LOS ANGELES — The way Maxwell Bonnie sees it, e-commerce entrepreneurs need flexibility regarding their logistic needs.

With the rapid rise in e-commerce, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, e-commerce businesses can't afford to be tied down for years on a warehouse space they might outgrow.

What You Need To Know

  • Atlanta-based Saltbox opened a brand new 45,000 square foot warehouse building in Torrance

  • Saltbox offers co-working and co-warehousing space for small and mid-size e-commerce businesses

  • According to Cushman & Wakefield, people spent $871 billion shopping online in 2021

  • Saltbox plans to open a second LA location in Duarte

Companies need flexibility, said Bonnie, the co-owner of Saltbox. They need mobility. And they need an efficient nationwide network with workers on hand to load, send, and receive their stuff.

That's where Saltbox comes in, said Bonnie as he tours Spectrum News around the company's first Los Angeles warehouse in Torrance. 

"We're building a national logistics network that helps entrepreneurs have the power of an enterprise but in an approachable, flexible, and very human-centric way," said Bonnie.  

As consumers' appetite for shopping and buying items online and delivering them to their homes grows, Saltbox, an industrial startup that launched in 2019, looks to help e-commerce companies by providing co-warehouse space and infrastructure to grow and prosper.

Many consider e-commerce as the future of retail. 

According to a recent Cushman & Wakefield report, online sales surged over four and a half times faster than total retail sales in 2020 — at the first year of the coronavirus pandemic — when many states and cities locked down and restricted people's movement to slow the spread of the virus. 

The Cushman & Wakefield report found that online sales grew nearly 32%, the highest annual growth of any year, and doubled the 14.1% jump in 2019. 

"That propelled U.S. e-commerce penetration as a percentage of total core retail sales to a record high of 21.9% by Q2 2020, at the height of the pandemic and lockdowns," said the report released Wednesday. 

The report found that in 2021, people spent $871 billion shopping online. 

Though online sales slowed as pandemic-related restrictions reopened brick-and-mortar retailers, "there is still a lot of runway left for continued market penetration and growth," the report states. 

As online sales trended upward, so did industrial warehouse leasing.  

In the past two years, e-commerce companies leased roughly 175 million square feet of space, the Cushman & Wakefield report states. 

The report found that the industrial market will remain tight until more developments come into the market.

With so much demand for industrial space, there's a growing market to cater to the small and mid-size e-commerce businesses that can't afford or don't need a large warehouse.  

Bonnie said if a small company sells stuff on Etsy or eBay, their only option to store their items would be in a garage, public storage, or to sign a lease for warehouse space. 

Though Bonnie doesn't like Saltbox to be compared to WeWork, a company that revolutionized the co-working office space, Saltbox looks to do what co-working companies have done for the office and bring it to the industrial and logistics space.

Small or mid-sized e-commerce companies can rent an office and warehouse space in Saltbox. Saltbox will provide on-demand labor to unload or ship items as needed and offer other amenities.  

During a recent tour at Saltbox's 45,000 square foot warehouse in Torrance, workers were unloading a pallet of goods from a freight truck on a loading dock. An all-white room looked like a photography studio for tenants to take professional pictures of their goods to post and sell online. There were offices and meeting space in the mezzanine. And there were plenty of companies' goods and items stacked high on racks in individual units inside the warehouse.  

Bonnie said as their membership grows, these companies can rent more space or less space inside the Saltbox warehouse.

One of the other co-founders of Saltbox, Tyler Scriven, said companies could grow and grab more space without looking for a different warehouse or signing another lease. 

Members also have access and can deliver or receive items at other Saltbox locations. Saltbox has five open locations in Atlanta, Dallas, and Seattle. The modern warehouses range in size from 30,000 square feet to 125,000. There are ten more in development. The company's second Saltbox Los Angeles location in Duarte is opening this summer. The company has a lot of financial backing to expand nationally

In Torrance, membership starts $720 a month for a workspace membership at Saltbox which includes a dedicated workspace inside the warehouse, access to logistics solutions like on-demand labor from trained specialists, daily carrier pickups, fulfillment, and other amenities such as Wi-Fi, security, fully stocked kitchen, and community programming. 

Bonnie said this is only the beginning for online and digital sales. More people will continue to shop online, which means digital e-commerce businesses will need a place to store their goods.

"Our goal is for every small e-commerce business to run their business out of a Saltbox," said Bonnie. "We want to empower entrepreneurs. We want to be a truly national brand to help entrepreneurs grow."