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Growth in E-commerce Drives Warehouse Demand

Author: Natalie Harrington

Published date: 2021/05


April research from independent real estate consultancy Knight Frank revealed that twice the amount of large-scale warehouses would be built this year compared to 2020. 

The rise of online retailing during the pandemic is responsible for 40 million sq. ft. of new warehouse space scheduled for completion in 2021, compared to 20 million sq. ft. completed last year.

Knight Frank also reported that the high take-up of vacant warehousing coupled with second-hand units not having the correct specification was a further driver in the development of new build-to-suit solutions. 

Rise in e-commerce

The closure of the high street saw UK online sales grow 74% year-on-year in January 2021 - the largest rate of growth since the start of the first lockdown in March 2020, according to IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Results. 

Overall, online sales grew by 46% in 2020, compared to the previous year - the most significant increase since 2008 - accounting for 27.9% of all retail sales, according to the ONS

Research from Barclaycard Payments revealed that consumers have been receiving an average of two extra deliveries per month since the start of the pandemic. We’re now averaging seven parcels, compared to five before March 2020, equating to over 86 packages over a year. The research suggests this growth in delivery levels is the new standard, with over half of people expecting to receive either the same amount (47%) or more (10%) in the future.

Such consumer activity over the last year meant retailers and distribution firms had to respond rapidly to upscale their operations and expand delivery services. According to Knight Frank, this saw warehouse take-up exceed 50 million sq. ft. in 2020, compared to 34 million sq. ft. in 2019.

Career opportunities 

It comes as no surprise that warehouse and distribution staff became key workers during the lockdown. 2020 reinforced the importance of supply chain jobs to the economy, with many people now recognising that the fast-paced sector provides a legitimate career path for professionals at all skill and experience levels. 

The planned construction of large-scale warehousing confirms that opportunities to join the sector will be vast throughout 2021 and beyond. In-demand roles in this sector include: 

  • Warehouse Operative

  • Production/Assembly Operative

  • Picker/Packer

  • Factory Operative

  • Shift Manager

Secure the best people with PRS

​PRS has extensive experience placing high-quality candidates across the full spectrum of the industrial sector, from manufacturing to warehousing and logistics. If you’re looking for a new role or require exceptional people for your team, contact Natalie Harrington on 020 3805 5524 or email