A brief look at the state of industrial property post-COVID

MHD talks to Sandra Ng, National Commercial Manager, Property at uTenant, about industrial property trends in 2021, and the key qualities professionals need to make it in the industry.

Sandra Ng was the first person brought on board by warehousing specialists uTenant to join Co-Founders Matt Sampson and Kyle Rogers. That was only nine months ago, and uTenant has been growing rapidly since, with the entire team now up to 11 people.

As a successful professional working for uTenant we asked for her perspective on how the industrial property sector was hit by COVID.

“With COVID, what happened is that there was a little bit of a lull in the market due to uncertainty. But then when lockdowns and travel restrictions were lifted there was a huge amount of pent-up demand for industrial properties; demand which was amplified by the growth in online shopping and the delays that had accumulated at ports,” Sandra says. “This resulted in a lot of transactions occurring after lockdowns were lifted, with the result that the market is quite constrained now in terms of the amount of industrial stock that’s available.

“Australia – unlike, say, Singapore – is a country with a lot of land. But that doesn’t mean its stock of industrial land isn’t scarce,” she says. “I think the government is going to have to look at strategies in terms of rezoning more land towards industrial use, because industrial land supply is becoming short. To achieve this will take lobbying from the industry to make the government aware of this need – a need that is particularly evident post-COVID.”

Looking ahead, Sandra highlights two trends to watch out for in the industrial property space.

“First of all, I’d say locations close to populations will be in hot demand. All industrial markets are in high demand, but where I see more growth happening is in regional areas,” she says. “As populations disperse – because people have realised they can work in regional locations – I think there’ll be more demand for sheds in those areas.”

“Secondly, what I see happening is businesses that currently run their own warehousing opting instead to outsource more of their operations to third-party logistics providers (3PL) that can create greater efficiencies due to automation and economies of scale. So, I expect to see more third-party providers aggregating lots of businesses’ warehousing operations into larger warehouses so as to deliver those benefits.”

Naturally, the ability to see trends coming over the horizon is an essential part of her work. But if Sandra were to give advice to young professionals seeking to make a name for themselves in the industrial property industry, what would it be?

“I believe that an essential trait is to always act and think with the customer in mind, and to treat others the way you would like to be treated,” she says. “It’s a really small industry, so it’s important to establish and maintain effective relationships by always meeting – and exceeding – the expectations and requirements of your customers and industry partners.”

Sandra Ng, National Commercial Manager, Property at uTenant.

As National Commercial Manager, Property for uTenant, Sandra necessarily oversees many moving parts – coordinating the aspirations of landlords and supply chain professionals, as well as advising on the evolution of uTenant’s tech platform.

“Working within our property team, this entails end-to-end property procurement processes for clients across Australia,” Sandra says. “On a day-to-day basis this means talking with landlords about upcoming vacancies, working with our supply chains solutions team, as well as advising our technology team on how best to develop our online platform.”

Prior to her role at uTenant, Sandra worked just under two years at CBRE in the industrial property space. While she always had a passion for real estate – dealing with data as well as fostering relationships – she says she truly hit her stride when she moved definitively into the industrial side of things.

“I was given a choice by my previous employer to work in residential real estate or industrial. I really liked the idea of industrial property because of how fast the industry is growing, and because it is so clearly the backbone of the Australian and global economy,” she says. “And that sense of its importance was reinforced for me by the experience of COVID-19 and the supply chain complications that ensued.”

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