Big Boxes Changing Warehouse Industrial Market

A new report by Jones Lang LaSalle shows that consumer delivery demands are reshaping the big box warehouse market, those exceeding 250,000 square feet.

JLL’s Kris Bjorson

A new report by Jones Lang LaSalle shows that consumer delivery demands are reshaping the big box warehouse market, those exceeding 250,000 square feet.

“The new prototype of big box industrial building is changing,” Kris Bjorson, head of JLL’s retail/E-commerce distribution, told Commercial Property Executive. “Instead of 32-foot clear, you have 36-foot clear, instead of parking for 100 people at a 500,000-square-foot building you have parking for 500. You have a lot more electrical infrastructure.”

The JLL report shows that building requirements are evolving and yet there’s not many of these type of big boxes across the country. According to Bjorson, the top tier markets have one or two existing options, while most of the emerging markets won’t even have one or two options at the 500,000-square-foot level.

Multichannel retailers need these changes at their facilities to better support order fulfillment, including more picking and packing tasks that mean more employees needed at each site.

“A lot of developers are still slow to bring these new kind of buildings out of the ground so we’re going to see a lot more activity in 2013,” Bjorson said. “It’s been evolving. Amazon.com led the pack with lots of retailers following in some shape or form.”

The report also reveals that next-day delivery of online purchases is driving the demand for multichannel capable distribution centers. With the advancements in e-commerce as a viable option for retailers, many retail executives are re-evaluating their real estate strategies when it comes to their supply chain networks and distributions centers.

According to Bjorson, retailers grapple with three alternatives, all with strategic real estate implications: Should they outsource individual order e-fulfillment operations to companies like GSI Commerce or Amazon.com? Should they build a dedicated e-commerce facility to fulfill such orders? Or, should they have a multichannel distribution center that fulfills both individual and store orders?

“As a retailer looks at how [a customer] wants to buy something from them, they need to make decisions on service and on who and how it gets there,” Bjorson added. “As a result, build-to-suit development is rising and large corporate retailers continue acquiring significant space.”

In addition to up-front capital costs in the facility itself, retailers have to plan for other ongoing costs associated with increasing automation, such as investments in material handling systems, conveyor sortation and controls, warehouse and inventory management software, and picking/packing technology.

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