Giant opens e-commerce fulfillment center in Philadelphia  


The Giant Company’s new Giant Direct E-commerce Fulfillment Center opened in Philadelphia this week. PHOTO/PROVIDED

The Giant Company’s new Giant Direct E-commerce Fulfillment Center opened in Philadelphia this week, allowing the super market chain to serve more customers in Philadelphia and begin serving customers for the first time in southern New Jersey. 

The 124,000-square-foot facility works hand-in-hand with Giant Direct, the company’s online grocery store. The facility stocks more than 22,000 products that can be ordered online, bagged by a team of Giant employees and robots and shipped to homes. 

The fulfillment center has more than 125 employees, which is expected to double during the holiday season, according to a company statement Monday. It is part of a growth strategy for Giant that has seen it go from one Philadelphia location in 2018 to 10 by the end of 2023. 

“Starting with the introduction of our GIANT Heirloom Market format in 2019 followed by the opening of our Philadelphia flagship Riverwalk GIANT in March and three more new stores across the city still to come this year, The GIANT Company has been laser-focused on how we can best serve Philadelphia families,” said Nicholas Bertram, Giant Company president. 

Along with expanding its Giant Direct services throughout Philadelphia, the new facility allows Giant Direct to service a number of New Jersey towns including Camden, Cherry Hill, Gibbsboro and Haddonfield. 

Giant introduced its Giant Direct brand in Feb. 2019 with the opening of its first e-commerce hub in Lancaster. The grocer now has over 150 pickup locations with 90% of customers across its footprint having access to online grocery ordering. 

The Lehigh Valley’s logistics boom is impacting wages, construction and infrastructure

Prologis Valley West in Alburtis is one of the new logistics centers currently in the pipeline along the I-78/I-80 corridor. PHOTO COURTESY CBRE


Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, growth in the e-commerce, logistics and transportation industries, which were already booming in the Lehigh Valley, has gone full tilt.

According to the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., the Lehigh Valley’s gross domestic product for transportation and warehousing was $2.5 billion in 2019, and while newer numbers are not available, job growth statistics indicate that number should be dramatically higher today.

The number of jobs in the logistics industry grew from 22,005 in 2015 to 34,477 in 2020, according to the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.

Reading-based Penske Logistics, which employs more than 10,000 truck drivers across the country, said the demand for drivers in the region is strong.

“We are seeing tremendous demand for truck drivers in the Lehigh Valley; it’s one of the most challenging driver markets in the country,” said Jeff Jackson, senior vice president of operations for dedicated contract carriage at Penske Logistics. “The local transportation companies that we hire to service our customers, to pick up and deliver freight regionally, have been kept busy by the work we have given them. These small companies in the greater Reading-central Pennsylvania-Lehigh Valley markets appear to be doing well in this environment.”

That demand for workers in the sector has led to higher wages, according to Don Cunningham, president and CEO of the LVEDC. Because of the demand, workers in the sector had an average weekly salary of $844 in Lehigh and Northampton counties by the third quarter of 2020. That’s led to nearly full-employment in the sector, he said. Even low-skilled labor at these logistics facilities are seeing starting wages that are generally higher than $15 an hour.

“These are wages we’ve not seen in our history for non-skilled workers,” Cunningham said. “Most regions in the country would kill to have full-employment for their non-skilled labor population.”

The need for logistics space, which includes pack-and-ship companies like Amazon, retail aggregators, like Zullily, third-party logistics providers and direct-to-consumer ecommerce companies, has kept the construction industry hopping.

The Lehigh Valley had nearly 9 million square feet of industrial and flex space under construction at the end of 2020, Cunningham said. By that measure, Lehigh Valley’s construction activity was among the busiest in the nation, ranking only behind Nashville and Austin. Much of that was in the logistics sector, he said.

Growth in the sector is so strong, the only thing hampering its expansion at this point is the availability of land, he said.

The pace continues

And, the construction isn’t slowing down. Much of it is in providing infrastructure needed to accommodate the increased traffic coming in and out of the region.

Lehigh Valley International Airport just announced plans to build space to meet the increased air cargo coming into the Hanover Township, Lehigh County airport. Since 2016 LVIA has seen a 165% increase in cargo traffic — going from processing 47 million pounds to more than 126 million in 2019 and 210 million during the COVID-19 bump last year.

The Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority recently hired Aviation Facilities Company Management LLC of Dulles, Virginia, to plan and develop portions of the airport’s property to help plan cargo, logistics and other airport facilities to help meet the demand.

“Developing air cargo infrastructure remains a strategic goal for the Airport Authority,” said Thomas R. Stoudt, executive director, LNAA.  “Partnering with the AFCO team on this important initiative will allow Lehigh Valley International to better serve our current air cargo demand, while providing expansion opportunities for new and existing businesses. This partnership will increase the ability of cargo carriers to serve the growing demand in our region.”

The increase in traffic, including truck traffic, has also led to the widening of a number of roadways in the Lehigh Valley, including Route 22 and Route 412. Right now the region is feeling the growing pains of the transition to a logistics-heavy region, with increased truck traffic and the sprawl of big-box buildings into suburban and rural areas. But, he said, with the infrastructure improvements that are coming, traffic issues should ease in the future.

“You need to adapt and you need to adjust, and that’s exactly what the Lehigh Valley is doing,” Cunningham said.

While issues like open space and farmland preservation are an important concern in the community and developers should be mindful of the impact of the construction boom, Cunningham said the growth is coming from the demand right in the community.

“Ask yourself how many products have you been ordering online and having them delivered to your door,” He said. “”Every package that has been delivered to my door versus me going to the store – that’s a truck that brings it.”

But for those concerned by the fast development of logistics and ecommerce facilities and the number of trucks on the road, Cunningham said he believes the boom is slowing.

“I think we’ve peaked as far as the large scale build out of logistics,” he said. “But, it’s still a great place to move your product and it’s also a great place to make your product.”

What can you do with an empty big-box?

Large store vacancies, such as this one in Bethlehem Township, often remain vacant for years. (Photo By Brian Pedersen) –

The large, vacant structures loom over many empty parking lots dotting retail landscapes throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley. They are the former homes of Kmart, Sears and BonTon.

The once thriving big-box retailers are now desolate spaces marked with inactivity that stretches into months and even years. They beg the question, what do we do with these large, vacant spaces?

While they appear to be eyesores of a bygone age, the land they occupy is valuable for reuse as something.

While brick-and-mortar retailers struggle with declining foot traffic and sluggish sales thanks to online competition, the physical store is far from dead.

But as more and more of these large-footprint stores fade from the retail landscape, their replacements will look a little different. Some may be rezoned for industry, others could become parks and green space, and some will be reborn for retail use in a more specialized or entertainment-focused manner.

“I think the shopping centers in the valley that have Kmarts and other large [vacancies,… are going to get downsized,” said Steve Cihylik, a broker for Howard Hanna The Frederick Group of South Whitehall Township. “You can’t retool them because of the dimensions. You can’t multi-tenant a box like Kmart or BonTon because of the size of it.”

This opens the potential for new uses that can include Amazon opening grocery stores or companies acquiring space to cook food for several restaurants for delivery to consumers, he said.

“With the increase in food delivery, there are companies opening up a kitchen and cooking for five or six restaurants,” Cihylik said. “There are restaurant groups that have a separate kitchen producing products only for delivery. These are all potential candidates for a ‘pad site,’ a portion of a site.”


Starting over

For empty big-box sites, developers would likely turn to the wrecking ball and build something new because it’s too difficult to reuse them, Cihyik said. Then developers can create entertainment and retail centers similar to what the owners of the Lehigh Valley Mall did. They added a Bonefish Grill, an Apple store and several other tenants that are separate from the mall, but close by.

For the Phillipsburg Mall, which has seen a large number of tenants vacate, including major anchors, Cihyik envisions some light industrial uses going into the indoor mall,.

Developers are becoming more and more reluctant to build large retail stores because of the expense of real estate, and the time-consuming process of getting the plan approved, he said. The land under those old retail sites becomes more valuable every day because it’s already an approved use, he said.

“It takes years,” Cihylik said, noting it took eight years for Hamilton Crossings to see the light of day.

That project, which opened in 2016, involved the construction of a massive shopping center in Lower Macungie Township, that includes nearly 560,000 square feet of retail space.


