The coronavirus crisis has pushed more and more consumers online and this trend looks set to continue. The pandemic could impose more permanent change on retailers which last for a lot longer than the easing of the lockdowns or the end of social distancing rules. People have had to change their shopping habits and retailers are having to comply.

According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2010 online sales accounted for 6.7% of all retail sales in the United Kingdom. The month before the outbreak in February a decade later the figure was 19%. In March online retails sales reached a record high of 22.3%. By May this year it had risen to 33%.

As local retails shops survey the wreckage left by the pandemic crisis, warehouse owners are facing a different problem: how to deal with record demand. The pandemic is prompting a rush for warehouse space, from small delivery sites near city centres to larger distribution centres. This acceleration of online shopping is setting a new landscape for warehouses and dark stores operators to navigate.

The biggest online retailer who has benefited the most is of course the juggernaut that is Amazon. Amazon was already powerful, COVID just cleared the way for their dominance. They have seen massive growth this year and have said they will create a further 7,000 UK jobs this year to meet growing demand. Having already added 3,000 roles so far in 2020, by the end of the year it will have created a total of 10,000 new jobs. This will bring its UK workforce to more than 40,000. They have built a number of new distribution centres in the UK in the past few years and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have plans for more.

What about the rest of us?

As for the rest of the retail space its all about catching up. Fast track learning the latest technology and using partnerships which are out there. Many smaller independent retailers have rushed to get online using Amazon Marketplace and eBay. Others have had to look at their websites and online marketing strategies. Retailers are having to act quick or be left behind.
There is also the trend with consumers expecting faster delivery than ever before. Not that long-ago shoppers didn’t mind waiting a couple of days or even a week for an online delivery. Today, anything beyond a day and consumers are disappointed. To meet these new expectations, retailers are having to find space in warehouses to create much bigger distribution networks from which to pick and pack.

Warehouse Optimisation

The changing landscape is seeing how warehouses are becoming a far more important role in the acceleration of ecommerce. Before COVID the focus had already shifted from bulk picks delivered to supermarkets to individual picks delivered direct to a consumer or collection point. Now with a higher number of goods coming in, being picked and sent out warehouse optimisation is paramount.

Warehouses today need to look at leveraging automation to improve operational efficiency. Choosing the right technologies that integrate well and work together seamlessly is the key. To fully optimize your processes and achieve efficiency, you need to use the latest technology and software. An automated warehouse cuts down on manual tasks that slow down the movement of goods. Automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) combined with a warehouse management system (WMS) solve this problem.
As well as improving the speed of product retrieval, warehouse automation also speeds up order fulfilment and inventory management processes.

The Future – Beyond COVID

To meet consumer demand going forward including the spikes in demand, businesses are going to have to be flexible. Warehouses and dark stores will have to be flexible with their workforce which could mean establishing new shift patterns, opening warehouse for longer, controlling numbers in area, social distancing.  Cleaning warehouses and disinfecting sites will be the new normal.  Here at 2hssl we have a new specialist cleaning department to cope with the demand.  Many organisations may consider agency staff to boost its core full time staff. This will allow for companies to flex up and down while minimising expensive overtime payments.

The key to capitalising on these opportunities is agility.  And the only way to achieve this is through technology. Businesses with agile technology will be able to react and capitalise on any increased demand.

Get in touch with us today if you want to learn about warehouse systems and how we can help optimise your warehouse processes. Call our team today on 01937 585057.  We are also offering specialist cleaning and decontamination services to disinfect warehouses and sites.