By Simon Toseland
AS part of the Government's COVID-19 pandemic plan, logistics staff have been classified as key workers, which is positive news for the Northamptonshire economy which benefits from dominant warehouse and industrial markets.
A significant number of national supermarket chains have, over the past few years, established themselves within the county, attracted by is central location and being one of the most accessible areas of the country. This includes Morrisons, which has distribution centres in Northampton, Burton Latimer and Corby; Sainsbury's, which occupies approximately two million square feet across the county, and Tesco, which has a million square feet at DIRFT in Daventry. Indeed, such is the demand on the food sector that Tesco has re-taken possession of a vacant warehouse in Milton Keynes to deal with a surge in demand caused by the COVID-19 lockdown.
In Wellingborough, Wincanton Distribution - the largest British logistics firm - was appointed a year ago to run the Co-op's regional 330,000 square foot distribution centre on Park Farm. The initial three-year contract is to manage all warehouse and store delivery operations from the facility, to new and existing stores in the surrounding area. At the time the site employed around 500 staff and 170 drivers.
Park Farm is also home to Bookers Retail Partners, which distributes from some 265,750 square feet. Approximately two years ago, Tesco's £4bn takeover of Booker brand was completed, creating a new powerhouse in Britain's £200bn-a-year food market. Booker also owns the Premier, Budgens, Family Shopper and Londis store brands that during the coronavirus crisis, have been vital to many local communities in providing daily food essentials.
Other third-party logistics companies operational on the estate include Yusen Logistics, which moved into a purpose-built 379,000 square foot distribution centre at Prologis Park Wellingborough West last year. It will shortly to be joined by NNR Global Logistics and the Northamptonshire haulier Linkline. These occupiers are both committed to take approximately 130,000 square feet each and are scheduled to move to the site later this year.
As the high street has seen mass store closures from non-essential retailers including John Lewis, Dunelm and New Look - as ordered by the Government to combat the spread of virus - e-commerce is the last remaining income stream for many of these retailers. Wellingborough, again, is fortunate to be home to Monsoon Accessorize. The global brand has a 262,000 square foot distribution warehouse on Prologis Park Wellingborough - fronting the A45 - which helps to serve this market, together with Primary, located just down the road at Islip, where it operates from a one million square foot facility.
On the back of e-commerce are the courier companies, vital to getting goods to the end-user. Again, Wellingborough's economy is continuing with UK Mail, part DHL and Federal Express, located on the Finedon Road Industrial Estate, and, on Park Farm, TNT - with DPD adding to the trio with a 45,000 square foot facility at Warth Park in Raunds.
Wellingborough's warehouse and industrial markets have, in recent years, only been curtailed by a lack of new development that has constrained supply, and unfortunately new sites will now be delayed as a result of the virus.
One such scheme in the pipeline is the first phase of a 1.5m square foot development by St Modwen, through a collaboration agreement with Bovis Homes. This is being promoted in the form of three warehouse facilities offering accommodation from 40,000 square feet to 275,000 square feet.
Whilst the performance of the industrial sector of the market will no doubt fall short of forecasts, it is still predicted to outperform the UK's other property sectors; office and retail. And without a doubt, the current crisis only highlights the importance of this the sector in keeping not only the local economy going, but indeed in country, confirming the logistics market as the asset class of choice.
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