Online retailer Shop Direct is to transfer its 215,000 sq ft Raven Mill returns centre in Oldham to Clipper Logistics, a provider to the retail sector.
The centre had been earmarked for closure in 2021, when Shop Direct, which grew out of the former Littlewoods retail business, is to open an automated 650,000 sq ft national fulfilment and returns centre in the East Midlands. All staff based at Raven Mill will transfer immediately to Clipper, which will operate the site for Shop Direct until 2021 and then retain up to 200 of the 400 staff to service other retail clients.
Mike Aylward, divisional officer for Usdaw – the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers – welcomed the news that the operation is to remain open, albeit most probably in reduced circumstances. He said: “We will be working to ensure a smooth transfer of the 403 Shop Direct staff to Clipper Logistics under TUPE, although it remains likely that at least 200 staff are to be made redundant in 2021.
“At that point Usdaw will enter into consultation talks with the business and we will be seeking to ensure that any redundancies are done on a voluntary basis. In the meantime we will continue to provide our members with the advice, support and representation they require.”
In April 2018, Shop Direct announced its plans to close three Greater Manchester fulfillment centres, with Chadderton’s Raven Mill joined by a 330,000 sq ft facility in Little Hulton, Salford; and a 950,000 sq ft centre in Shaw, made up of three converted mills and two stock handling facilities.
A joint taskforce established shortly after the closure plan was revealed has been working to try and find ways forward for the sites and employees. The taskforce was established between Shop Direct, Usdaw, Guidant, the Manchester Growth Company, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Midas, and Oldham, Rochdale, Bolton and Salford councils. Clipper will join the joint taskforce following the TUPE transfer.
Steve Parkin, executive chairman at Clipper Logistics, said: “We are delighted to be working with Shop Direct. It is testament to our unique ability in returns management across fashion, electronics and general merchandise, to be adding one of the UK’s leading pureplay digital retailers to our client list. We are looking forward to ensuring we deliver best-in-class, not only for customers in terms of fulfilment, but also for colleagues.”
Clipper was formed in 1992 and now turns over £400m-plus. It operates from a network of 47 sites, with more than 10m sq ft of warehousing space.