Shop Direct says automation technology is now being fitted into a new fulfilment centre that will bring all of its distribution and returns under one roof for the first time, while enabling last orders at midnight for next-day delivery.
The £1.96bn turnover retailer has completed external building works at Skygate, its new 850,000 sq ft fulfilment centre at East Midlands Gateway near Castle Donington, Leicestershire. Automation technology from Knapp, including sortation, item selection, advanced picking and single and multi-order packaging, is now being installed.
Shop Direct expects to take possession of the new centre in early 2020, and says that it will means products move through the centre faster, with items dispatched within 30 minutes of an order being placed. Onward delivery times will also be shorter, thanks to a location served by the rail freight terminal at East Midlands Gateway and close links to both the M1 and East Midlands Airport. That means the cut-off time for next day delivery is set to move from 7pm to midnight.
Because Shop Direct will be closer to its imports, carrier partners and customers, it expects to save a million road miles each year. Meanwhile, the technology, combined with the consolidation of three sites into one fulfilment and returns centre, is expected to contribute to efficiency savings of about £25m a year from 2021.
The state-of-the-art facility will bring all aspects of distribution and returns for Shop Direct’s Very.co.uk and Littlewoods.com retail brands under one roof for the first time and has significant potential for future expansion. Construction began in May last year, and the internal fit out and installation of technology is currently underway ahead of Shop Direct taking possession in early 2020.
Recruitment is already underway for technical roles and in the management of operations, shifts, teams, stock and inventory, with 500 permanent staff to be based at Skygate by March 2021. They will be supported by an additional 200 to 300 agency colleagues during peak periods.
Phil Hackney, chief operating officer at Shop Direct, said: “The completion of Skygate’s external shell is a major milestone in the development of our new fulfilment centre and it’s exciting to see the plans we’ve talked about coming to life. The facility will ultimately play a key role in helping us meeting the ever-changing needs of our four million customers and positioning ourselves for ongoing, sustainable growth in the future. Recruitment is moving along at pace, with some colleagues already based at Skygate, and we look forward to welcoming many more in the coming months.”
Very is a Top50 retailer in IRUK Top500 research, while Littlewoods.com is Top100. Shop Direct is set to be rebranded as The Very Group later this year.
Image courtesy of Shop Direct