No matter what sector of real estate you focus on, E-Commerce affects us all.  Its disruption of the commercial real estate world has accelerated exponentially due to COVID-19’s effects on our shopping behavior.  This disruption is forcing property owners, especially industrial and retail,  to re-think how they “maximize” the sites they own.  It’s also spilling over into the office world where many older B and C properties are staring obsolescence cold in the face.  Maximizing often translates into spending serious money to repurpose and stay relevant – or selling to let someone else try.
The high-powered research team at the nation’s largest commercial real estate organization, NAIOP, has produced this great report called New Places and New Spaces for E-Commerce Distribution Report. 
Here are the three strategies for combining industrial and retail functions.  I’ve also highlighted the key elements to make it a much quicker read.
1) Converting Vacant Big Box Stores and Malls into Last-Mile Distribution Centers – Industrial supply is falling behind demand, and rents for new distribution space have skyrocketed so high that they make more sense to retail owners.2) Accommodating Distribution Activities from Operational Retail Outlets – This avoids last-mile distribution costs as well as provides customer flexibility.

3) Including Distribution Space in Mixed-Use Development Projects – Mixed-use developments, between industrial, office, residential and retail, could be the future, with each bringing about mutual economic benefits that they couldn’t achieve on their own.
I hope you find the concepts and challenges as interesting as I did. If nothing else, they may help you think more creatively about your property.  Contact me any time to discuss your project and your commercial real estate strategy.


New Places and New Spaces for E-commerce Distribution: Three Strategies Bringing Industrial and Retail Real Estate Closer Together

By Dustin C. Read, Ph. D/JD | Published on May 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically accelerated demand for e-commerce. Correspondingly, it accelerated demand for distribution space from which to fulfill purchases made online. These conditions have led developers in land-constrained markets to consider new formats for distribution buildings and pursue redevelopment projects that would not have been feasible before 2020. At the same time, brick-and-mortar retailers have responded to customer preferences by expanding online order pickup services and shipping orders from retail stores. Together, these trends are contributing to the convergence of industrial and retail real estate, with implications for developers, investors and building owners.

The NAIOP Research Foundation commissioned this report to examine three trends related to this convergence: the conversion of shopping centers to distribution centers, adding distribution uses to existing retail buildings, and the development of mixed-use properties that include both distribution and retail. The author conducted secondary research and interviewed developers, investors, architects, analysts and other commercial real estate professionals to identify the opportunities and risks associated with each strategy. Some findings include:

  • Functionally obsolete shopping centers can be attractive targets for conversion to distribution space given their size and location. However, developers should weigh these advantages against the costs associated with converting or demolishing existing buildings, possible political opposition and the difficulty of acquiring full control of a shopping center.
  • Retailers are adding distribution capacity and online order pickup and return services to existing retail stores to enhance their customers’ shopping experience. New retail development can facilitate this strategy and minimize congestion in parking lots and store aisles by tailoring building and parking lot design to the needs of both in-store and online customers.
  • Some developers are pioneering mixed-use developments that colocate retail and industrial space. Locations near transportation networks and population centers often support both uses and onsite retail can serve as an amenity for logistics workers. However, pedestrian safety requires careful planning to segregate industrial and retail traffic, and developers should be prepared to address local concerns about a development’s traffic impact on adjacent roads.

Click  here for the full report.

Join the C2
You will receive concise insights on all things commercial real estate along with top level trade secrets.
Weekly Narrative