The cardboard real estate boom is here


Based on new research from the business real estate firm Newmark, the rise of e-commerce is fueling one other sort of boom within the factories and warehouses that produce and distribute packaging: Plastic luggage, padded envelopes, and traditional corrugated cardboard are in rising demand, and so are areas the place these things are produced.

“An e-commerce sale requires seven instances extra packing containers per greenback sale than a brick-and-mortar retail buy,” says Mark Russo, affiliate director and lead creator of the Newmark report. “You may see with that one stat why the packaging world is altering.”

Corrugated cardboard is an enormous a part of the boom, representing 80% of the packaging used for on-line orders. The report says that about 407 billion sq. ft of corrugated cardboard was produced within the U.S. final 12 months—sufficient to fully cowl the mixed land space of New Jersey, Connecticut, and a little bit of New York. That’s up from about 390 billion sq. ft the earlier two years, and represents a excessive level in a decade-long upward pattern in cardboard manufacturing. Newmark anticipates the expansion will proceed, with an estimated 3.5% annual enhance over the following 5 years. Extra cardboard means extra cardboard factories.


“For each further billion sq. ft, we consider that may require an extra 250,000 sq. ft of commercial real estate house. So we predict that may have a reasonably important impression available on the market for the following few years,” Russo says. “I believe it’s the most important pattern that no person’s speaking about but.”

Newmark has been monitoring a number of the largest expansions within the packaging world, and simply the highest 10 from 2020 and 2021 thus far add as much as greater than 5.5 million sq. ft of packaging services. Russo says these services can take up current warehouse house, or be newly constructed clusters of buildings, with some centered on manufacturing and others centered on warehousing the commodities earlier than they ship out.

As new buildings, they’re aesthetically unremarkable, however they might quickly turn out to be extra frequent elements of the commercial panorama. The real estate boom in packaging manufacturing could possibly be taking place practically anyplace. Russo says that given the majority of packaging merchandise like corrugated cardboard, producers wish to be as shut as doable to their customers—primarily e-commerce warehouses. Most are aiming to be inside a day’s drive of their shoppers.

“Being close to wherever giant e-commerce firms are, which is in all places, is going to be necessary,” Russo says.

Based on Newmark’s analysis, some locations usually tend to see this sort of progress. Locations with good logistics infrastructure and close by freight rail entry might be extremely sought out, in keeping with Lisa DeNight, director of nationwide industrial analysis at Newmark. “In Dallas, for instance, the place we’ve seen a great deal of packaging enlargement, there’s nice intermodal [capacity for carrying and moving shipping containers], there’s nice practice entry, and there’s land to develop,” she says. Uline, a packaging big, not too long ago expanded right into a 1.1-million-square-foot house in Irving, Texas, and corrugated cardboard producer Inexperienced Bay Packaging expanded into 600,000 sq. ft in Fort Price.

These expansions and the bigger progress of the packaging business will lead to extra development, improvement, and jobs. However simply as e-commerce big Amazon has confronted scrutiny over the office practices in its achievement facilities, some packaging manufacturing firms are recognized for being aggressively anti-labor. Uline, a family-owned firm, is led by billionaires Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, who’re staunchly anti-union and have spent millions backing right-wing politicians and one of many teams that led the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. Georgia-Pacific, one other paper and packaging big that not too long ago expanded into half 1,000,000 sq. ft exterior of Atlanta, is a part of Koch Industries, a conglomerate owned by one other household of anti-union right-wing billionaire donors.


It might be too quickly to say whether or not the brand new jobs being created by these firms’ expansions are good or dangerous for the employees who take them. But when these firms’ politics are any indication, the continued progress of e-commerce could also be fueling the expansion of facet industries with equally controversial labor practices.