The warehousing and distribution sector is now one of the fastest growing industries in the UK, buoyed by the accelerated shift towards e-commerce since the outbreak of coronavirus in 2020. As key players in the industry struggle to keep up with growth demand, Bureau Veritas is reminding those in the sector of the impact of tackling compliance challenges head on.

According to the ONS, online retail sales accounted for almost 30 per cent of all sales in July 2021; far exceeding pre-pandemic levels of 19 per cent in 2019. And, according to Knight Frank, take up of warehouse space in units larger than 50,000 sq. ft reached a record 30.8 million sq. ft in H1 2021; double that recorded in H1 2020. In the same report, Knight Frank estimates retailers and distribution companies collectively account for 76 per cent of take-up of warehouse space this year, as they seek to expand their online and home delivery capacity in response to growing levels of online sales.

Vicky Shah, Market Lead for Retail at Bureau Veritas, said: “The warehousing and distribution sector has grown rapidly over the last 18 months under unique conditions. The pandemic has accelerated the growth of the sector by several years, and as such we often find that those operating within the sector are faced with playing ‘catch up’; particularly when it comes to planning compliance strategies for what are often complex operations.

“All too often we find that operators lack understanding of who should be responsible for compliance strategies. It doesn’t help that there is conflicting official guidance on meeting compliance, and a lack of clarity around the legal requirements of compliance strategies for these vast facilities.”

The sector faces a wealth of challenges that have come with such rapid growth. Keeping up to speed on compliance regulations in fast-paced environments, the size and scale of operations – including from a construction perspective and also operationally – and an increasing labour shortage are just some of the challenges warehouse and distribution centres face, which all lead to a lack of understanding around meeting compliance regulations.

To support the industry in achieving and maintaining compliance, Bureau Veritas is hosting a unique virtual roundtable event, pulling together the expertise of its specialist team in health and safety, fire safety, statutory inspections and occupational hygiene to discuss some of the requirements that are not always considered when it comes to meeting compliance. The event will take place on Wednesday, 22 September at 11am and will draw on feedback from high-profile clients in the warehousing and distribution sector to highlight the key issues and solutions that are affecting the sector today.

Vicky added: “The virtual roundtable is an excellent opportunity for operators to hear about the compliance challenges and solutions that are commonly faced, which may not be front of mind when it comes to planning a compliance strategy. Topics at the event will include what a fire strategy should look like, what relevant legislation is applicable to distribution centre environments and managing a complex environment to ensure the safety of employees and visitors.

“In spite of lockdown measures being lifted, and High Street sales slowly increasing, we expect to see the ongoing success of ecommerce, with demand for warehouse space continuing into 2022 and beyond. We’d therefore urge operators in the sector to optimise their compliance strategies now to avoid pitfalls in the future.”