By Steve Purvis, Operations Director at Bis Henderson Space
With large parts of the UK’s industrial and retail activity in lockdown, many companies are desperately searching for additional warehouse space – hopefully, for the short term but potentially for many months.
The current situation
Some supply chains, those supporting healthcare most obviously, need additional space to support urgent expansion. In the early days some firms needed extra space to cope with panic buying and some of that elevated demand may continue for the longer term. For others, though, the opposite is true. Many retailers have suspended trading, but are still receiving goods ordered, and even shipped and paid for, prior to lockdown. Retailers who are trying to set up or expand eCommerce and home delivery alternatives are finding that this requires proportionately more warehouse space to service, especially if safe working distances are to be maintained.
Manufacturers, meanwhile, are caught with stocks of finished goods that their customers, domestic or overseas, cannot accept, while parts and materials continue to arrive. Some factories need to clear away their normal production materials and work in progress so that they can repurpose for more essential manufactures, such as Personal Protective Equipment for the healthcare sector. Stocks and point of sale materials built up to support product launches, new season ranges and promotions are going nowhere, while companies that would be supporting the Summer’s sporting, cultural and other events need safe storage, perhaps until this time next year.
A snapshot of enquiries...
A look at the enquiries received in the last couple of weeks by Bis Henderson Space gives a taste of the variety of problems that businesses are facing.
We have had a major healthcare and food products supplier looking for sites closer to the ‘front line’. A flat-pack furniture distributor needs space to accommodate inbound goods that are still arriving, as does a well-known hardware and DIY retailer. Conversely, a manufacturer and distributor of kitchens needs 35,000 pallet locations to store finished goods that cannot be installed in customers’ homes under current conditions. We have worked on solutions for a supplier to one of the Summer’s major sporting events, now postponed to an unknown date, and for a fast food chain whose next promotion is on indefinite hold.
Some of these situations may last for months – in contrast we have also seen some very short-term requirements: for example, an urgent need for refrigerated space because the usual supplier wasn’t prepared to allow drivers from overseas on-site.
And we are receiving new enquiries, in variety, every day.
How can we help?
It is at times like this that a specialist, independent, space broker such as Bis Henderson Space becomes more than usually important. Even in normal times, the UK is short of high quality warehousing in the right locations, and in some areas of the necessary labour. According to the agents Savills, despite an 8% increase in the warehouse estate last year, the vacancy rate was just 6.9% across the country – a tight supply situation, and tighter still in areas such as London and the South East.
Fortunately, however, these figures don’t reflect under-occupancy and under-utilisation. It has been estimated that many, even most warehouses, especially those owned and operated directly by retailers and manufacturers, spend most of their time operating at 75% capacity or less. A lot of this under-used space is potentially available to other users, often complete with labour, IT and other support.
Bis Henderson Space has long experience and in-depth knowledge of actual and potential warehousing and storage sites, with a network of clients and contacts right across the UK – and indeed into Europe. We are entirely independent of agents, developers and property companies.
We can help businesses assess their needs in terms of volumes, specifications, and services and identify additional capacity close to the desired locations. Furthermore, we can help plan and implement the migration, and all in double-quick time. We can discover opportunities to cover short-term needs without the typical long-term leasing commitment, and because we have built up trusting relationships with our space owners and operators we can help the parties strike fair and balanced commercial terms.
A word from Steve Purvis, Operations Director, Bis Henderson Space...
The modern supply chain has never seen this level of disruption before. Our industry has really stepped up to meet the challenges and support the country.