East Midlands Gateway

Online retailer Shop Direct – owner of the Very and Littlewoods brands – is to open a 500,000 ft2 automated fulfilment centre near Castle Donington in Leicestershire.

The new facility will replace three operations in Greater Manchester and will allow Shop Direct to increase its cut-off time for next-day delivery from 7pm to midnight and to explore the potential of same-day delivery in the future.

Shop Direct says that this will be made possible due to the location of the site at East Midlands Gateway, which is off Junction 24 of the M1 and adjacent to East Midlands Airport. There is also a multi-user rail freight terminal at the site.

Construction of the building, which will accommodate all one-man fulfilment and returns operations, will start in May and will be fully operational by the Christmas 2021peak. There will be 500 permanent staff employed at the new operation with 200-300 agency staff taken on to cover peak trading periods.

The existing operations at Shaw, Little Hulton and Raven, which total 1.5 million ft2, currently employ 1,177 permanent staff and 815 agency workers. An internal review concluded that limited accessibility, layout and loading restrictions meant that these centres would not be able to meet Shop Direct’s future operational requirements.

Derek Harding, interim group CEO at Shop Direct, said: “This is a tough day for the business and we know how difficult this news will be to hear for our teams. However, these proposals are necessary for our future and to enable us to continue to grow and meet rising customer expectations.”

The company has said redundancies are anticipated and it will work alongside its trade union Usdaw, local authorities and community leaders during the move. It will offer staff careers advice, training and access to financial planning courses.

“We are announcing this now to give our colleagues the best possible opportunity to prepare for the change,” Harding said.

East Midlands Gateway is being developed by Segro and Roxhill. Once completed it will provide 6 million ft2 of space. As well as construction of the Shop Direct facility Amazon is thought to have negotiated a deal for a 500,000 ft2 warehouse and XPO is expected to take 700,000 ft2 to service its contract with Nestlé.