A YORKSHIRE-based logistics company which started out with a single van is set to break the £200m turnover barrier this year on the back of a long-term relationship with Asda.
Yesterday, Leeds-based Clipper created 400 jobs by opening a 22-acre distribution base at Wynyard Park, near Stockton, which can process three million items of clothing per week.
The site, which cost around £20m to build, has the capacity to accommodate 250 heavy goods vehicles a day. It’s part of a strategy devised by Clipper to establish logistic operations around ports in the north east, at a time when the south east is suffering from congestion.
Tony Mannix, Clipper’s managing director, said the company’s 10-year contract with Leeds-based Asda had given it the confidence to invest in Wynyard Park.
Clipper has been working with Asda since 2006.
Over the last four years, Clipper has been responsible for all of Asda’s non-food ‘e-fulfilment’, in other words the delivery of goods bought over the internet.
Mr Mannix said yesterday: “More and more of these goods have come through ports, and we believed that distribution centres close to ports were likely to grow.
“The long-term contract with Asda made the Clipper Wynyard building financially viable, because it means we’ve got a large anchor tenant. It has got 26 miles of hanging garment railing and we can sell the concept to other customers. We could work with start-up, internet only businesses, or more conventional retailers.”
Clipper was founded in 1992 from a single site in Leeds and has grown organically and by acquisition. Altogether, Clipper employs 2,500 people across Europe. Around 500 to 600 of these staff are based in Yorkshire.
Mr Mannix confirmed that the company’s turnover this year is expected to rise from £167m to £200m.
Mr Mannix said: “We have become a real retail logistics solution business. We now handle 10 per cent of all the online UK fashion market. We saw that the southern ports were getting congested, and there was a need to find secondary locations. We thought we could bring container traffic to the north east and offer an alternative. Clipper Wynyard will help Asda to save lorry miles and cut its CO2 emissions.
“We have positioned ourselves in places other people might not consider. Teesport is a good place to be, we’ve had lots of support from the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and the local council, and there’s a plentiful supply of workers.”
In 2009, Clipper opened a centre in Darlington to distribute the George clothing range. This operation already handles more than 55 million units per year.
The development at Wynyard is part of Clipper’s strategy to invest in “portcentric solutions” – in other words, distribution centres that are close to ports and major road networks.
The Clipper Group was founded by entrepreneur Steve Parkin in 1992 with one van delivering clothing for fashion stores.
The acquisition of Gagewell Transport in 2001 dramatically enhanced Clipper’s position in the logistics market and created a company with a turnover of £16m. Other acquisitions followed and, in December 2005, Clipper bought Northern Commercials, the Iveco and Fiat truck and van dealer based in Brighouse and Leeds, which took group sales beyond £120m.
Speaking in October last year, Mr Parkin, who is the company’s chairman, said: “Our goal is to continue to develop and grow our business, and to achieve a stock market listing within the next five years.”
Mr Mannix said yesterday: “We’re very accessible, project driven and retail focused. Asda has a saying, ‘If you can buy it online, and can’t eat it, it’s fulfilled by Clipper.’
“We’ve carved a niche for ourselves in online fulfilment and have ridden the economic storm quite well.”
Mr Mannix believes Clipper can help other large retailers to grow their online operations.
He added: “People who had been nervous about projects are talking about what they are planning to do next.”
Speaking last year, Asda distribution director Ian Stansfield said: “Clipper has proven to be an invaluable partner to our business.
“On the strength of this success, and our growing clothing business, we have taken the unprecedented step of signing this 10-year contract.”
Clipper has two commercial vehicle businesses within the group, as well as an expanding logistics business in Germany.
In an interview with the Yorkshire Post in 2008, Mr Parkin said his long-term objective for Clipper was to create a £1bn turnover business.
E-fulfilment deal with Vevie
Logistics specialist Clipper recently secured a major e-fulfilment contract with the women’s lifestyle and exercise designer brand, Vevie.
Leeds-based Clipper was awarded the contract following an invitation to tender.
The company secured the business on the strength of its experience of delivering retail services for clients including John Lewis, Harvey Nichols, Asda and Tesco.
Clipper will handle all inbound receipts from vendors and suppliers.
It will also ship the goods directly to customers’ homes, through its courier partners.
Clipper will undertake quality control of products and handle all returns at its distribution centre at Milton Keynes.
Caroline Greenslade, the founder of Vevie, said: “Clipper’s extensive experience made them an ideal choice for us.”