Omens are good as Grattan moves to new HQ

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SHOPPING giant Freemans Grattan Holdings is moving its staff to new headquarters after completing a huge turnaround strategy.

The 100-year-old company, which has mail order and online operations, has bought 66-70 Vicar Lane in Little Germany, Bradford, a 39,000 sq ft grade two listed building.

FGH, which is owned by the Germany-based Otto Group, will relocate all 300 staff from its current headquarters on Ingleby Road, Bradford.

It also has a warehouse in Listerhills, Bradford, where it employs 300 people.

Chief executive Koert Tulleners said: “The current property is very old and inefficient and it is far too big for our needs so we took the opportunity to move to a different building.”

The company will spend at least £1m refurbishing its new head office before moving staff there in the last quarter of 2012.

The building, known as Priestley’s Warehouse, dates back to the textile boom of the 1860s.

Mr Tulleners said the move saw the company returning to the road on which it was based about 80 years ago.

He said: “Grattan has been in Bradford for 100 years and we are keen to keep the company in the city. The head office has been on Vicar Lane before so it’s a good omen that we’re moving back to where we were based in the successful early days.”

He added: “The area is Little Germany and our parent company is German so that’s another good omen.”

Mike Atkinson, of Leeds-based property consultants Atkinson Associates, said: “This is the biggest news that Little Germany has had for some time and is a major boost for Bradford city centre.”

The move follows the completion of a turnaround strategy for the £200m turnover company, which Mr Tulleners said had moved back into profit after years of heavy losses.

He added: “We have gone down a road that was very tough and come out successfully. Many companies start a turnaround strategy but don’t complete them. We are growing our business and introducing new brands. We are transforming from an old traditional mail order company into a sophisticated online player.”

The company has over a million customers. Just over 30 per cent of its business is from mail order and almost 70 per cent is online.

“The online customer is very different to the mail order customer,” said Mr Tulleners. “There is far less brand loyalty online.”

The company is also starting to recruit again, mainly in its online division.

It used to employ 3,800 people in Bradford, London and Sheffield but the company’s workforce has shrunk as the habits of shoppers changed and traditional mail order catalogue trade continued to decline. The retail downturn also hit the business.

In 2009, FGH axed more than 1,000 jobs in an attempt to keep the company afloat. The majority of job losses came from closing its call centre, which employed 800 staff.

It also closed its London and Peterborough offices.

Earlier this year, FGH signed a deal which saw 400 staff at its contact centre in Sheffield transferred to customer international services firm Serco.