Face-to-face in a happy place

You could feel the energy surging through the discussion panels at the 17th CEE Warehouse and Logistics Conference. The market is in great shape and business – despite a few small question marks – is looking to the future with a great deal of optimism

Around 100 people gathered at the Westin hotel in Warsaw for the event held by Eurobuild Conferences. Whether because of the pandemic-enforced break last year or due to the current dramatic growth of the market, the attendance at the conference was not only high but also remained so right through the very last discussion panel – and also when lunch was served and the guests could chat more informally. It was a real pleasure to see such familiar faces once again in the flesh and to talk with representatives of Poland’s leading warehouse developers. Moreover, it was a great experience to spend time in such a fantastic atmosphere.

The conference kicked off with a summary of the situation on the market given by a panel moderated by Piotr Szafarz, the head of the real estate practice for Poland and the CEE region at Dentons. It was the managing director of Panattoni, Marek Dobrzycki, who drew attention to that worrying fact that rents still remain low while construction costs continue to surge. “Construction costs have doubled, access to land has grown harder and the demand is high, so rents just have got to go up,” he predicted. Piotr Bzowski, the CEE development director at Mountpark, claimed that as long as land and labour remain cheaper in Poland, we will continue to see interest from logistics companies in our market. “If we can find a way to increase the number of workers from Ukraine and maybe from Belarus, this trend will continue to grow,” he said. Katarzyna Pyś-Fabiańczyk, the new warehouse and industrial director at Savills, then shifted the focus onto yield compression, pointing out that not long ago yields of 4.25–4.5 pct were only seen with the best real estate transactions on the market, but now these are the norm. “It’s hard to say how long this trend will hold, but we are definitely becoming a more mature market,” she insisted.

In what might be a sign of the times, seven panellists took part in the discussion about green solutions in warehousing. Tom Listowski, the director of the warehouse and industrial department for the CEE region at Cresa, moderated this panel, which was dedicated to social responsibility. The line-up of panellists was very clearly international and included Jeremy Cordery (the operations director of MDC²), Balázs Bellák (the senior vice-president for project management in the CEE region and the European coordinator of Prologis), Iain Leyden (a director of White Star Logistics), Karin Sjövall (the sustainability director of Logicenters by NREP) and Michał Białas (the head of Accolade in Poland). “Two or three years ago, only a few investors were asking about sustainable construction – but now everything’s changed. Both investors and tenants are interested. This interest is going to keep on growing and more people are going to be asking about environmentally sustainable solutions,” declared Emilia Dębowska, the senior marketing and sustainable development manager at Panattoni.

After the coffee break, Oskar Kasiński, the CEO of head-hunting firm HR Design Group, spoke up about the situation on the labour market. The information he presented about the latest staffing issues and current salary levels enlivened the meeting, just as it always does. “Business is war and we have to learn to operate in such a world. We have to learn how to tailor working conditions to personal demands – and that’s what it’s going to be like for some years to come. Recruitment will have to be quick and trial periods have to be reduced to the absolute minimum. You won’t have the best people in the sector if you can’t do this as quickly as possible and provide them with a good pay packet,” he cautioned.

The final discussion of the day was on new business opportunities and filling the gaps in the market. The moderator was Krzysztof Cipiur, the head of capital markets at Knight Frank, who asked the panellists where they could see opportunities outside the main markets. Most answered by talking about eastern Poland and small towns, but it was also pointed out that more mature markets, such as Wrocław, still offer a few blank spots. Wrocław has around 2.2 mln sqm of warehouse space but most of it is to the south of the city. “Since tenants are having problems with access to labour, we’ve decided to invest to the east of the city in Dobrzykowice,” revealed Adrian Biesaga, the development director of LCube. A lively discussion followed, involving Maciej Tuszyński, the managing director of Fortress REIT for Europe, and Karol Dzięcioł, a director of Frontier Estates Polska. “I don’t think that the access to labour is a major advantage in the CEE region. However, I believe access to land is – and so is the speed at which permits are issued,” argued Martin Polák, the managing director for the CEE region of Garbe. After the end of the debate, everyone headed off for lunch. More importantly, all those who took part in the discussions throughout the day had hugely impressed the audience of the conference, as became very clear during the more casual conversations that followed the formal part of the conference.