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eCommerce and Fulfillment eCommerce and Fulfillment

The city's supplies

Jos Hesselink • 27/01/2022
A systemic change is taking place in the Netherlands aimed at the way we consume and therefore also the supply of everything we buy.

A change that started decades ago and has accelerated in recent years. We expect what we buy online to be delivered within 24 hours. Preferably even faster. And in cities in particular, the expectation is increasing. After England, the Netherlands is the country in Europe where the most is ordered online. In 2021 more than one million products per day. In the city, this leads to less space requirements for shops because less is bought. Storage above shops is increasingly being used as living space. It leads to different transport flows because the location of the supply changes. The street scene is dominated by electric vans, delivery bicycles and cyclists with large bags and smaller trucks.

Meanwhile, the edges of the cities and the transport hubs are changing. The Dutch landscape is no longer characterized by endless meadows that you can gaze at from the train. Especially in the south and center of the Netherlands, large logistics centers are visible in more and more places in the landscape, which provide the large groups of consumers in the Netherlands and far beyond with their daily consumption needs. In recent years, the rapid increase in both the number and size of the centers has given rise to a social discussion that has also come to be known as the 'Verdozing of the Netherlands'.

In twenty years, the stock of logistics real estate has tripled to more than 35 million m2. More than a third of this has a surface area of more than 30,000 m2, or more than four football fields per logistics center. And the demand for distribution space is only increasing.

The large logistics centers are part of a complex and knowledge-intensive supply chain to get goods to the end user as efficiently as possible. Despite all the automated processes, an important part of the work in the centers is mainly performed by young people from abroad in a real 'on-the-go' system. By alternating a fixed period of work in the Netherlands with a weekend or holiday in the home country, money is earned for, for example, their own house in their home country. They therefore often stay close to work in housing that is aimed at a temporary stay, as if it were a logistics (drilling) rig from which they can occasionally return home. These desolate islands do not look very attractive from the train or highway and are certainly not suitable for permanent habitation.

Where we care about the quality of life in our cities and all aspects of this, it can do no harm if we take a similar care of our suburban areas. This is where - out of sight of the urban end consumer - the vital logistics centers are located that provide precisely this end consumer with what was ordered online 24 hours ago. A plan is needed to prevent this logistical 'island soup' from boiling over in our country. Central management to ensure that these huge centers are placed in the landscape in an appropriate way and we look with respect at the living conditions of those who work in them.

Every month a column is published on a topic related to the value of the city. In it a vision is given on the social relevance of cities, urban development and therefore also real estate. This vision is based on internal research and dialogue with internal and external stakeholders, in close collaboration with consultants and analysts from our Real Estate Strategy & Innovation team.

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