Where E-Commerce Goes to Scale

The Columbus Region is the foremost warehousing and distribution e-commerce hub and well positioned to remain that way.

By Amy Harman / April 22, 2021


In an uneven year of economic winners and losers, e-commerce was undoubtedly one of the former. With the pandemic accelerating the shift to consumer online shopping, including faster adoption of everyday items like groceries, global retail e-commerce sales grew 27.6 percent in 2020.

The sustained demand and long-term change of habits have even forced traditional retail giants to expedite their digital readiness, not to mention changes to their domestic footprints. With an established retail sector, strong logistics assets and cluster of fulfillment centers for leading e-commerce brands, the Columbus Region is the foremost warehousing and distribution e-commerce hub for 2021 and well positioned to remain that way in the future.

The Columbus Region is a foremost warehousing and distribution hub for e-commerce.

Location & Logistics

The Columbus Region’s geographic location is uniquely positioned with quicker access to the U.S. population and manufacturing base than any other major metro. Within a one-day drive, distribution centers can reach over 150 million people – or 45 percent of the country’s population. In fact, Ashley Furniture, the largest manufacturer of furniture in the world, cited this fact as part of its decision to build a new 1-million-square-foot distribution facility in the Region, which will help serve its e-commerce growth.

The Region currently has close to 5,000 logistics establishments, including other high-growth e-commerce brands like Hims, Dollar Shave Club, Carvana, Zulily, Barkbox, and Huckleberry. But what does that mean for new businesses looking to venture into the area and tap into the Region’s for e-commerce fulfillment? Is it tapped out or is there room to run?

Multiple real estate firms like Xebec have noticed the growing need for distribution centers and warehouse hubs, and they have been building new facilities on spec. Cushman and Wakefield said that 5.8 million square feet of industrial space opened in the area in the first part of 2020, and another 8.8 million are currently under construction.

Keeping product moving (with room for more) is a multimodal logistics hub in the Region that includes an ultra-modern interstate highway system, third-party logistics companies, multiple rail terminals and a top 10 Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) at Rickenbacker International Airport, allowing e-commerce businesses lower costs through reduced, deferred or eliminated customs duties.

Talent Network

With more than 90,000 existing workers in transportation and logistics occupations, the Columbus Region has become an optimal location for warehouse and distribution operations. Many of the local universities and colleges offer supply chain and logistics management training, and Roadmasters Drivers School opened a new training facility to help with the growing demand for truck drivers.

BBI Logistics, a Columbus-based logistics firm, announced its plans for expansion of its headquarters with intent to quadruple its employee base over the next three years. “From the Region’s access to the broader U.S. market to its talented local workforce and strong logistics sector, we’ve been impressed with the many advantages of operating out of Columbus,” said Founder Brent Bosse.

Established Retail Sector

As if location and talent weren’t enough, the Columbus Region was steeped in the retail industry long before COVID-19 hit, and the area is well-versed in operational efficiency. The Region ranks no. 4 among large U.S. metros for concentration of retail headquarters as home to major players such as L Brands, Designer Brands, Abercrombie & Fitch and Big Lots.

Big Lots has been a mainstay in the Columbus Region since the 1980s, but recently their online store model has been taking off, with a reported 130 percent sales growth in Q4 2020. Bruce Thorn, president and CEO of the company, told Progressive Grocer that their growth should be credited to “the culmination of the tremendous efforts of our associates in our distribution centers, our stores, and our corporate headquarters.”

Big Lots is a national retailer with its headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.

Big Lots isn’t the only ‘traditional’ retailer seeing a surge in online demand, something experts agree is here to stay. Home Depot recently opened a new 151,000-square-foot supply chain expansion in the Columbus Region. Kyle Dennis, vice president of supply chain development for the company said, “Our Grove City operation is vital to our supply chain expansion and marks a key step in our overall plan to provide the fastest, most reliable appliance delivery to the Columbus Region.”

Interested in the Columbus Region’s talent and logistical expertise in the e-commerce sector? Contact us today to learn how we can guide your company through the location decision process.

Amy Harman is serves as the Director of Marketing and Communications for One Columbus.

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