Companies that were poised for online retail have been the big winners of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a large part of the population now staying at home as much as possible.
Those companies that are able to stockpile more product have been able to ship it, and those that haven't had the warehouse space are looking to fix that problem.
Mitchell Blaine is an industrial broker with CBRE's Waterloo Region office and the Sr. Vice President of the company.
"Trends that were there before are really becoming pronounced, either downward or upward," said Blaine in an interview. "Going into the crisis, you saw a real acceleration of online buying and consumer behaviour. Everything you buy on amazon, or even if it's groceries online, they have to come from somewhere."
Blaine said that also includes stockpiling personal protective equipment, creating an additional demand for industrial real estate.
"What is anticipated is, those consumers that had not adopted online buying of groceries and/or goods are really going to start picking it up because they have to through the crisis, and will likely continue to post-crisis as well."
Having product in-stock isn't the only advantage of having industrial real estate, according to Blaine. He said that companies like Inksmith and Toyota are the kinds of companies who have this resource, and will be able to get back to work sooner as a result.
As companies have adjusted to increased demand for online shopping, they're also looking to decrease shipping time.
"We have not had the supply chains established for 'just-in-time' shipping to people's houses, say, e-commerce," explained Blaine. "So out of this you're now seeing a ramp-up of facilities from online and warehouse distribution players, even during the pandemic, to be able to service what's in Kitchener-Waterloo, you know, a 600,000 population, it's a fairly significant centre."
It's not just an acceleration of the warehouse industry and industrial real estate, but also of worker safety.
"That is, by far, the most consistent comment we hear from the operators of these distribution centres is making sure the employees are safe, first and foremost. Then the ability to service their customer base," said Blaine.
He also explained that companies like Shopify, which has an office in Waterloo, can help get small businesses online, creating diversity in the market and giving the ability to buy locally. As companies like Shopify see success, it will create an even greater demand for warehousing.