Faizan Haidar, ET Bureau
19 July 2023
E-commerce companies’ share in warehousing space leasing has fallen to 3% amid declining demand from more than 20% during Covid-19. With the easing of the pandemic, demand faltered for e-commerce companies, even as bricks-and-mortar rivals rented 14% of space during the January-June period as they witnessed a demand resurgence.
In 2020, during the pandemic, e-commerce took more than a fifth of warehouse space while physical retailers had a 9% share, according to data by Savills India.
The overall leasing activity in India continued to grow, with a total space take-up of 22.4 million square feet in the first six months of 2023, up from 20.9 million sq ft a year ago.
“E-commerce companies had over-committed space during Covid, expecting the exponential growth they experienced at that time to continue. There are many facilities where they continue to pay rentals without utilising the full space,” said Gagan Randev, executive director, India Sotheby’s International Realty.
According to Savills data, after increasing demand for warehousing space over the past five years, tier-2 and tier-3 cities saw the share of e-commerce declining to 4% in the January-June period from 34% a year ago.
“In the past three years, year-on-year space absorption from e-commerce has undergone a significant change due to increased investments in their warehousing operations and footprint optimisation through automation, shelving and improved racking systems. These investments have enabled them to increase their existing storage space and enhance overall operational efficiency,” said Srinivas N, managing director, Industrial and Logistics, Savills India.
Experts said the companies are also looking to outsource the space they had taken during the pandemic.
“E-commerce overbuilt the capacity as Covid-led growth was harvested by them. Now that capacity is vacant. That’s why you see a lot of marketplaces trying to externalise their services. That is not coming out of a business model, that is coming out from vacant space,” said Ashvini Jakhar, founder of Prozo, which manages supply chains for companies.
In the first half of 2023, the third-party logistics sector continued to drive warehousing demand, accounting for 44% of the total absorption, up from 37% a year ago, followed by the manufacturing (22%), retail (13%) and fast-moving capital goods and consumer durables sector (6%).
“E-commerce, grew exponentially during Covid when physical retailers were constrained by prevailing conditions and immediately after that when chain stores were still recovering from the pandemic shock,” said Devangshu Dutta, founder of retail consulting firm Third Eyesight. “However, the retail business in India is predominantly offline; as demand continues to grow overall, it is only natural for physical retailers’ own growth to be driven by the market’s momentum and that would be reflected in warehousing space taken up by them across the country.”
For most retailers, after Covid-19, the warehouse is the epicentre for omnichannel distribution network for offline as well as online clientele.
(Published in Economic Times)