Thinking outside the big box

These outdoor malls, sometimes referred to as lifestyle centers or power centers, differ from the traditional indoor malls and appear to be doing better. Hamilton Crossings may include familiar department stores such as anchor tenants Target and Cosco, but it also has restaurants, Whole Foods and pedestrian paths that encourage walking.

Tim Harrison, who developed Hamilton Crossings along with The Goldenberg Group, said there is a range of options when considering what to do with large, vacant retail sites.

On one end of the spectrum, developers often repurpose an old retail use with a new retail use, or they could demolish the old structure and build a new space, such as multi-family homes or townhouses. A former department store could become home to a large food store.

“There are all kinds of options within the spectrum,” Harrison said. “A lot of what you see is space repurposed.”

Vacant department stores often find new life as space for entertainment, such as indoor athletic fields, miniature auto race parks, trampoline parks, climbing gyms, or indoor soccer fields, he added.

“The space might be divided into smaller spaces such as a food hall or a series of restaurants,” Harrison said.

Sometimes, these buildings become houses of worship, or health care and educational facilities. Another option is back offices for large companies, he added.

“As the internet becomes an ever more popular tool for facilitating retail sales, it’s become painfully obvious that we are substantially overbuilt from a retail standpoint,” Harrison said.

There is still demand for large retail stores but in very limited locations, he added. This is true for underserved areas, such as food deserts, communities with less affluent populations where people cannot easily access a grocery store.

“You have a substantial number of areas in neighborhoods that are underserved with grocery stores,” Harrison said. “The economics of operating in areas like that are difficult. It’s hard to make the numbers work. One solution is government and community support.”

Another example would be an affluent area where the barriers to new development are very high. In those cases, a retailer looks for years for a location and just cannot find one.


With closings come opportunities

Despite the ability of developers to find new uses for older, vacant retail properties, online shopping will continue to increase store closings, both big and small.

“The more that a particular retailer is selling what you could characterize as standard merchandise, there’s less reason to leave the comfort of one’s home,” Harrison said.

The retail sector is in an exciting time, said Jody King, first vice president of CBRE, a real estate firm in Upper Macungie Township. King represents property owners and tenants in retail centers, land development projects and medical office buildings. She sees retail spaces adapting to changing needs.

“People have to kind of reinvent themselves,” King said.

People of all ages who visit bricks-and-mortar retailers are looking for creativity and experiences, she added.

Medical use is a type of tenant King sees frequently taking over vacant retail spots.

“Most shopping centers were planned for high traffic, easy access, heavy parking, and the retail centers definitely have that mix,” King said. “We are also seeing gyms; we are also seeing things that you can’t necessarily get online.”

When considering how to reuse a large retail center, a building will often be divided up so that more than one tenant can take up the space, King said. This strategy allows retail centers to attract more people because of the diverse offerings.

She also doesn’t see traditional retail bricks-and-mortar sites disappearing entirely. Nordstrom recently opened a store in New York City, and stores such as Target offer online merchandise pickup at their stores.

“I think the Lehigh Valley has really done a great job adapting to what people need,” King said. “Landlords have to be adapting their shopping centers to bring in those people.”


Don’t write off malls yet

Is there still a place for malls with the increase in store closures?

Stephanie Cegielski, a spokesperson for The International Council of Shopping Centers, a global trade association of the shopping center industry based in New York City, shared some details about what she’s seeing on the national level.

“Closures are not indicative of the overall health of the industry, which is strong,” Cegielski said.

More than 90 percent of sales still happen in physical locations and mall occupancy rates remain high. In addition, malls remain an important part of the communities they serve.

As they adapt to changing demographics and community composition, they are increasingly becoming venues for entertainment such as concerts and fashion shows and have co-working, health care and fitness facilities, she added.

“Retailers are increasingly experimenting with different store formats including smaller footprints, placing less inventory on the floor and temporary leases like pop-ups,” she said.

Large vacant retail spaces have many options, she added.

“What will go into big box locations varies based on the needs of the community,” she said. “We’re seeing grocery, fitness and other non-retail tenants moving into shopping centers. A large space can also be subdivided to accommodate several retailers.”








Developer buys land for new industrial property off I-78

Nevada-based Dermody Properties said it is developing nearly 30 acres in Berks County, which will be home to LogistiCenter at Midway South, a new industrial property at Exit 16 off Interstate 78.

