Inside a colossal 400,000 square foot warehouse in Yorkshire, hundreds of workers for online retail giant Amazon are working around the clock in preparation to cope with its biggest ever Black Friday sale.
The Doncaster distribution depot, or Fulfilment Sites as Amazon calls them, is one of the online retail giant’s main centres and has had to double its workforce with an additional 400 seasonal workers to cope with the demand.
Started in North America as a means of kickstarting Christmas shopping following the nation’s Thanksgiving celebrations, the craze has slowly spread to the UK. Last year saw Amazon register 7.4m sales on Black Friday, which breaks down to 86 orders per second.
The Yorkshire Post was given an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the Doncaster facility.
Stuart Morgan, site leader, said: “At this moment we are geared up we are ready. Our planning started from the summer onwards. We are working hard with the team and bringing in additional hires. Last week was our highest number of new hires. So now, we are waiting in the calm before the storm.”
Currently the Fulfilment Centre is running virtually 24 hours, seven days a week. Its outbound site runs a day shift and night shift, allowing for a 30 minute gap in-between to allow teams to enter and exit, and for any maintenance required. Busier times stretch the operation.
The Yorkshire site opened in 2010 and is one of the oldest in Amazon’s network. It stocks larger items such as television sets and stereos, goods which will find themselves in hot demand for tomorrow’s sales bonanza. Virtually every TV Amazon sells nationwide will be dispatched from the Yorkshire site.
Mr Morgan said: “If you are in Glasgow and ordering a big TV it will not be stored at Glasgow, likewise if someone in Yorkshire wants a boxset it will be dispatched from Glasgow.
“I think it will be the expectation that this will be the highest in terms of a 24 hour period and number of orders. But it is important to realise that this is just one day within the Christmas period.
“There is lots of focus on Black Friday. It will be a big day and event, but will go beyond it to Christmas.
The vast site is divided into two, one for incoming good and one for dispatch. Good are racked into huge shelving units more than 30 feet high and items are tracked through every step of the way. Unlike most retailers, are not grouped together but rather stored, or stowed as Amazon terms it, by where space is available, meaning television sets nestle next to tennis rackets and children’s toys.
Mr Morgan said: “If you go into Tesco or any shop products will be grouped together but for Amazon customers it is not important about how we manage inventory. What is important is the product and specification, and that it is looked after. After items are picked they are dropped into pack lines. From where it is packed it is placed on a conveyance system to the final process where we ship. It is the final step but the most important one, it has to go on the correct trailer.”
A number of retailers, including Leeds-based Asda, have said they will not participate in this year’s sales for fear of chaos at the tills.