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Ecommerce Business Is Booming: The Effects On Warehouses & Logistics


Ecommerce was already on a meteoric rise pre-pandemic. Cited as a death-knell for the high street, online shopping and consumer behaviour had changed drastically since the heyday of the 90’s major high streets. Move forward to today, following an extraordinary 18-months of lockdowns and diversification by businesses and consumers, the warehouse and logistics industry has had to accelerate faster than ever to keep up with demand.

The figures speak for themselves

With marketplaces such as Amazon and Alibaba providing everything a consumer can need and consumers accustomed to browsing from home with no queues or masks, it is a natural expectation for online shopping to stay popular.

In 2020, research forecasted that UK consumers would spend £141.33 billion online in 2021.

(Up a massive 34.7% from 2019)

Ecommerce will account for more than 30% of total retail sales in the UK for the first time in 2021.

(In 2019, that share stood at just 21.8%)

While forecasters predict that 2020 will be the peak year for sales, unlikely to be matched as the market begins to regulate itself again, the eCommerce landscape has undoubtedly been changed forever.

Time to adapt

So, while business and retail outlets look at ways to diversify and bring more of their focus online, what is happening in warehousing and logistics to support the swell?

There are many factors at play, some conflicting, such as fast fashion and sustainability. Add to the mix the consumers insatiable ‘need-it-now’ culture cultivated in the last few years and our sector has a lot to think about. For example, out of stock can mean a lost sale.

With so many competitors in all industries vying for the same online presence, replenishing stock with fast turn-around times and 1-24hour distribution services is now a necessity to serve this need.

But, with climate change and better education in sustainability emerging to the mainstream, companies are increasingly expected to provide their services in the greenest way possible.

Man in an eCommerce warehouse scanning orders

Efficiency is key

With all this in mind, warehouse and logistic operations need to conduct a comprehensive review of how they work and implement more efficient processes and equipment. This can include a full racking review to assess whether their current setup allows for optimum workflow speed without compromising the quality of the product.

Live racking system

Reviewing your existing racking systems

Racking types such as live racking allow for more stock capacity, less warehouse handler input, and significantly better pick times.

Then there are smaller yet valuable measures such as wire mesh products that can help organise the warehouse. For example, wire mesh baskets and shelf partitions can save time and reduce picking errors.

Finally, assessing an existing setup and adapting to the new demand on a business helps get products out the door and onto lorries and courier trucks faster – ready to reach a happy customer.

Warehouse storage scalability

With demand comes scale, too, and while the last 18 months have been a devastating time for many, there are areas that have seen significant growth. With 55% of the UK making clothing, shoe and accessory purchases online in 2020, the fashion sector is just one example of a need to adapt to relentless demand.

Scaling the business to answer the call of the market can signal a need for significant changes. Bigger warehouse premises are a major change that can facilitate massive growth when designed and installed by market leaders such as Nene Warehouse Solutions.

Then warehouse space optimisation, utilising every last inch to accommodate more product without compromising on the safety of warehouse staff. Reworking a layout with approved designers like the experts at Nene ensures that maximum optimisation is achieved, be that in new premises or reconfiguring an existing facility.

warehouse scaling with new pallet racking system being installed

Improving your warehouse layout

A new layout can include narrow aisle racking, mezzanine flooring for height, as well as width modification and drive in-racking to get large products from shelf to driver quickly and efficiently. The possibilities are endless with the right direction and quality equipment.

warehouse with narrow aisle racking system
warehouse with mezzanine floor to increase space optimisation
forklift picking goods in drive-in racking

Seasonal and future demand

As we step into what’s dubbed the golden quarter by retailers, the operational challenges for stores, warehouses and logistics need to be met head-on and conquered quickly.

The ONS reports total online sales by value in December 2020 increased by a staggering 46.1% compared with 2019, the highest annual growth reported since 2008.


The lead up to Christmas

The winter season leading up to Christmas is never going to be easy, but with the last Christmas falling foul to COVID, the pressure is on to meet consumer demand more than ever before. The mini-distribution hubs of lockdown are unlikely to support a Christmas surge, and so medium-size businesses must get in shape as the countdown to Christmas gets ever earlier.

The future of eCommerce sales

Beyond Christmas, e-commerce is here to stay. With 73% of goods bought online in the UK last year (source: Osome) there is an excellent case for a boost in the economy via online sales. Research predicts that as the market starts to stabilise, a slow return to shops will continue, but that the numbers flocking to online shopping will far exceed anything pre-pandemic at £144bn, proving it to be more than a short-term spike to serve an immediate need.

eCommerce sales warehouse packaging conveyor belt

Adapting to meet the needs of the consumer is nothing new; it’s the scale at which businesses need to do so and quickly that is largely uncharted territory. Warehouse specialists such as Nene are experts in designing and installing layouts, racking and shelving solutions, and everything in-between to allow their customers to predict and meet market demands and stay ahead of the game.