Our investment strategy is reinforced by strong structural tailwinds.
COVID-19 has accelerated the e-commerce revolution, but expansion of the logistics sector is not a new concept.
The share of the UK real estate portfolio accounted for by retail has plummeted from approximately 50% to 30% in a decade (source: CBRE); in the same period the market share for our logistics sector has almost doubled, to over 23%.
We remain able to acquire assets in “off market” trades where vendors sometimes prefer the certainty that we bring through a strong equity position. The vast majority of our acquisitions since IPO have been “off market” which is testament to our connections within the logistics sector and our reputation for swift and certain deal execution.
WAREHOUSE SUPPLY AT LOW LEVELS
Recent issues such as the Suez Canal blockage have further created a focus on shorter, more dependable supply chains (this particular issue is important because approximately 12% of global freight and 30% of container freight travel through the canal). Brexit has also compounded the issue, giving freight operators a renewed focus on resilience. This in turn leads to occupier demand. A lack of supply is compounded by a variety of factors, but notably:
• high barriers to entry as a result of a high percentage of warehouse development land being taken for “Big Box” units (those above 300,000 sq ft); plus a time lag of three to five years for sites to obtain planning and then be built;
• costs of construction rising (100,000 sq ft building at £30-35 per sq ft in 2015 and now at £60-65 per sq ft in the Midlands);
• development land costs doubling in five years (Northampton, for example: £400,000 an acre in 2015 and now at more than £900,000 an acre); and
• 35% of all industrial land in the South East of the UK has been lost to higher value uses in last ten years.
DEMAND AT RECORD LEVELS
Despite the recent Covid-19 pandemic challenges, and in some cases because of it, 2020 broke all records for logistics take-up. Online retailers took close to 50% of available space, with omnichannel retailers and supermarkets expanding their online presence. If we add the indirect take-up from third-party logistics operators, or traditional retailers working an online channel, the estimated figure is over 65%.
Lack of new, ready-to-occupy units has also pushed occupiers towards the second-hand market. The supply side has responded to such overwhelming demand by pressing on with projects that were put on hold during lockdown, trying to get them back on schedule. However, demand dynamics remain highly imbalanced, which plays in our favour.