Dermody Properties is developing this industrial property off Interstate 78 in Bethel Township, Berks County. (Submitted) –

The private equity real estate investment, development and management company bought 9024 Old Route 22 in Bethel Township from The Bethel Group for $946,141, according to Berks County property records.

Construction is underway on the 304,000-square-foot facility, which will have connections to Interstate-81, Interstate-476 and The Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Gene Preston, partner of Dermody Properties in Morristown, N.J., said construction should finish by the end of the year.

Blue Rock Construction of Upper Macungie Township is the general contractor building the site. Preston said he does not have any tenants yet and it’s being built on spec. The property is suited for manufacturing, warehouse/distribution and ecommerce companies.

He declined to disclose the estimated construction cost.

The company also developed the nearby LogistiCenter at Midway in Bethel Township, a more than 1 million square-foot-warehouse at Exit 16.

“We do not have any more land that we own out there,” Preston said.

Overall, he sees opportunities for industrial land getting scarcer.

“Land is getting tighter,” Preston said. “There’s still some land as you go west. In Lehigh Valley proper, there’s certainly not a lot of land zoned for industrial.”

In addition, the Midway South property has proximity to a four-way interchange along I-78, he said.

Representing the project for leasing are Gerry Blinebury, executive managing director, Adam Campbell, executive managing director, and Jeff Williams, senior director, all of Cushman & Wakefield.

Berks Park 78 is another industrial complex nearby that includes corporate tenants Samsung, Dollar General and PetSmart.




Construction starts on Steel City Trade Center

Developers Trammell Crow Co. and Clarion Partners have started construction on two distribution buildings near Exit 67 off Interstate 78.

Construction started this month on two distribution buildings near Exit 67 off Interstate 78 in Bethlehem. (Submitted) –

The buildings should be complete in the first quarter of 2020, said Vincent Ranalli, senior vice president at CBRE Inc. in Radnor. His firm is marketing the buildings.

The buildings are going up at 1198 Feather Way and 2020 Feather Way in Bethlehem, for a project called Steel City Trade Center, he said. The site is in Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII near Curtiss-Wright’s manufacturing and warehouse facility.

“The interest to date has been very strong,” Ranalli said. “We continue to see new companies that want to locate in Lehigh Valley.”

One building will be 189,738 square feet and the other will be 294,240 square feet.

The estimated construction cost is about $24 million, said Matt Nunn, vice president of Trammell Crow in the firm’s Conshohocken office. This is the firm’s second project in the Bethlehem area. In 2014, the firm completed a distribution center it leased to Primark, he added.



New Forks e-commerce fulfillment center looking to hire up to 700 workers

(PRNewsfoto/Radial) –

A King of Prussia-based e-commerce logistics provider is opening a new fulfillment center in Forks Township that could end up employing more than 700 people – at least during peak seasons.

It is the first such fulfillment facility in Pennsylvania for the company, which is a subsidiary of bpost, a Belgium-based shipping company.

Patrick Koreck, human resources manager for Radial, said the 475,800-square-foot facility is needed to meet the increasing demand for logistics services in e-commerce.

The company provides clients in a variety of industries with warehousing and pick, pack and ship services. He expects the Northampton County location will deal mostly with cosmetic and fashion apparel items.

The company said it is initially looking to hire more than 20 management-level and hourly positions. They would include human resources and administrative staff, as well as maintenance and IT engineers who will help get the facility up and running

“These will be the people who will be key to getting the building launched and bringing in the new people,” he said.

Radial then plans to bring on 70 more hourly workers in August and an additional 700 hourly workers from September to November to meet customer demand during the holiday retail season.

Radial is currently serving one client out of the new facility, but plans to expand. Through the expansion process Koreck said the company will look to convert many of those 700 seasonal positions to regular full-time employees.

He said the seasonal workers will be given the opportunity to apply for regular staff jobs.

“They’ll have experience and know if it’s the job for them, if they enjoy it,” he said.

The fulfilment center is at 4200 East Braden Blvd. in Forks Township.

Radial will begin interviewing perspective employees from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 18 and 19 at the facility.

Radial has 21 fulfillment centers and six customer care centers globally.