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River Island Global Distribution Complex – Bisham Focus on Continuity

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River Island Global Distribution Complex – Bisham Focus on Continuity

River Island, a major fashion retailer that has been successfully trading in the UK for over 60 years continues to expand its range, brands and its Geographic coverage.

Since the economic downturn, as well as improving sales overall, it has re-launched the Chelsea Girl Fascia, seen significant increase in its ecomm volumes and a continuing expansion of its overseas franchise and concession base.

The opening of their high performance Global Distribution Complex (GDC) in 2013 has supported and facilitated much of this growth.

Previously the River Island Business was operated from 4 separate sites, each handling a different part of the product range or market fulfilment. All of the sites were coming under strain through lack of space and the additional costs of consolidation activity were increasing significantly.

Logistics Strategy for Future Growth

Bisham worked with River Island and produced the logistics strategic plan for their future growth. The Plan identified that as well as accommodating growth the other key requirements were to improve productivity, reduce the costs per unit, and maintain business continuity not just during the project but through to 2018.

As is not unusual with these shopping lists containing such requirements, the strategy called for a two site solution to provide resilience and business continuity in the event of any major incident.

The challenge posed to Bisham was that River Island had an unshakeable loyalty and commitment to their existing staff and was not prepared to re-locate one or both of the buildings outside of the immediate catchment area of their existing operations – a position that on the face of it that contradicts the requirement for continuing business continuity.

The requirement was to design a complex that would accommodate and handle –Fabric – UK Retail volumes – ecomm volumes and Global distribution to overseas franchises and concessions.

Bisham’s answer to this conundrum was innovative but based on proven building and technology solutions – to build the two Distribution Centres on the same site – but suitably physically separated and supplied with separate services (Power-Telecoms-Access etc.) thereby establishing resilience and business continuity. The complex consists of two separate high bay buildings on the same site – with a total footprint of 40,000 square metres.

To satisfy the other requirements for productivity improvements and to avoid the costs associated with consolidating output from both sites the Bisham design included a number of overhead covered bridges between the buildings that connected the operations in both buildings by means of semi-automated goods conveyors. The MHE design for each site had co-incident multi-level mezzanine structures to facilitate the smooth material flow between the sites.

The requirement to accommodate growth was managed by planning over time to grow into the “cube” of the building (how often is the cube in modern warehouses poorly utilised?). Bisham specified all of the MHE – storage equipment – mezzanine structures – conveyors etc. with the storage and mezzanine installations being designed and built to accept additional levels etc. with minimum operational interference at future dates.

Westfield properties (part of the Lewis group – Parent Company of River Island) managed the procurement of the land and the build project for the sites, in line with the original Bisham conceptual design.

Bisham specified the MHE, worked with River Island on the procurement process and managed the installation of all MHE through to commissioning.

Throughout the project the underlying focus on “Continuity” in all of its manifestations remained key to Bisham’s approach resulting in:-

  • Continuity maintained throughout the project and into the future.
  • Local staff and skills retention maintained.
  • Productivity improvements and unit cost reductions delivered.
  • Retail-ecomm-Global and Fabric logistics accommodated in one complex.
  • Growth potential within the complex achieved.
  • MHE delivered on time and under budget.

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