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INTERVIEW Pets at Home growing and evolving business supported by Stafford warehouse

Image © Stephen George + Partners

Last year, Pets at Home opened a new 670,000 sq. ft purpose- built facility at Stafford North Business Park. George Lingwood, distribution & logistics director at Pets at Home, explains how the site supports the retailer’s omnichannel capabilities, and underpins the next decade of growth.

Q: How does the new distribution centre fit into Pets at Home’s growth plans for 2024?
Our new distribution centre was purpose-built in line with our growth plans before the pandemic hit, as a result, we have accelerated our growth even quicker than anticipated. The Stafford site now supplies our entire retail estate and gives us the ability to supply even more stores as we grow and evolve the business.

Furthermore, this year we will transition our ecommerce business into Stafford utilising the same purpose-built site and automated pick solution. This will enable us to fulfil our growth plans well past 2030, as we have options to expand not only the building but also our internal automation solutions.

Q: With bricks-and-mortar stores to stock and a D2C offering, is the new warehouse built to handle omnichannel operations?
In short, yes it is. We can supply all of our retail stores with agile delivery schedules, while also giving our customers the option of receiving their goods via a logistics solution which suits them. This includes everything from click and collect, next day to-door or delivery on a specific day that suits the customer. We can even arrange deliveries to be picked up from a Pet at Home store so the customers can experience our great pet care centres and amazing instore colleagues.

Q: Was the location key when planning the site?
This move was a result of a decision to centralise our operations from two smaller distribution centres. We wanted our new site to be in the perfect location with easy access to major routes around the country.

With our legacy retail site just up the road in Stoke we were able to retain many of our existing colleagues who really are at the heart of the operation, many of whom have served up to 20 years with us.

Q: What environmentally friendly elements have been included in this new centre? Was sustainability an important part of its design?
Sustainability was a key consideration when planning our new site and we meticulously considered how we could make our Stafford centre as environmentally friendly as possible. Evidence of this can be seen in all parts of the design.

For example, to protect the natural meadow surrounding the distribution centre, we installed a 40,000-litre tank for harvesting rainwater from the roof, as well as a one million gallon tank under the car park to prevent excessive flooding from run off.

We also installed swift and bat boxes, stumperies, and hedgerows to protect the wildlife. Moreover, when we first started the build, we caught and relocated all the newts that were on the site into a purpose-built pond within the new site.

We are also in the process of working through a programme to install solar panels on the roof of
the distribution centre and are running the on-site shunter units on Hydro-treated vegetable oil. Finally, we installed air sourced heat pumps, negating the need for gas onsite. The culmination of this work has achieved us a BREEAM status of excellence.

Q: How else has this distribution centre been future-proofed? Could it be expanded with demand, is there room to grow?
We have the potential to expand the building as needed in the future. This could be for storage only or for both storage and pick. Within the site we also have the ability to expand the automation which gives us confidence for facilitating future growth both in bricks and mortar and online.

This interview is one of three featured in the DeliveryX Warehousing 2024 report, which is available to pre-register for now.

Other interviews include B&Q discussing how its utilising its store network for fulfilment, while Furniturebox can guarantee an 8pm next-day delivery cut off for most the UK because of its facility.

There is also a look at the slow down in demand for warehouse space, an increase in solar potential and how Boots’ staff work alongside robotics.

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