• By Christmas 2021 M&S will serve online customers from Castle Donington, Bradford and through its stores which act as micro-fulfilment centres
  • Improving online capacity through reengineering the supply chain is an important enabler to MS2

Today (Monday 19th April), M&S is announcing that its Bradford Distribution Centre is to become a second online warehouse for M&S.com, as part of the retailer’s fast-moving ‘Never the Same Again’ programme. The reengineering of M&S’s supply chain, including the extension of Bradford to permanently improve online capacity, is an important enabler to M&S’s MS2* division. Under MS2, M&S is setting itself up to best digitally serve shoppers in the future, including reflecting the shift to online shopping driven by the pandemic (M&S online sales grew +34% in the first half of the financial year, with app downloads in 2020 up over 200% and Sparks members now at over 10 million).

M&S opened Bradford Distribution Centre in 2010 – a carbon neutral building which achieved BREEAM (the leading environmental assessment method for buildings) ‘Excellent’. Bradford currently delivers both Clothing & Food to M&S stores in partnership with logistics experts XPO. This new investment is utilising existing vacant space within the centre to create a new online warehouse for M&S.com, supporting the retailer’s Castle Donington online warehouse (which opened in 2012) and in-store pick model (a clicks & bricks advantage which enabled M&S to respond to local online demand during the pandemic by turning this on & off at different locations).

The investment in Bradford follows a successful trial over Christmas where Bradford’s colleagues manually picked product from the existing automated distribution centre to service online orders – at its peak, the site was dispatching 14,000 items a day. The exciting build is now underway with the aim to be operational for Christmas 2021. The team will start with the target of dispatching 35,000 items a day, looking to increase capacity over time. Bradford will be an online warehouse for boxed products (from bras to belts) and the aim is for it to eventually support around 20% of M&S online orders.

All About Automation 

Bradford was selected for this extension due to its location, its excess space and as it is M&S’s most automated distribution centre, with a great engineering team already on site. Cost-efficient automation is key to the success of an online warehouse, alongside a great team to run it. The use of automation is what enabled M&S to adapt to servicing more online orders from Castle Donington during the pandemic and most importantly doing so in a safe way. Whilst what’s being built is an automated system, the extension to Bradford will still create around 300 roles (as product is picked off the automation) and details will be shared with the local community this summer.

Stephen Langford, Director of M&S.com said:

“We’re transforming our Clothing business to be more relevant, more often for our 22 million customers – however they choose to shop. Whilst it’s exciting our stores have reopened, growing our online business has never been more important and part of that is a behind the scenes network which means we can serve our customers as efficiently as possible. Building Bradford is a key way we’re setting ourselves up for a more digital future at M&S under the banner of MS2.” 

Alongside investing it its physical space with Bradford and equipment (such as the autobaggers at Castle Donington – Percy & Penny), M&S is reengineering the supply chain through greater use of tech, for example achieving operational efficiencies through the application of Microsoft Power BI and improving ways of working through utilising the communications platform Microsoft Teams. In addition to the manual build of Bradford, behind the scenes IT work will be completed to ensure M&S can most efficiently use its “three” warehouses – Donington, Bradford and stores.

M&S.com continues to offer free click & collect and contact free home delivery, these orders are predominantly from Castle Donington and also from over 200 stores currently acting as micro-fulfilment centres.

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