK.

These humungous buildings need appropriate lighting and heating, and on an industrial scale. With a long list of different kinds of fixtures and fittings, they need a distributor like Electricals Online rather than their local hardware shop. Mass orders are welcome, and a super-fast turnaround is our speciality.

According to Knight Frank, the demand for these huge warehouses is causing an issue in regards of finding suitable land. With two times the size of Hyde Park needed for all the new build warehouses planned in 2022 alone, suitable space will soon be at a premium across the country.

The estate agents describe this surge in warehousing requirements as a ‘record-breaking boom’. Like other experts, they cite the pandemic as the reason such large storage spaces are needed. With e-commerce making up 60% of all sales (up from 40% pre-pandemic), warehouses look to be in greater demand than the empty units on our high streets; no wonder the latter is classed as being in a demise. Knight Frank also believes that the issue looks set to continue for a long while yet. They estimate that the UK needs to increase its warehousing capacity by 14% if it’s to meet future requirements.

It's not just retail items that need storage. Data is another commodity that needs housing, and to keep up with technological advances, huge servers must live somewhere. The UK’s data estates are second only to those in Virginia, US.

large blue and silver server room, running down a corridor

Whilst the expansion of the warehouse sector is bad news for environmentalists and conservationists who would rather leave spare land as it is, there’s no denying that such growth is good for the economy. Even if a warehouse simply stores stock, it still needs people to ensure its security. Most larger buildings are active distribution centres, however, which need plenty of employees to ensure smooth operations. Whenever a new warehouse appears, the local area benefits as hundreds of new jobs are simultaneously created.

Of course, new warehouses don’t have to be built on unsullied land; some are being repurposed from empty/derelict offices in many city centres. This seems to be a move that ticks more boxes than building new warehouses on green or brown belt land; not only does repurposing make a current eyesore all shiny and new, there are already transport links to the building from the city’s main roads, drainage and sewerage facilities and digital infrastructure in place.

Such is the demand for these ‘mega sheds’, plans are continually changing. Says Charles Binks, the head of Knight Frank’s logistics and industrial arm, ‘For the first time that I can remember we’ve had people that started looking in the north-west or the Midlands ending up taking space in South Yorkshire because they needed the space and couldn’t wait. They will compromise on location but not on specification. They want good yards, good height, plenty of doors.’

Just as the industrial revolution disrupted manufacturing, these huge warehouses are simply a symptom of progress and changes in the way we live. The digital revolution won’t be able to uphold its growth if it doesn’t have enough space to store all its products.