Shop Direct, the owner of brands including Littlewoods and Very, is to move its operations to a purpose-built distribution and fulfilment centre in the East Midlands, with plans to vacate three sites in Greater Manchester leaving around 2,000 jobs under threat.
The company currently operates three bases in the region, the largest of which is in Shaw, where the company occupies three converted mills and two stock handling facilities off Linney Lane, alongside the tram line between Shaw and Oldham.
Shop Direct occupies 950,000 sq ft at this site and employs 705 of its own staff, alongside 636 agency staff. The operations opened as a warehouse and distribution centre for Littlewoods in 1979.
The company also has two other sites in the region at Little Hulton, where it has 330,000 sq ft; and in Oldham, where the company has a 250,000 sq ft returns centre off Raven Avenue.
There are 59 direct employees and 43 agency staff at the Little Hulton site, while in Oldham the operations support 413 direct employees and 136 agency staff.
The Oldham operation has been part of Shop Direct since 2003 and was formerly part of Great Universal Stores, which was acquired by Littlewoods the same year. The Little Hulton site has been open since 1998.
Oldham Council said it was “shocked and disappointed” by the announcement with the majority of jobs lost due to be within the borough.
Helen Lockwood, executive director of economy, skills and neighbourhoods, said: “This announcement has come out of the blue and we feel terrible for all those affected.
“The news that a major employer plans to leave is a blow to the borough. We are keen to have discussions with the company as soon as possible in order to find a solution that supports our local community.”
The Liverpool-based company will relocate the bulk of its operations to an automated, purpose-built site by the M1 and East Midlands Airport, with its own rail freight terminal, totalling around 500,000 sq ft. Work is due to begin in May 2018, and the company expects to start exiting its sites in Greater Manchester from mid-2020.
The new site will be fully operational by 2021, and Shop Direct added it expected there to be redundancies as part of the move. The East Midlands hub will create around 500 permanent roles along with 200 to 300 agency staff at peak periods.
Derek Harding, interim group CEO of 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 in Shaw, Little Hulton and Raven. However, these proposals are necessary for our future and to enable us to continue to grow and meet rising customer expectations.
“We take very seriously our responsibilities to our colleagues, many of whom have been with us for a long time and who work tirelessly to deliver for our customers. We are working alongside Usdaw, our recognised trade union, and will listen carefully to what they have to say. We’ll also work closely with local authorities and community leaders to make sure this process is carried out as fairly and sensitively as possible for our colleagues.
“Our priority is to provide a fair outcome for our team and we’ll do everything we can to support colleagues through this transition.”