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Industrial trade counter occupiers: the 'race for space’

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As industrial supply levels across the UK continue to diminish, occupiers are competing more aggressively than ever before for available space.

In particular, trade counter occupiers are in a ‘race for space’ with one another in order to meet their own requirements and expansion plans. 

Furthermore, the emergence of new entrants into the market over the past 24 months has further increased competition. These trade occupiers don’t necessarily have the same level of store numbers yet, but they are well backed financially and have ambitious expansion plans, which is creating more competition for available units. 

The effects of demand on the market

It has been well-documented how well the industrial market has performed throughout the pandemic, and trade users in particular have benefitted over the past 18 months. Throughout lockdown, most trade users were able to stay open under government guidelines and ultimately maintained strong sales and enjoyed sustained growth due to the boom in DIY and home improvements. 

The success of these users has led to more developers competing for land and new sites to deliver new trade-counter specific schemes in order to take advantage of this booming industry. Historically, there may have only been a small handful of developers scoping a potential site, whereas there could now be up to six to eight all bidding for the same site. This, coupled with ever-increasing construction costs, has resulted in industrial and trade rents increasing nationally. 

We have also recently experienced users who you would stereotypically associate with the retail market, move into the trade sector. Trade counter schemes will generally offer highly prominent units with good levels of car parking, whilst quoting a reduced rate per square foot compared to retail properties. Provided these users are able to meet planning requirements, trade counter schemes offer more affordable alternatives without compromising their operational needs.

Trade counter requirements

National occupiers, such as Toolstation, Screwfix and Howdens, are generally well-represented within larger, established cities and towns where they often take 5,000-8,000 sq ft of space. However, what we are witnessing is that some operators are now starting to consider taking smaller units within in-fill rural industrial locations, provided they are within proximity of a suitable population, in order to further expand their businesses and enhance customer satisfaction. 

People have become even more used to shopping for convenience due to the rise in e-commerce, so this trade counter strategy means that customers now no longer have a preference over which store to go to, as long as it’s convenient and the product required is readily available. So long as the fundamentals, such as demographics, prominence, footfall and distance to existing stores of a location work, occupiers are increasingly willing to consider spaces where they may not have done so previously. 

From an operational perspective, these occupiers prefer to take units that have been built to a shell specification, so that they can fit them out and brand them as and how they need to, on condition that that all services are made available and there is adequate prominence, good car parking provisions, clear loading access and signage. 

One thing is for sure, despite the boom in e-commerce witnessed over the past few years, trade counters will always be required by tradesmen and the general public as the products sold there often require a see, touch and feel element; knowledge from the expertise of staff; the convenience of picking up product then and there rather than waiting for a delivery and furthermore, in-store offers, which often can’t be replicated online. 

We expect 2022 will be another busy year for the sector with even more demand from new and existing operators. 

This article was first published in CoStar on January 7, 2022.

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About the author
Alex Van Den Bogerd works in Colliers' Industrial and Logistics team and specialises in disposals and acquisitions of units across the South West and South Wales regions.

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Alex Van Den Bogerd


Industrial and Logistics


Alex joined Colliers in July 2019 as part of the Graduate Scheme. Alex is based within the Industrial and Logistics department in our Bristol office, specialising in the disposals and acquisitions of industrial units across the South West and South Wales regions. 

Since joining Colliers, Alex has developed a strong understanding of the regional multi-let market, in particular, and has completed a number of lettings for various clients including Unit 3 Vertex Park (15,700 sq ft - Chancerygate); Unit 27-28 Beeches Industrial Estate (14,537 sq ft - DTZ Investors); and Unit 1604 - 1605 Bridgwater Gateway (11,500 sq ft - Bridgwater Gateway Industrial Ltd).

Alex passed his APC in January 2022 and has now qualified as a Chartered Surveyor.

Alex was shortlisted for the Rising Star Award at the Bristol Property Awards 2022.

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