Revealed: the UK locations with the least available warehouse space

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A lack of available space is one of today’s major headaches for warehouse managers and warehouse-utilising businesses. While logistics, distribution, industrial and manufacturing sectors have been hit hard by a series of supply chain issues over the past few years – the ‘space race’ is an issue which brings a heightened level of complexity and pressure.

When we think of property in demand, warehouses might not be first to mind. But amid numerous reports, both within the media and expressed by businesses across the country, the UK is facing one of the biggest warehouse space shortages it has seen in decades.

It is significantly impacting current plans and operations, because limited space means limited options. This at a time when stock shortages, labour uncertainties and price rises make flexibility so sought after. And not only do businesses need flexible warehouse space to best manage their existing resources, but also, of course, to effectively plan for future growth and expansion.

With the shortage of warehouse space available in the UK, it’s clear that as warehouse operators and logistics leaders, you need to maximise what you do have at your disposal. Key to this effort is the automation of processes and data-driven insights that a leading warehouse management system can provide. With the pressures, obstacles and complexities of the current operating environment, a manual approach is simply no longer an option.

How bad is the problem?

Of course, it differs from location to location. Some towns and cities in the UK are more affected than others when it comes to the availability of warehouse space, and we wanted to get a better understanding of which places have the most and least capacity.

We analysed data from Rightmove for all the available warehouse properties (and the space available in square feet) currently on the market in the UK’s 50 biggest towns and cities. The results were then compared to the number of registered businesses in each location, establishing the amount of space available per registered business in each location.

The findings

Blackpool – which has 516.46 sq. ft of available warehouse space per registered business – is the location with the most available warehouse space and therefore, the location least affected by the shortage of warehouse space. The famous seaside town has approximately 2,014,185 sq ft of warehouse space available for its 3,900 registered businesses.

Coming in at second in the top-10 list of locations with the most available warehouse space is Sheffield. The ‘Steel City’ currently has 348.09 sq. ft of warehouse space available per registered business, with Liverpool in third having 252.08 sq. ft of space available.

The locations with the most warehouse space available

Rank Location Available Space (sq ft) Registered business per location Sq ft of warehouse space per

registered business available

1 Blackpool 2014185 3900 516.46
2 Sheffield 5689458 16345 348.09
3 Liverpool 3704306 14695 252.08
4 Warrington 2124607 9135 232.58
5 Gloucester 755335 3960 190.74
6 Bristol 3074716 18725 164.20
7 Manchester 2843213 23565 120.65
8 Stoke-on-Trent 753651 6430 117.21
9 Peterborough 793850 7835 101.32
10 Sunderland 584790 6140 95.24

On the other end of the table is Slough. With just 0.34 sq. ft of warehouse space available per registered business, the Berkshire town finishes bottom of the overall table and therefore has the biggest shortage of warehouse space available in the UK.

Also lingering at the bottom of the table is Cambridge with just 1.41 sq. ft of warehouse space available per registered business. Huddersfield also makes an appearance in the bottom 10 with 1.66 sq. ft of warehouse space available. Other locations where space is most limited include Brighton, London, Reading and Leicester.

The locations with the least warehouse space available

Rank Location Available Space (sq ft) Registered business per location Sq ft of warehouse space per

registered business available

1 Slough 2296 6660 0.34
2 Cambridge 7143 5080 1.41
3 Huddersfield 26183 15740 1.66
4 Southend-on-Sea 16706 6995 2.39
5 Northampton 96114 38180 2.52
6 Brighton 56617 17010 3.33
7 London 1837980 534,590 3.44
8 Reading 32557 6880 4.73
9 Telford 33293 6,105 5.45
10 Leicester 95904 15925 6.02

Commenting on the figures, Jon Roberts, WMS expert and Sales Director at OrderWise, said:

“Warehouse operators are continuing to deal with economic pressures, the impacts of Brexit and global supply chain issues. A result of these challenges is a shortage of available warehouse space, and this data certainly puts in black and white this growing challenge that the industry has been battling against over the past couple of years.

“The commercial property market is a tough place right now, and the insights show the difficulties businesses face when trying to source more warehouse space. It leads to the question, do they really need it?

“With all of these factors at play, now is the time for warehouse operators to better utilise the space they already have, and curb the effects of this national shortage. Investing in warehouse management technology and automation can help organisations to optimise stock control, streamline returns and enhance pick rates – all improvements which help to maximise the use of space they currently have. By working smarter and unlocking these efficiencies, it is possible to find ways of achieving business aims without having to extend their warehouse footprint.”

Warehouse management systems and the race for space

WMS (warehouse management system) solutions unify data processes across all areas of a business through software integration, and automatically synchronise updates in real-time. Through WMS technology, businesses can stay up to date on all business activity, any time, anywhere.

This ensures business decisions can be made as quickly as possible based on the most accurate data. WMS solutions are proven to increase the accuracy and operational efficiency of stock control and forecasting, ensuring businesses protect profits while fulfilling orders on time and in full.

Warehouse management systems and automation are crucial for businesses in making use of the space they already have. Warehouse operations need to be efficient to control costs, maximise stock to increase sales and meet customer demand. Investing in a WMS will only help businesses meet their goals and avoid the worst of the warehouse space shortage.

Four reasons to invest in your WMS to maximise space in your warehouse

1. Optimised stock control

With warehouse space at a premium, ensuring you are optimising your current stock is crucial in getting the most out of your warehouse space – and a WMS will help you do that.

Thanks to forecasting capabilities, investment in a WMS helps ensure you aren’t stocking up warehouse shelves with product you don’t need. Not only will this save space, but it will also save money as businesses can focus on the products they are selling, rather than stocking the ones that aren’t.

As well as speeding up warehousing operations, WMS solutions ensure goods can be processed into the warehouse and despatched more quickly and efficiently, also freeing up space.

2. Streamlined returns

Warehouse management systems also play a key role in ensuring your returns process is handled correctly and efficiently.

Through integration, WMS solutions provide users optimal visibility and traceability on returns from the moment a customer makes a request. Warehouses are not only prepared to process this, but they can gain business intelligence on reasons for the return to proactively address future issues.

If businesses optimise their stock control, this has a positive knock-on effect on the returns process. If an efficient and streamlined returns process is in place, this allows more accurate stock purchasing and again saves money for the business. WMS solutions will also automatically adjust stock levels when returns are processed, removing the administrative burden.

3. Improved pick rates

Having employed a WMS, businesses can benefit from improved picking rates.

With employees having access to stock info via mobile handheld devices, this allows businesses to process orders faster, more efficiently and with a reduced rate of error. Investing in a WMS will ensure businesses are utilising the space they have by processing orders more accurately.

With staff able to perform faster and more accurately, this saves time and money on hiring unnecessary temporary staff.

4. Integrated couriers

Delivery issues can also be eradicated with a WMS.

Integrating couriers within the WMS system provides substantial benefit, including more accurate despatch times. Ensuring businesses are getting their stock out for delivery on time will prevent order delays which means no build-up of stock in the warehouse.

Delivery delays will result in sold stock sitting on warehouse shelves, taking up space that could be used for new orders.

Methodology

OrderWise collated data from Rightmove’s commercial property to rent section and filter searched for properties in the top 50 of the UK’s most populated towns and cities under the term ‘warehouse’.

This was then compared with the number of registered businesses in each location to find the amount of square footage warehouse space available per registered business.

All data is correct as of June 2022

ONS Business Data

Location Data

 

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