Creating Resilience

Record Demand for Mega Industrial Facilities in 2021

January 19, 2022 2 Minute Read

2021 was a record year for the U.S. industrial market, fueled by a rebounding economy, robust e-commerce sales and changes to supply chain strategies that required additional warehouse and distribution space. Demand for industrial buildings of all sizes surpassed 2020 totals, including in mega-distribution facilities of 1 million sq. ft. or more. The top 100 leasing transactions last year totaled 105.3 million sq. ft., slightly above 2020’s total and the largest amount since CBRE Research began tracking this metric in 2017.

General retailers and wholesalers that distribute to both online consumers and brick- and-mortar stores led with 44 transactions totaling 46.1 million sq. ft., compared with 32 transactions totaling 35 million sq. ft. in 2020. E-commerce-only occupiers accounted for 21 deals totaling 27 million sq. ft. in 2021, down from 35 totaling 35 million sq. ft. in 2020. Food & beverage companies accounted for more activity with 15 transactions totaling 14.2 million sq. ft., up from 11 transactions totaling 10.7 million sq. ft. in 2020.

The trend of broad industrial demand by a variety of industries is expected to continue this year.

Figure 1: 100 Largest U.S. Industrial Leases by Industry, 2021

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Source CBRE Research, 2021.

Strong retail sales and the need to hold more inventory close to consumer markets increased the average transaction size of the top 100 transactions to 1.053 million sq. ft., slightly above the 1.038 million-sq.-ft. average in 2020. A record 57 transactions in 1 million sq. ft. or larger facilities were signed last year, 19% more than in 2020. Only 18 of the top 100 transactions in 2021 were renewals, a sign that demand is coming from a range of occupiers and the appetite for expansion space is large.

On a total square footage basis, the Pennsylvania I-78/81 Corridor led with 12.4 million sq. ft. transacted and also had the most 1 million-sq.-ft. or more transactions (10). Demand is robust in this market because it is one of the last in the Northeast with a sizeable amount of available land for development. Chicago accounted for 12 of the top 100 transactions, followed closely by the Pennsylvania I-78/81 Corridor with 11 and the Inland Empire with 10.

Figure 2: 10 Leading Markets for 2021 Top 100 Industrial Leases by Total Sq. Ft.

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Source CBRE Research, 2021.

Continued strong demand for space in mega distribution centers is expected in 2022. One possible headwind to this forecast is a dwindling supply of mega facilities, especially in core markets with little land available for development. As such, look for more of the top 100 leasing deals in emerging markets near major logistic hubs and growing population centers like Phoenix, Greenville/Spartanburg, SC, Louisville and San Antonio in 2022.