According to the Centre for Retail Research (CRR), 2020 was the most troubled period for the UK high street in over 25 years. Its research found that almost 16,000 stores closed their doors permanently due to the impact of Covid-19, which resulted in the loss of some 200,000 jobs, in what is the UK’s biggest private employment sector.
Shift to e-commerce
Whilst the lockdowns have dealt a devastating blow to high street footfall, there has been a surge in shopping from home. Booming online retail is expected to add well over £5bn to a total of £79bn e-commerce sales this year in the UK, according to analysts at Edge Retail Insight. A consequence of the huge shift to e-commerce has been correlative growth in demand for warehouse and retail storage space.
Analysis by real estate advisor, Knight Frank, indicates that the continued rise in online shopping could drive demand for an additional 92 million square feet of industrial storage space across the UK by 2024. Its examination of data over five years suggests that the spike in online sales in 2020, which required a further 30 million square feet of space, will increase to 92 million square feet over the next three years, as the trend towards online shopping accelerates, irrespective of the anticipated end to the pandemic.
Retailers need to remain competitive
According to Graham Sharp, Managing Director of materials handling specialist, Stanley, which manages the storage needs for a number of major household brands, the forced change in customer behaviour due to Covid-19 has put significant pressure on retailers to stock required items and be able to deliver the next day, in order to remain competitive:
“There’s no question that the pandemic has influenced consumer habits for the long term in how we browse and buy goods and services. This change has driven retailers to establish more distribution hubs, expand their stockholding and maximise space. Since the first lockdown in March, Stanley has seen a marked spike in demand for the supply and fit-out of racking, shelving and mobile space optimisation solutions. Revenues are up by 50% and our order book is still growing. We expect this to continue throughout 2021 with the after effects of Brexit contributing to this, as businesses look at stockpiling goods to mitigate import delays and supply chain issues.”
Bespoke storage solutions
In the rush for a bespoke storage solution, however, education of the customer in relation to ordering the most appropriate and safest option is also incredibly important, as Stuart Wallace, Stanley’s Head of Storage Division, explains:
“There is still market confusion about racking and shelving with many businesses thinking it’s all the same, which of course it’s not. The fundamental difference is that with 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.”
“What can be overlooked in times of sudden growth is the fine detail in respect of health and safety. For example, 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 a combined experience of over 40 years in the industry, which ensures that our customers are covered by all the correct certifications and health and safety legislation.”