The impact of changing shopping habits on the UK’s warehouses

Kevin Jones, Sales Director for Metsec’s Purlins Division

Published on: Friday, 20th November 2015

Kevin Jones, Sales Director for Metsec’s Purlins Division, looks at how the growth of online shopping is impacting the development of UK warehouses

It was recently reported that as customers switch from visiting the high street to staying at home and shopping online, the warehouses that businesses use to store stock and products are now increasingly in demand, driving the amount of logistics space available to its lowest level since records began1. With online retail sales growing at 12 per cent a year and now accounting for more than 12 per cent of all spending in the UK, according to the ONS2, it’s unsurprising that bigger demands are being placed on our warehouses.

This year’s Black Friday (27 November) is set to be the UK's first £1bn online shopping day3, which is obviously good news for the industry but, that being said, retailers must be prepared. This means ensuring that operations are fully equipped from back-end to front-end, so that the drive in sales can be managed effectively. Whilst focus has often been centred on the strain on logistics, this surge in demand will also create additional pressure, from website performance to ordering systems.

As the economy continues to improve and consumers are spending more money, retail chains are investing in more warehouses to meet this demand from online shoppers. As part of this, retailers like Next and Amazon Prime Now, are now offering more flexible delivery services that can be generated in a day or even one hour, in order to meet the expectations of consumers.

In the UK, there has been an unlikely property boom, with big distribution centres popping up along motorways4 , which further highlights the growing demand for retailers to have more distribution depots. With online shopping only set to increase, companies will be looking to further expand their warehouse presence in order to serve their customer base sufficiently. This growth has a direct impact on companies, like Metsec, that play a key role in building warehouses. At Metsec we use light gauge cold-formed steel roof purlins on a wide range of building types including warehouses and distribution depots.

By using our MetSPEC design software we’re able to calculate the most efficient purlin and side rail design that optimises the use of steel on a project, as well as saving the engineer time. Due to our bespoke manufacturing software and flexible rolling mills, we’re able to offer short lead times for our products, which helps us deliver to projects with tight lead times. The purlins are supplied in the specified lengths, pre-pierced and marked according to the client’s requirements, making them easy to identify and install once on site. All of this, coupled with being able to schedule deliveries to meet our customers’ needs, means that we’re able to provide the best products, on time and in full.

We’ve recently supported the construction of the new Next distribution centre in Doncaster through supplying our specialised, cold rolled, steel purlins and side rails. The sheer scale of the centre, which upon completion will be just under a million square feet in size, will mean that Next can increase the amount of stock it can hold remotely, ready to distribute to online shoppers.

All of our products for use in construction are CE marked and our processes are certified to Execution Class 4, which provides the industry with absolute assurance on the use of Metsec purlins, Metframe, SFS and accessories in the construction of anything from a warehouse to a power station.


  1. Financial Times - http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/49bb4402-4817-11e5-af2f-4d6e0e5eda22.html#axzz3m0iQpxYd
  2. ONS 2015 - http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/rsi/retail-sales/january-2015/stb-rsi-january-2015.html?format=print
  3. Forbes - http://www.forbes.com/sites/fionabriggs/2015/09/02/black-friday-2015-set-to-be-uks-first-1bn-online-shopping-day-but-retailers-must-be-prepared/
  4. Financial Times - http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/49bb4402-4817-11e5-af2f-4d6e0e5eda22.html