Industrial and distribution lettings and acquisitions across the North West reached 13.6m sq ft last year, an increase of 20% on 2007, according to Lambert Smith Hampton.
Deals under 20,000 sq ft accounted for 18% of the market. Larger deals during the year included Prowell's acquisition of 210,000 sq ft at Pioneer Business Park, Ellesmere Port and 180,000 sq ft taken by Royal Mail at Winnick Quay, Warrington.
Andrew Aherne, head of industrial agency at LSH's Manchester office, said: "Despite its strong performance, the North West has already begun to see a notable decline in enquiries with signs of take-up reducing and an increasing supply of existing accommodation as occupiers, most notably from retailers who are beginning to free-up warehousing accommodation."
With almost 40m sq ft, the North West has by far the largest amount of industrial space of any UK region. However, LSH said, a limited supply of good-quality, modern buildings has meant that those speculative schemes which completed in 2008 have seen take-up and, with no new speculative supply coming on stream, he market will suffer moving forward.
Aherne added: "The developers which have brought forward land are now offering this on a design and build basis rather than a speculative basis and the market, therefore, may see a greater number of design and build transactions being undertaken."