MARKS & Spencer is to create 300 jobs by expanding its Bradford distribution centre to create a second online warehouse for M&

The firm said that its aim is that the new Bradford warehouse, which is being created by making use of existing vacant space, will deal with around 20 per cent of all online orders.

Work has already begun and the expansion is set to be completed by Christmas 2021.

M&S opened its Bradford distribution centre in 2010 next to the M606, which is used to deliver both clothing and food to M&S stores in partnership with logistics experts XPO.

The investment will create a new online warehouse for M&, supporting the firm's Castle Donington online warehouse and its in-store pick model.

It is part of the firm's efforts to re-engineer its supply chain and to better deliver online for customers - reflecting the shift to online shopping driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

The investment in Bradford follows a successful trial over Christmas where Bradford’s colleagues manually picked product from the existing automated distribution centre to service online orders – at its peak, the site was dispatching 14,000 items a day.

The team will start with the target of dispatching 35,000 items a day, looking to increase capacity over time.

Bradford will be an online warehouse for boxed products and the aim is for it to eventually support around 20 per cent of M&S online orders.

Bradford was selected for this extension due to its location, its excess space and because it is M&S’s most automated distribution centre, with a great engineering team already on site.

While what is being built is an automated system, the extension to Bradford will still create around 300 roles as the products are picked off the automation and details on those jobs are expected to be shared this summer.

Sarah Monk, programme manager for the Bradford project, said: “Warehouse colleagues have been our behind the scenes heroes during the pandemic – making sure customers’ parcels are picked, packed and shipped – safely and efficiently. The team at Bradford did an amazing job supporting with online Christmas orders and we’re all so excited that we’ll now be permanently running an online operation from the site which will include the recruitment of 300 new XPO colleagues.”

Alongside investing it its physical space with Bradford and equipment, M&S is re-engineering its supply chain through greater use of tech. In addition to the expansion in Bradford, behind the scenes IT work will be completed to ensure M&S can most efficiently use its “three” warehouses – Donington, Bradford and stores.

Stephen Langford, director of M& said: “We’re transforming our Clothing business to be more relevant, more often for our 22 million customers – however they choose to shop. Whilst it’s exciting our stores have reopened, growing our online business has never been more important and part of that is a behind the scenes network which means we can serve our customers as efficiently as possible."

He added that the Bradford expansion was a key way of setting the firm up for a more digital future at M&S.