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Fat Face grows up: inside the new distribution centre

After three years of planning and a £5m investment, lifestyle retailer Fat Face has opened the doors to its brand new distribution facility in Havant, Hampshire.

Taking Drapers on a tour of the Dunsbury Park hub, chief executive Anthony Thompson says the centre, which is leased for 15 years, is “a serious building with serious ambition”: “We’re set up for the future. It’s a long-term investment in speeding up delivery and improving availability for customers.”

The 80,000 sq ft hub provides more than £250m sales capacity and the scope to “double that and beyond” with a further 40,000 sq ft of expansion space. It houses 250 part- and full-time staff, and 100 new hires are expected in the next five years.

Fat Face’s head office remains at its old distribution centre at nearby Ridgway, and Thompson plans to sublet parts of the 80,000 sq ft, 12 metre-high site.

Before its formal opening, the new site ran in parallel with the Ridgway facility for eight weeks in a staggered transition, starting with menswear, followed by womenswear, footwear and then accessories.

Fat face dunsbury park

The layout is simple and efficient. Orange product chutes spiral through three mezzanine floors before reaching ground level, while scarlet red stackers sit alongside 14 metre-high pallet racking that stretches towards the 17 metre-high ceiling. The new centre has doubled the number of ecommerce packing benches to 48. Storage capacity has trebled, and 10 dock-level doors speed up product intake by 30%.

Thompson reports that during the mid-October pre-Christmas peak period, 1.7 million units of product were brought in, compared with the previous site’s 1.1 million peak capacity: “We used to reach a stage where during peak trading, we’d keep a lot of bulk storage in third-party locations and then pull it in when we needed to, which affected our launches and product availability. Now we can keep everything on site and offer customers a better deal in terms of [efficiency].”

The faster turnaround for its products – designed in house at Ridgway and mainly sourced from India, China and mainland Europe – means Fat Face can now meet demand for next-day, or even same-day, delivery. It previously only offered standard delivery.

The hub will ship items to its US department store stockists – including 30 concessions in Von Maur – six US stores and six in the Republic of Ireland, as well as its 219 stores and outlets across the UK, 18 concessions with John Lewis and two with Wyevale Garden centres. In the next 12 months a further six to eight stores are planned, and four in the US – all to be serviced from Dunsbury Park.

Most of Fat Face’s rivals use warehouses in the Midlands, but Thompson says avoiding relocation is a “critical part” of its growth strategy: “Our headquarters is nearby, so we have great communication between the two facilities. Our distribution team feels like it’s part of the broader team, which is right for our culture.” He also cites nearby ports of Southampton and Portsmouth as a key advantage, as well as better access to the south-west, where an “awful lot” of its stores are based: “A lot of people think the Midlands is the place to be, but actually, the ports are quite close to us compared with Wolverhampton or Birmingham. So we win in terms of speed.”

Being the first business to move into the new 45 acre industrial park was a statement of support for the local community, he adds: “I can’t think of anything worse than outsourcing this or sending to another facility in the Midlands miles away.”

 

 

 

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