DHL Supply Chain has trumped its rivals in a competitive tender bid to run a brand-new Marks & Spencer South-East distribution centre.

The retail giant revealed plans to open its new 495,000ft2 DC, based at Welham Green, Herts, as part of its five-year transformation plan announced last November.

M&S has said it wants to shift towards a single-tier Clothing and Home distribution network to enable it to move products from suppliers to stores more quickly, and at a lower cost.

This has seen M&S streamline its network of smaller distribution hubs - currently standing at 18 sites - with strategically placed NDCs in Bradford, Castle Donington and Swindon.

The new facility, a former Tesco site, is being fully mechanised and fitted to M&S specifications and due to open early next year. It will employ around 500 staff.

Gordon Mowat, director of clothing & home supply chain & logistics, said: “On our new site at Welham Green, DHL is the right partner for us.

“They delivered the best response to the tender, they have a strong track record at other M&S sites and are best placed in terms of costs and speed of operation to help us realise the benefits of our new DC.”

However, there is a sting in the tail for DHL, alongside XPO Logistics, as M&S has also announced it will be closing its Hardwick Grange, Warrington DC in September.

XPO operates the DC itself, with DHL handling the transport arm that MT understands employs around 50 staff.

Around 450 jobs in total are affected at the site, with staff now in a consultation period.

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M&S said as it is in the process of automating its Bradford DC, which will enable it to handle more volume, the decision has been made to cease operations at Hardwick.

The Hardwick DC handles clothing and home products for stores in the North West and Scotland, and this work will now transfer to other sites.

Mowat said: “Closing Hardwick will help to remove some complexity from our network and speed up our supply chain. However, it was not a decision we took lightly and it is not in any way a reflection on the hard work and dedication provided by the teams on site.

“We will do all we can to support our partners through the consultation process.”

A spokeswoman from XPO Logistics said: “Following a review of their operations, our customer has decided to withdraw its operations from the Hardwick warehouse.

"We have entered into a consultation period with colleagues, the trade union and elected employee representatives to finalise the plans. We will work to support employees through this time.”

The closure news comes three months after M&S announced it would be shutting its Neasden, north London DC, which the retailer said is due to be completed early next year.