Exclusive: Demand for Warehouse Space Strong across South Carolina

Richard Breen

Monday, November 18th, 2019

The reasons vary across South Carolina, but one trait is shared: warehouse space is in demand.

Recent quarterly reports from real estate firm Colliers International indicate a need for warehouse and distribution facilities. This more or less reflects trends that are being seen nationally.

“There’s different dynamics driving each market,” Ron Anderson, vice president of research with Colliers in Columbia, told South Carolina CEO.

The Greenville-Spartanburg market is the state’s largest for logistics.

“Greenville-Spartanburg’s a real player in the United States,” Anderson said.

Colliers counted 2,568 warehouse/distribution buildings comprising more than 182 million square feet in the Greenville-Spartanburg market. Of that, just a little over 10 million square feet was unoccupied, resulting in a 5.59% vacancy rate. Two million square feet was absorbed during the third quarter.

The logistics needs of the Interstate 85 corridor, along with the automotive and plastics industries – which Anderson said are expanding rapidly – influence demand in the Upstate.

The Port of Charleston is the key driver in the Lowcountry. Colliers reports that the warehouse-distribution sector comprises 40.85 million square feet within 840 buildings in the Charleston region – 72.52% of the overall industrial market. Vacancy sits at 8.25% with booming warehouse construction.

“There are17 warehouses totaling 2.88 million square feet under construction throughout the Charleston market, and an additional 11 warehouses totaling 3.34 million square feet are proposed to be built,” Colliers reports.

In the Midlands, there’s approximately 45.14 million square feet of warehouse-distribution space.

“Columbia is driven by natural economic growth,” Anderson said.

The market actually had “negative absorption” during the third quarter (15,206 more square feet of warehouse space was available than at the beginning of the quarter), but that was due to new construction. Vacancy rose to 4.85% from 4.65% in the second quarter.

“There was a lack of quality space,” Anderson said. “We’re starting to see good, competitive space coming out of the ground.”

In the Florence-Myrtle Beach area, warehouses absorbed 987,421 square feet during the quarter, according to Colliers.

“Warehouse vacancy was 3.26%, lower than it has been for over a year,” Colliers reported. Two warehouses of a combined 309,400 square feet are under construction.

On the South Carolina side of the Charlotte market, Colliers reports that a 460,800-square-foot warehouse was completed in York County and another 848,784 square feet of warehouse and flex space is under construction.

Nationally, the growth of e-commerce is helping to boost demand for warehouse space. Ben Newell of Transwestern Development Co. wrote in a recent edition of Area Development that consumers are expecting delivery in 1-2 days for all types of online purchases.

“To meet those expectations, retailers are rethinking their supply chain management and locating closer to the end customer, which is driving industrial demand in secondary markets,” he wrote.

Newell pointed out increased demand for warehouse space in Texas markets such as Austin and San Antonio.

“The nature of the consumer product sector in secondary markets is that inventory is typically consumed in the same market in which it is warehoused, and much of the population growth in these areas is attributed to younger generations that are more likely to shop online,” he wrote. “Nashville, Tenn., and Charleston, S.C., are two other prime examples of cities attracting young professionals with strong job prospects.”

Anderson agreed e-commerce plays a role in South Carolina warehouse demand.

“It isn’t the biggest piece of the puzzle,” he added. “We have a really strong manufacturing economy in South Carolina.”

Writing in Deloitte Insights, Saurabh Mahajan said Deloitte estimates U.S. industrial real estate demand will increase by 850 million square feet, to 14.8 billion square feet, by 2023, with e-commerce growth driving that demand.

“E-commerce deliveries tripled between 2013 and 2018, prompting companies to seek more urban infill warehouse locations so they can provide faster deliveries to consumers,” Mahajan wrote. “Along with e-commerce, the rise in real business inventories and elevated gas prices is also expected to contribute to increased warehouse demand.”