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British warehouse groups say the epidemic will change shopping forever.

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According to the UK’s largest publicly traded real estate company, the coronavirus has brought about a “phase shift in consumer behavior” and will lead to a permanent transformation into more online shopping.

Warehouse owner Segro, who announced results up to December 31st last Friday, said the surge in e-commerce across Europe during the pandemic will leave a lasting legacy with the potential for “irreversibly changing” consumer habits.

The migration of online shoppers has been of great help to Segro and other logistics and warehousing companies. The company’s UK and European warehouse portfolio value increased 10.3% to £13 billion in 2020. Adjusted pre-tax profit increased 10.8% to £296.5 million in 2019.

Segro has been a rare beneficiary of the epidemic in the commercial real estate industry. Increasing online shopping and stockpiling of essential goods have led to high demand for logistics and warehouse facilities.

According to the UK Bureau of Statistics, the percentage of online sales in the UK surged from 19% of total sales in February 2020 to 36% in January.

Segro said, “Our customers certainly don’t expect there will be a significant setback, and we are already preparing to adjust our business to respond to online sales levels that are far ahead of previous expectations.”

According to index provider MSCI, the average value of industrial assets in the UK rose 4.6% in 2020.

Segro’s share price recovered from 698p in mid-March to 963p on Friday morning, trading above pre-epidemic levels.

In the early days of the epidemic, the company collected 98% of the rent owed for a year despite concerns that some tenants could not pay.

“The pandemic has increased the demand for warehouse space by reinforcing the importance of efficient and resilient distribution networks to facilitate the delivery of a wide range of goods and services,” said David Sleath, Segro’s chief executive officer.

Sleath added that the epidemic “will change the way our world works.” Sleath announced on Friday that it will introduce a policy that allows employees to work wherever they want after the epidemic.

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