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Real Estate

Trends igniting growth in the industrial sector

Illustration of chess pieces

Warehouse facilities in the industrial sector serve multiple purposes in our modern, digital economy, spurring growing demand over the last decade. Since the onset of the global pandemic in March 2020, warehouse values have risen 6.8%, while overall property values have fallen by 2.9%. 

Nuveen Real Estate believes the strength in the industrial sector will continue, based on five drivers converging to sustain growth.

An aerial view of an industrial park 
The opportunity in industrial real estate

1. E-commerce growth explodes

Consumers ordering goods and services online during coronavirus lockdowns boosted e-commerce sales growth significantly, rising from 16.6% to 36.7% year-over-year from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the same period in 2020. The penetration rate increased from 11.2% in Q3 2019 to 14.3% in Q3 2020. We expect that rate to increase another 5% to 10% by 2025, which could lead to even higher demand for warehouse space from a larger variety of tenants.

Online sales escalate during coronavirus lockdowns

2. Supply management shifts to ‘just-in-case’

At the outset of the pandemic, retailers using ‘just-in-time’ management – such as suppliers of groceries, aluminum cans and medical supplies – encountered unforeseen increases in supply chain costs. Their inability to meet spikes in customer demand ultimately led to supply chain failures. ‘Just-in-case’ supply chain management, which requires larger inventories and more warehouse space, allows retailers to hold additional ‘buffer stock’ inventories to address unexpected changes in demand. This practice is expected to elevate demand for industrial real estate, while minimizing future supply chain disruptions for retailers by increasing on-hand inventories.

3. Re-routing supply chains creates new demand

Major corporations have been diversifying their supply chains to manage risk and respond to changing global economics. Supply chains are shifting away from China, toward India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Vietnam, given their attractive labor costs and large labor pools. This transition will likely lead to a surge in East Coast market demand relative to West Coast ports. Moreover, companies are also beginning to migrate mission-critical supply chain activities to geographic regions closer to the end consumer. This will lead certain corporations to relocate activities back to the U.S., Mexico and Canada. The ‘on-shoring’ or ‘re-shoring’ of supply chain activities is expected to benefit the industrial sector.

4. Population relocation favors the Sun Belt

Warehouses in markets such as Raleigh, Austin and Nashville are expected to experience the greatest relative surge. High population growth, especially among higher-income earners, is fueling e-commerce sales disproportionately in those cities. In addition, other activities that lead to increased demand for industrial real estate, like home building, are expected to flourish in these markets. Corporations are also more likely to focus on the re-shoring of supply chain operations to Sun Belt markets, due to higher trade volumes from and enhanced proximity to operations in Mexico and Central America.

5. Single-family home demand increases

Single-family home demand has traditionally been a primary driver of light industrial and warehouse demand, as construction companies and vendors use the space to store building materials and equipment. Single-family home permit growth strengthened in 2020, growing from -0.6% year-over-year in at the end 2019 to 14.4% year-over-year at the close of 2020. Most importantly, Nuveen expects demand from home construction activity and related companies to further support warehouse rent growth as an unrelated but complementary demand-driver to e-commerce.

Single-family home permit growth accelerated following the pandemic

Sector insight:

Industrial real estate is comprised of a variety of property subtypes:


Industrial sector growth outpaces traditional sectors
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The views and opinions expressed are for informational and educational purposes only as of the date of production/writing and may change without notice at any time based on numerous factors, such as market or other conditions, legal and regulatory developments, additional risks and uncertainties and may not come to pass. This material may contain “forward-looking” information that is not purely historical in nature. Such information may include, among other things, projections, forecasts, estimates of market returns, and proposed or expected portfolio composition. Any changes to assumptions that may have been made in preparing this material could have a material impact on the information presented herein by way of example. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Investing involves risk; principal loss is possible.

All information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy is not guaranteed. There is no representation or warranty as to the current accuracy, reliability or completeness of, nor liability for, decisions based on such information and it should not be relied on as such. For term definitions and index descriptions, please access the glossary on nuveen.com. Please note, it is not possible to invest directly in an index.

A word on risk
Real estate investments are subject to various risks, including fluctuations in property values, higher expenses or lower income than expected, and potential environmental problems and liability. Please consider all risks carefully prior to investing in any particular strategy. A portfolio’s concentration in the real estate sector makes it subject to greater risk and volatility than other portfolios that are more diversified and its value may be substantially affected by economic events in the real estate industry. International investing involves risks, including risks related to foreign currency, limited liquidity particularly where the underlying asset comprises real estate, less government regulation in some jurisdictions, and the possibility of substantial volatility due to adverse political, economic or other developments.

Nuveen provides investment advisory services through its investment specialists.

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