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Demand for warehouses skyrockets as retailers adapt to online sales amid COVID-19

·2-min read
Demand for warehouses has skyrocketed as retailers look to expand their online setups.  (CHUTTERSNAP/Unsplash)
In the final quarter of 2020, the annual increase in enquiries for freehold was highest in the south-east (up 85%), London (84%) and the east midlands (77%). Photo: CHUTTERSNAP/Unsplash

Demand for warehouses has skyrocketed as online sales increase during the COVID-19 pandemic.

So far this year, there has been a record number of enquiries for industrial and warehousing, data from Rightmove (RMV.L) shows.

Total enquiries on freehold properties shot up by 108% year-on-year between 1 January to 20 January, while those on leasehold properties increased 38%.

What's more, the Rightmove Commercial Real Estate portal reported its busiest ever day for visits this week on Tuesday 19 January, with over 138,000 visits in one day

In December, the number of enquiries in industrial and warehousing outperformed all other sectors. The number of people enquiring to buy a premises went up 56% year-on-year, while the number of people looking to lease was up 43%.

READ MORE: Sales at UK's top online-only retailers hits record £11bn

In the final quarter of 2020, the annual increase in enquiries for freehold was highest in the south-east (up 85%), London (84%) and the east midlands (77%).

Meanwhile, that for enquiries about leasehold was highest in the south-east (up 38%), east of England (37%) and the west midlands (32%).

Despite the challenges on physical retail premises, enquiries for those looking to lease a retail outlet are still higher than a year ago in all regions except London, the data shows.

The number of people enquiring to lease a retail outlet in December was up by 36% year-on-year.

The east of England saw the biggest increase in enquiries for retail outlets during the final quarter of the year, at 42%, while London saw a small decrease of 1%.

READ MORE: Next shares surge as online sales limit pandemic pain

The change is driven by retailers adapting to expand their online set-ups during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rightmove's director of commercial real estate Alex Solomon explained.

He said: “There’s been a greater need for warehouses of all sizes to respond to the increased demand from people shopping online, which has led to demand in the industrial and warehousing sector going into overdrive.

“Agents are reporting an extremely high conversion rate from businesses enquiring for warehouse space, with new leases being agreed quickly.

“While enquiries for retail outlets are still higher than before the pandemic, the rate of conversion is slower – suggesting people are considering a relocation to another outlet or starting up a new business.

But until there is more certainty about when non-essential retailers can open again, this pace is likely to remain much slower than that of industrial spaces, the expert added.

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