Warehouse Careers 2020 year in review and forecasting 2021

Warehouse Careers 2020 year in review and forecasting 2021

Twelve months ago, no-one could have predicted the year ahead. It has brought many challenges in many ways for us all. Employment has been particularly affected and some sectors hit hard. However, there have been some positives that have come out of this year, particularly for warehouse careers. 

As the UK went into lockdown in March 2020, the high street was essentially closed, meaning consumer shopping moved even more dramatically than previously, towards online shopping. This is a trend that has continued throughout the year even during times of fewer restrictions. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the volume of online sales in October 2020 were 44.9% higher than in February 2020. In addition, as people were isolating or shielding many turned to online grocery shopping. ONS statistics show that in October 2020 online food sales had increased by 99.2% compared with October 2019.

The result of this growth in e-commerce has meant a demand for new and additional warehouse space. Peter Ward, CEO of the UK Warehousing Association, stated that at the end of September 2020 warehouse space took up 38 million square feet; 3.6% more than the previous record in 2016.

This sets an optimistic precedent for the future of work in the warehouse industry. 

The warehouse job market in 2020

When looking at the number of jobs advertise across all Warehouse Operative roles from January to October of this year, there has been a surprising decrease of 5%

What does this mean?

While the increase in ecommerce and online grocery shopping has created and upsurge in warehouse jobs, the pandemic saw some non-essential sectors such as clothing, suffer a reduction in manufacturing, distribution and retailing. With some non-essential manufacturing shutdown, the demand for some warehouse job positions was inevitably reduced. 

The need for social distancing and further safety measures also impacted warehouse employee capacity and further affected the number of new Warehouse Operative job vacancies.

What warehouse roles have the most opportunities? 

The following Warehouse jobs were most advertised this year:

  • Warehouse Assemblers – over 94,000 posted job vacancies, down 20% on last year.
  • Production Operators – over 54,000 posted job vacancies, down 26% on last year.
  • Forklift Operators – over 24,000 posted job vacancies, down 23% on last year.
  • Forklift Drivers – over 15,000 posted job vacancies, down 21% on last year.
  • Order Pickers – over 14,000 posted job vacancies, down 1% on last year.
  • Warehouse Supervisors – over 10,000 job vacancies, down 20% on last year.

How have warehouse salaries been affected?

Salaries are mostly unchanged since last year with median average salaries coming in at the following rates:

  • Warehouse Supervisors - £21,984, up 3% on last year.
  • Forklift Operators - £20,832, up 1% on last year.
  • Warehouse Assemblers - £19,296, up 5% on last year.
  • Production Operators - £18,784, up 4% on last year.
  • Order Pickers - £18,368, up 3% on last year.

Which regions have the most opportunities for warehouse careers?

The top 10 cities for advertised jobs has changed only a little since 2019. It can be predicted that the same locations will continue to have the most opportunities moving into 2021: 

  1. London > 8,000 job vacancy postings.
  2. Bristol > 2,000 job vacancy postings.
  3. Manchester > 1,000 job vacancy postings.
  4. Birmingham > 1,000 job vacancy postings.
  5. Northampton > 1,000 job vacancy postings.
  6. Leeds > 1,000 job vacancy postings.
  7. Milton Keynes > 1,000 job vacancy postings.
  8. Warrington > 1,000 job vacancy postings.
  9. Nottingham > 1,000 job vacancy postings.
  10. Sheffield > 1,000 job vacancy postings.

Looking ahead and what can we expect from 2021?

The December issue of industry magazine, Warehouse & Logistics News, includes an article about a food distribution business that, due to the increase in demand generated by online shopping, expanded their e-commerce operation this year, fitting out and opening an entire new warehouse.

In increasing their facilities they also actively recruited more Warehouse Operatives and Drivers.This is just one example of how the warehouse industry has changed and the growth in e-commerce means we can expect to see more opportunities like this for warehouse careers as we move into 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for automation in the warehouse sector too. Growth in e-commerce means higher volume of orders for smaller quantities and more opportunity for picking errors. It is likely that the use of technology will increase to keep-up with the demands of online shopping, improving accuracy and efficiency. 

While there may be some concern over automation taking human jobs, our blog, Automation of Warehouse Jobs: Our Friend or Foe? looked at how the future of work in the warehouse will see people and automated systems working alongside each other.

Where will the work be in 2021?

With consumer dependence and trust in online shopping expected to continue to grow over the coming year, it is likely that there will be more Warehouse jobs available. We have over 100 live warehouse job vacancies on our website including vacancies for Co-op, the UK’s fifth largest food retailer. In our recent blog about we took a closer look at warehouse careers in the grocery sector for Co-op.

Keep an eye open for upcoming Warehouse opportunities with IKEA, and Warehouse and Trainee Lab Technician roles for the NHS Test and Trace service here. In an effort to help with social distancing many warehouses have had to change the arrangement of their shifts and it may be that you will need to adapt to working shifts that you are not used to. Shift Patterns Explained will help you to understand some of the different shifts you might come across in your job search.  

Another option is the retail environment and having experience in the warehouse industry will have provided you with transferable skills suitable for roles such as Shelf Replenisher, Car Park Marshall, Customer Service Advisor or Team Leader. Here are live vacancies for these roles.

Important skills for work in 2021

As you look to the future of work in 2021, it is important to prepare yourself as you take the next step in your career. 

Warehouse careers in 2021 and beyond are likely to see some changes in the skills required as technology plays a bigger part in the running of the warehouse. Use of handheld devices, wearable technology, automated picking systems and transport technology will all become more commonplace. Being computer literate, having good communication skills and the ability to learn and manage new systems will all be important when looking for Warehouse Operative jobs. Equally it’s great to look out for the employers offering roles with vital training that upskills you ready for the future.  

Read more about the top skills for warehouse workers in this blog post.

If you are looking for a new challenge but want to remain in the Warehouse environment, choosing to become a Forklift Truck Driver may be your next move. Read what it’s like to be a Forklift Truck Driver here. If you have many years of warehouse experience, you may even want to consider becoming a Shift Supervisor, Team Leader or Warehouse Manager. If you decide on the Forklift Truck Driver option, you have the future prospect of developing into a Forklift Instructor or Maintenance Engineer, with further training. 

Thank you and Happy Christmas! 

We would like to close out this final warehouse blog for 2020 with a resounding thank you for your hard work and astonishing support throughout this challenging year. 

For this and so much more - Thank you. We wish you all a prosperous and safer 2021!

All the Blue Arrow team.

Other helpful resources

The Blue Arrow website has many helpful resources which can assist you in your warehouse job search:

Where next?

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We have a range of tools to help you with your job search, click here to find out how to get a job through Blue Arrow or click here to view our latest jobs.


1. Ward, P., 2020. Will COVID continue to drive change?. Warehouse & Logistics News, [Online]. V27-22, November 15th 2020. Available at: https://warehousenews.co.uk/digital/nov1520/ [Accessed December 2020].

2. Boughey records busiest two months in its history. Warehouse & Logistics News, [Online]. V27-24, December 15th 2020. Available at: https://warehousenews.co.uk/digital/dec1520/ [Accessed December 2020].