The Dutch logistics sector has grown substantially over the past 20 years: while industrial stock stood just below 10 million sq m in 1996, by 2017 it had reached 28.8 million sq m.
Of this, almost 45 per cent is located in two southern provinces of the Netherlands (Noord-Brabant and Limburg), a major logistics destination. This region’s strong position is supported by its proximity to both Rotterdam and Antwerp harbours, its excellent multimodal infrastructure, an accessible labour force and the availability of land.
These factors have combined to help make the country’s logistics market a success, but looking ahead, what are the key trends that will shape Dutch warehouses over the coming years?
The focus on Noord-Brabant and Limburg is only increasing, with almost 60 per cent of all new logistics developments located in these provinces. Due to growing online sales, large-scale development opportunities are increasingly in demand and Noord-Brabant and Limburg are able to facilitate large lots for relative low land prices. Savills therefore expects these provinces to perform well, not only due to their locations and affordable land, but also because they are much more active promoting themselves through international marketing. Although other provinces and countries are starting to follow this trend of active marketing, Noord-Brabant and Limburg remain one step ahead of competition.
We also expect the shape of distribution centres to change. In the UK we have seen the first examples of multi-layer and underground centres, such as the development by Formal Investments near Heathrow which has recently received planning permission. It will not be long before this trend reaches mainland Europe with the appearance of distribution centres becoming more and more attractive. This is partly due to investors who would rather add a 'sexy' product to their portfolio than a ‘boring’ warehouse, but above all because of occupier demand. E-commerce distribution centres are changing from being mainly storage facilities to value-add logistics. The changing activities and labour market competition make it increasingly important to create an attractive work environment.
When talking about trends within the logistics sector, robotisation is mentioned frequently and, indeed, an increasing number of logistics processes are being automated. However, the effects on Dutch logistics stock remain limited: building distribution centres to suit fully automated occupiers is expensive and increases the risk of obsolescence. As investors prefer well marketed products, which can be sold and leased to a wide audience, occupiers themselves are currently investing in built-in robotisation facilities for standard distribution centres.