Nearly 27 million m² of warehouses will be needed in Europe by 2025 to meet the demand for e-commerce. In reality, high-profile Amazon projects remain rare…
This is the sunken part of the iceberg. Tons of concrete and sheet metal that we often forget when we order our products online. If e-commerce is still nibbling a little more market share from stores and boutiques, it remains completely dependent on warehouses, very real, which will continue to grow across the territory for years to come.
In Europe, about 27 million m² will be needed by 2025 to meet the demand, according to figures from the CBRE Real Estate Group. Warehouses, the cornerstone of logistics, make it possible to store, package and prepare the millions of packages ordered on the Internet, and inevitably lockdowns have accelerated online purchases. These represented 112 billion euros in France last year, an increase of 8.5% in one year. Good news for the major retail chains that have compensated for closures with shipments, but a new headache for on-time delivery of packages.
Hard to find m²
In recent months, inaugurations have thus multiplied. Last week, Manutan, an office supplies specialist, opened a 9,000 m² extension to its Gonesse warehouse, which now covers an area of 41,000 m² to “store 2 times more products” and “process 4 times more orders every day”. Earlier this month, the real estate company Argan delivered a new 22,000 m² warehouse near Orléans that was already leased to the FGD group, leader in the non-food retail market.
“It is a tense market where it is very difficult to find extra square meters,” said Diana Diziain, deputy director of Afilog, an association that brings together players from the sector.
Today, warehouses of more than 5,000 m² represent almost 90 million m², practically the surface of Paris. If we extend this figure to the area used by the entire sites, we even come close to 300 million m² for just over 4,000 sites. And the figure is growing: “we have built 16 million m² in the last ten years, we expect the same for the next ten years,” summarizes Diana Diziain.
Best player in these extraordinary projects, Amazon, whose every project often culminates in a political and militant fight. The creation of a 38,000 m² logistics platform near Pont-du-Gard crystallizes these tensions. He is not the only one and from now on the projects of large warehouses are causing a lot of commotion, even if it does not concern the American giant.
In reality, this dynamic eventually remains moderate and 2020 was even a small year: 2 million m² created compared to 2.4 million in 2019 and 3.9 million in 2018. Perhaps this should be seen as a postponement of projects that could keep the figures for years. blow up.
“There will be a slight growth, but not as strong as today”, Jean-Claude Le Lan, Argan’s boss, tempers. “E-commerce is a growing sector, but it is mainly the pure players that need new warehouses.”
So the pure players are Amazon or Cdiscount. The first built almost 800,000 m² between 2015 and 2019, compared to 268,000 m² for the French. Growth likely to slow. “Demand will continue to be stimulated, but not really by pure players,” said Diana Diziain.
Most current warehouses have nothing to do with these players. “Major distribution accounts for 50% of warehouses,” recalls Jean-Claude Le Lan. They do not necessarily have to make extensions, but often have to adapt outdated properties. “What’s new today is storage in small-area urban areas,” the boss continues. Surfaces obviously very expensive…
Obviously we are far from an explosion of construction.
Profit in cubic meters
But for logistics players, the issue of warehouses is of course a sensitive one. On Tuesday, against the advice of the government, the Senate decided to include an amendment to severely limit the establishment of new large warehouses. A way to “stop the Amazonization of France” according to an ecological senator. “There is a dogmatic reticence,” Diane Diziain breathes.
However, Afilog believes that the industry has made efforts, particularly in the area of the environment. Witness the Casino mega warehouse, used for the Monoprix brand, which strives to be “carbon neutral” through the use of geothermal energy, LED lighting or remote control. Manufacturers are also preparing a charter with the government, expected this month, to strengthen their environmental commitments.
In return, they hope to be able to take advantage of the vacant lots (usually intended for homes and offices) more easily and, above all, increase the height limit of the warehouses, from twelve currently to fifteen or twenty meters. Because to prevent spread, the warehouses have to go up. “In reality, we don’t think in square meters, but in cubic meters,” emphasizes Diane Diziain. A way to calm the critics?