Business is booming at Burnley fashion retailer Boohoo.
Since opening its distribution centre in Heasandford Industrial Estate three-and-half years ago, the dotcom firm has continued to grow at an exponential rate.
Now one of the world’s leading online retailers alongside giants such as ASOS and Next, bosses are investing a further £10m. in the Burnley site as they look to cope with demand.
Logistics director Tony Burley told the Express that making the town part of Boohoo’s future was integral moving forward.
“We realised we need to make significant investment to Burnley so we know we have to invest in the infrastructure and the environment for our people but also invest in our people as well. This is the first phase. The existing warehouse was 140,000 sq. ft. and that has been extended internally with mezzanine flooring. Once we’ve completed this extension, which will be at the end of February, that will give us a total of around 820,000 sq. ft. – a significant increase in the capacity of the facility.
“It is designed to give us four to five years growth but then so was this one and it’s only given us three, so we’ll have to see.
“Part of the investment is the increase in capacity the business needs but also £2m. of this money will be invested in facilities for staff so improved restaurant facilities, internet cafes, social rest areas, those kind of things will all be part of the construction over the next six months.”
Founded in Manchester in 2006, Boohoo designs, sources, markets and sells its own brand clothing, shoes and accessories to customers aged predominantly 16 to 24.
While the UK remains its biggest growth area, the firm now ships to more than 130 countries and is setting up a public relations team in New York (one is already based in Australia).
As well creating new trends, Mr Burley said the firm was also looking at bucking them.
As reported in the Express a month ago, warehouse workers were given a 12% wage increase, on average, starting at the beginning of this month.
This has seen the hourly rate for the day shift upped from £6.31 to £7 (£7.50 after probation) while those on nights have seen their £6.50 raised to £7.50 (£8.25 after probation).
“We want to be the employer of choice in Burnley. The increased pay rates in the warehouse has taken us to the upper quartile for not just the area but also the industry. We want Boohoo to be the place to work.
“We employ around 580 people which is mainly warehousing but we do customer services on site and on top of that we have in the region of 280 temp workers with us right now and that we will look to increase as we get closer to Christmas.”
Employee numbers are also set to grow with next year’s expansion and Mr Burley said a lot of these workers would be coming from Burnley and the surrounding area.
“The growth has been absolutely phenomenal, over the past three years particularly. Providing jobs for people in Burnley has been a key factor. We actually use sector-based working which is designed to take people from unemployment into work as our main route of recruitment but also just working with Barnfield Construction who are a local company, building this facility. We’re also talking to Burnley Football Club about what we can do to support them. And I’m sure, over time, there will be lots of things we can get involved in and support.
“We’re bucking the trend for not just the economy but also the industry. We are serious about investing in the area.”
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said the Boohoo story was an incredible one and a fine example of the direction Burnley is heading in.
“Boohoo really has been a remarkable story. They came here in 2009 with around 45 people and now look at the size of the company. It’s a remarkable achievement for anybody. They are a very responsible firm and it was fantastic that they gave warehouse staff a rise of 12%. It shows what a fine example of a company they are.
“They’re happy in Burnley, settled in Burnley and they are looking to the future which is good for the town. They are a fine example of what the future holds for Burnley.”