As the high street empties, warehousing booms

COVID’s impact on the UK’s economy and economic activity has been profound and few sectors have been more challenged than retail, with the industry having to adapt rapidly to online shifts in consumer behaviour driven by social-distancing and lockdowns.


In the midst of the pandemic eCommerce has experienced years’ worth of growth in as many months, with Zara, Nike and John Lewis all predicting that online sales will account for more than half of their revenues within the next two to five years.

Online grocery sales are up 80% on 2019, with 20% of households ordering groceries online, while the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor showed online penetration had jumped by a third from 2019, to 40% in September

Tesco has invested £ millions, doubling its online delivery capacity since March and has plans to build 25 new online grocery fulfilment centres by 2022 as a potential “game-changer” for the future of the business.


92 million sq ft of warehousing space will be needed to meet eCommerce demand by 2024


While the outlook is uncertain, coronavirus has reinforced and vastly accelerated eCommerce behaviours, accelerating propelling growth and suggesting a gloomy outlook for some bricks-and-mortar retailers. According to the 2020 Korn Ferry UK Retail Chair survey, 35% expect to reduce their store portfolio over the next 12 months, with 8% planning to shut all stores entirely and move to an online-only business model.

Retail Week quoted the boss of one fashion retailer, who said that even before the pandemic, half of his store estate was loss-making and that fundamental change is needed to redress this balance.

“With service charges, rate reviews and minimum wage increases combined with the fact that in fashion the average transaction value is not going up, you can come up with a very quick equation that indicates the current model doesn’t work and is not going to work, whether we find a vaccine tomorrow or not.”

By contract Asos’ UK retail sales advanced 18% year on year and international revenues were ahead by 20%, with “strong product performance across the year with a dynamic reshaping of offer in the second half to match customer demand in lockdown categories”.


Scalable, visible and effective logistics is a critical success factor


Online sales are projected to account for up to 32% of total retail sales by 2024, which will massively ramp up demand for warehousing space, to support extensive picking and packing operations, driving overall additional requirements of 92 million sq ft, according to Knight Frank.

As demand for warehousing space accelerates, this scarce resource will inevitably become increasingly rarer and more expensive.

Noatum Logistics’ ePoint is designed to help retailers increase throughput capacity, while reducing resource and order lead time. Strategically located to the east of London, Noatum Logistics’ ePoint Medway is 378,000 sq ft of scalable space, dedicated to super-efficient inventory management and eCommerce fulfilment, so that retailers and fashion brands can grow this critical channel, however quickly demand spikes. Visit

post covid retail challenges

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