User market update

Which sectors played a leading role in 2020?

Before considering the potential location preferences among UK businesses, here’s a closer look at how user and investor markets have developed in 2020.

The take-up volume for logistics real estate held firm compared to recent years, at a total of over 2.6 million sq m. This was primarily due to continued growth in the e-commerce sector. Another notable aspect was the minimal decrease in total demand from parties active in national and international distribution, despite the effects of the pandemic. This can be explained by the fact that some sectors in these categories did less well, while others benefited from the dramatically altered consumer landscape. The relative stability in demand has caused rents to rise in almost half of the hotspot areas.

The e-commerce sector benefited

As mentioned above, the rise of e-commerce is increasingly driving the growth of logistics real estate. The number of online purchases soared by a staggering 82% in 2020 compared to the previous year. This growth has led to a further rise in the share of e-commerce companies in the total take-up volume of logistics real estate. A total of almost 230,000 sq m in logistics real estate was taken up by online retailers in 2020, accounting for 8.8% of total take-up volume. In 2015, online retail accounted for just 1.6% of total take-up, which represents a fivefold increase in the online retailers’ share within a five-year period.

A strongly emerging category in the e-commerce sector is the online supermarket. Companies such as Picnic and Crisp experienced significant growth in 2020. This is also reflected in the total volume of logistics real estate they have taken up over a short period. Picnic recently opened a 20,000 sq m warehouse in Berkel en Rodenrijs, in addition to its warehouse in Apeldoorn which went into operation last year. Meanwhile Crisp opened a new 10,000 sq m warehouse in Amsterdam in November 2020. It would appear that both companies, and online supermarkets in general, are still a long way from fulfilling their full potential for growth.

"A strongly emerging category in the e-commerce sector is the online supermarket."

Winners and losers in national and international trade

While the e-commerce sector as a whole experienced strong growth, the picture in terms of national distribution was far more mixed. Some users suffered from declining sales, most notably suppliers to the hospitality sector, construction and the fashion industry. In contrast, as already noted, supermarkets played a leading role in the take-up volumes of national distributors in 2020. Large-scale warehouses were taken up by supermarket chains such as Jumbo (62,000 sq m) in Bleiswijk and Ahold (35,000 sq m) in Roosendaal. Interestingly, both these warehouses have a large focus on the online part of their business.

There were also winners and losers in international trade. During the first lockdown, international trade virtually ground to a halt, impacting negatively on storage and transhipment volumes in the Netherlands. But a revival in international trade at the end of the summer led to a 5.5% increase in the trade balance compared to 2019. Overall, the plusses and minuses evened out to produce stability in demand.

New entrants on the horizon

In addition to the more traditional users of Dutch logistics real estate outlined above, increasing demand can be observed among UK distributors. Due to Brexit, the Netherlands is in demand as a hub on the European mainland. The first signs of an influx of UK companies are currently emerging. A particular interest in partnerships with Dutch logistics service providers is already causing demand to increase. Over time, a desire among UK distributors to rent logistics properties in their own right is expected to further drive demand.

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Investment market update

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