Drapers takes a look inside Boohoo’s revamped distribution centre and staff facilities.
Boohoo is growing, and it is growing fast. Over the past 12 months, the Manchester-based etailer has welcomed two other fast fashion brands, PrettyLittleThing and US vintage-inspired retailer Nasty Gal, into the family fold. It has also launched a flurry of new ranges, including an own-brand beauty offer, and an activewear collection for menswear counterpart BoohooMan. Meanwhile, the company’s focus on trendy, affordable product has proved a winning formula – group revenue doubled to £228.2m in the four months to 31 December 2017.
Nowhere is the ever-increasing scale of Boohoo Group’s operations more evident than at its 1 million sq ft distribution centre in Burnley, about an hour’s drive from its Manchester headquarters. It fulfils all orders from around the globe and is home to its customer service operations. The centre can hold up to 10 million units of stock and, over the peak Christmas trading period, processed an average of 120,000 orders every 24 hours from bargain-hungry shoppers.
To keep up with its growth, Boohoo has made a multi-million-pound investment in Burnley. Three additional mezzanine layers were added to the existing warehouse in 2017, increasing capacity by 275,000 sq ft. A second, 160,000 sq ft, warehouse on the same site is under construction, which will up its capacity to 18 million units.
Logistics director Tony Burley says this should support the group through to around 2023, when it will explore expanding further in Burnley or opening international distribution centres in key markets.
A new automation system is also being developed, which the retailer hopes will be live by 2019. It will help drive efficiency and allow customers to receive next-day delivery on orders made before midnight at no extra cost. The current cut off for next-day delivery is 10pm.
“We have to make sure we are ahead of the game,” Burley explains. “The automated solution will make us massively more efficient in terms of all the key functions, like packing and picking. Boohoo [the brand] alone grew by 54% over the last peak period in terms of the amount of picking locations, which means pickers are walking further and further.”
Boohoo has also been busy improving staff facilities at Burnley. Last January, the retailer was named alongside Asos and JD Sports in a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, which scrutinised working conditions in UK warehouses.
A sleek new canteen, decorated with a timeline of Boohoo’s history and on-brand slogans reading “Work hard, have fun, no drama”, was added at the end of last year and serves hot food, replacing the previous vending machines. A 24-hour gym and fitness classes – including yoga sessions on Boohoo-branded mats – are on offer. Meeting rooms have also been given the Boohoo Group touch – a PrettyLittleThing-themed space is plastered with pink wallpaper covered in images of dollar bills and unicorns.
The new additions bring the Burnley site in line with the retailer’s Manchester headquarters, where the retailer has created a fun, vibrant atmosphere. PrettyLittleThing’s office, for example, includes palm trees, meetings rooms disguised as shopfronts and a boxing gym.
The group’s co-chief executive Carol Kane tells Drapers it will allow Boohoo to have its pick of employees: “We are on different sites, but our business culture needs to be the same across all our offices and here in Burnley. We’d always had a gym in Manchester and we felt it was very important the guys who work for Boohoo in Burnley shouldn’t have anything different from the guys in Manchester. When you’re working in a warehouse in the winter, you need hot food. We kept hearing how important it was for the guys on those shifts.”
Investing in staff facilities is a smart move for Boohoo, given Manchester’s increasingly competitive fast fashion environment. The impressive distribution centre looks to stand the business in good stead as it continues to grow apace.