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Iconic grocer doubles UK warehouse offering

06 February 2024

Iconic luxury food and goods retailer Fortnum & Mason is consolidating and doubling its UK warehouse offering to a single warehouse in Corby run by supply chain partner iForce.

By Liza Helps Property Editor Logistics Matters

THE ANNOUNCEMENT in January follows a well publicised delivery hiatus over the Christmas period when there was a late surge in online activity which caught the iconic retailer unawares - although it is believed that there had been discussions to consolidate made months previously.

Fortnum & Mason will close warehouses in Ely and Northampton and move to a single bonded facility already occupied by iForce in Corby. In an email sent to staff at its Ely centre, iForce said that Fortnum & Mason had "experienced significant growth over the past five years" and that it was due to this success and the associated increase in operational requirements that it has become necessary to relocate operations to larger premises. 

The Corby warehouse, which can accommodate both chilled and ambient space, is thought to be that which was previously used to service the Aldi online Specialbuys offering which included the delivery of wine. iForce was notified in January last year that the contract with Aldi would terminate in September 2023.

The consolidation to a single warehouse is expected to enable a more efficient and transparent supply chain offering that can flex at peak operation time. A lot of the work involved is highly manual – such as the packing of world famous Fortnum & Mason hampers, however where possible the retailer and its partner are looking to invest in more automation and machinery in the future.

Over the five weeks in the run-up to Christmas Eve, sales rose by 17%, and over 400,000 orders were processed, some for as far as Bermuda and New Zealand. Although online sales fell 11% from July 2022 to July 2023, the still account for 36% of total sales as according to the company’s annual report published last month. Turnover at its UK stores grew 34%.

At the end of 2023 the company opened a fulfilment warehouse operation in Belgian with iForce to enable it to resume delivery of its hampers  to mainland Europe after a two-year break following BREXIT.

It is thought that the partnership will look to facilitate other small British artisan food businesses to sell their wares in Europe again, by opening the facility to other firms including Fortnum & Mason suppliers. It is thought that around 15% of the retailer’s online deliveries pre-BREXIT were in/to Europe.

The luxury retailer was founded in 1707 by William Fortnum, a footman to Queen Anne, with the backing of Fortnum's landlord Hugh Mason. Among many of its historic claims to fame is the invention of the Scotch Egg in 1838 as well as supplying hampers to Florence Nightingale in the Crimea in the 1850s and provisions for  Sir Edmund Hilary’s expeditions to conquer Everest a hundred years later.