Industrial shelving boosted as retail sector reopens

Although shoppers are returning to the high street following the easing of lockdown restrictions, industry commentators believe that growth in online retail will continue unabated. Despite the vaccination roll-out, almost half of shoppers say they will never return to their previous level of high street spending, according to research carried out by a national parcel carrier.

Figures show that a record 36% of all retail sales are now happening online, which is a 78% increase over February 2020. Online sales rose £34 billion year on year in 2020 and this is expected to grow a further £41 billion over the next four years.

Growth in warehousing

warehouse buildThis significant growth is driving the requirement for additional warehousing and retail storage which, in the UK, amounts to revenues of over £21 billion per year, having grown by 4% each year since 2016.

Research by Knight Frank suggests that 40 million square feet of new warehouse space is scheduled for completion in 2021, compared to 20 million completed in 2020. Total warehouse take up exceeded 50 million square feet in 2020, compared to 34 million in 2019. Knight Frank indicates that the continued rise in online shopping could drive demand for an additional 92 million square feet of industrial storage space in the UK by 2024.

With more warehousing space, however, comes the added risk of fire. According to Home Office statistics, fire crews in England attend an average of 336 warehouse fires every year, that’s nearly one a day. Of the 3,400 warehouse blazes recorded since 2010, 49% of buildings did not have alarms, whilst only 6% had sprinkler systems installed. Furthermore, 14% of warehouse buildings that caught fire were totally destroyed.

Claims data from insurer Zurich shows the average cost of large warehouse fires is almost £6 million and the insurance sector has warned of a potential increase in warehouse blazes due to the surge in demand for storage and distribution space, fuelled by the e-commerce boom. Home Office figures show that in England between April 2019 and March 2020, the number of warehouses gutted by fire increased by 42%.

Interruptions in logistics, operations or the total or partial destruction of a warehouse can lead to enormous financial and material losses, not to mention the potential for injury or loss of life and collateral damage to a company’s market reputation.

Spike in demandGalvanised Shelving

At the forefront of industrial shelving and racking solutions for a growing number of major household brands, Hertfordshire based storage, racking and shelving specialist Stanley has seen demand for its solutions spike by over 50% since the start of the pandemic.

According to Stuart Wallace, Stanley’s Head of Storage Division, the company’s order book continues to grow. In addition to the increase in online shopping and reopening of the high street, Wallace says that businesses are stockpiling goods to mitigate import delays and supply chain issues, following Brexit.

With the urgent need for a bespoke storage solution, however, is the importance of educating the customer, so that they order the most appropriate and safest option, as Wallace explains:

“What can be overlooked in times of sudden growth is the fine detail in respect of health and safety. It’s critical that every storage solution fulfils the necessary fire, load rating and operator safety compliance, through correct installation that’s fit for purpose. Stanley’s expert storage team has over 40 years in the industry, which ensures customers are covered by all the correct certifications and health and safety legislation. We offer the services of an independent SEMA Approved Inspector who will undertake a full SEMA / HSE rack safety inspection.”

“In our experience, there is still market confusion about racking, storage shelves, metallic shelves and wall unit shelving with many businesses thinking it’s all the same, which it’s not. The fundamental difference is that with industrial shelving, high turnover, lightweight goods are handled manually on a constant basis, whilst with racking, placement and retrieval normally relates to heavier unit loads, which require the use of fork-lift trucks or other mechanical equipment.”

Stanley’s use of perforated, galvanised steel shelving and racking delivers a solution that ensures peace of mind. Strategically placed holes in the metal system provide up to 50% open area storage, allowing light, air, and sprinkler water to pass through. In fact, sprinkler water can easily pass through multiple levels of shelves even when tightly packed with boxes, thereby improving fire safety performance.

In support of retail brands and warehouse customers, Stanley offers a free project survey and design consultation to deliver the safest, most practical and cost effective metal racking and shelving solution.

To book this service, visit

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