A world-leading e-commerce business is set to create up to 300 new jobs in Sunderland, after it was unveiled as the first occupier to take space on the former Vaux Brewery site.
Ocado, ‘the world's largest dedicated online grocery retailer’, has signed a 15-year deal to let the top two floors of THE BEAM, a flagship 59,427sq ft building at the heart of Sunderland’s city centre. The move will see brand new jobs created in the city – with a range of customer service roles set to be recruited by the end of the year as Ocado scales up its new centre. The Sunderland centre is an additional hub for the company, which has a similar set-up in Hatfield, and will support Ocado to continue to grow.
The announcement of its expansion into Sunderland is a huge display of confidence in the city and will see Ocado become the first company to locate on the former site of the Vaux Brewery. Senior representatives from the Hatfield-headquartered business visited a whole host of potential sites across the UK before narrowing down their search and choosing Sunderland, and THE BEAM.
The decision, according to company chiefs, was cemented after they were ‘bowled over by the fantastic amenities’ available at THE BEAM and the city’s reputation as one of the country’s leading customer service hubs.
Ocado was founded in 2000 and was listed on the stock exchange ten years later. It is a FTSE 100 business, with sales of £1.6bn, and employs more 15,000 people across the group. In February, it announced the creation of an online grocery retail joint venture with Marks & Spencer plc, one of the UK's leading food and clothing retailers. The new jobs will provide key customer service support to the JV, and this investment in a new facility in Sunderland is yet another milestone for the company.
Sunderland City Council has supported Ocado since it first visited the city in summer last year and has worked hand-in-hand with the company to ensure all of the required infrastructure is in place ahead of its move. THE BEAM is part of a £500m city centre vision, with the wider city investment total standing at more than £1.5bn to 2030. As well as the former Vaux Brewery site, the city council is planning major improvements to other parts of the city centre, as well as increased leisure facilities that will create an exciting place to live, work and visit.
The North East has a booming contact centre industry. It is home to 145 contact centres, employing 40,000 people with brands including Barclays, EE, EDF Energy, Santander and Virgin and boasts the second lowest attrition rates in the whole of the UK for contact centre employees. The economic value of contact centres to Sunderland in salaries alone is circa £210m and, with the regional accent consistently rated amongst the most favourable when a consumer is contacting a UK call centre, Ocado – with a keen focus on customer experience – has chosen to add its name to the city’s portfolio.
Ian Pattle, General Manager - Customer Service and Strategy at Ocado, commented: "We're pleased to be coming to Sunderland as we grow our market leading customer service proposition. The new Contact Centre will support our existing service and we look forward to welcoming new talent from the local area to our team.”
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said the announcement was ‘hugely significant for Sunderland’.
“Ocado’s decision to invest in THE BEAM is absolutely fantastic news not only for Sunderland but for the entire North East region.
“The company is one of the most innovative and progressive in the world when it comes to ecommerce and for Sunderland to be chosen as the base of its newest office is a sign of just how attractive a proposition our city has become over the past few years.
“We have built a fantastic relationship with Ocado over the course of the last year, and we will build on that to ensure they’re supported to make their new Sunderland base an overwhelming success. We couldn’t be happier that we’ve attracted such an exceptional brand to our city centre and we look forward to supporting them as they build a team and grow from here.”
He added: “It’s been a long time coming, but this is the start of the Vaux site springing back to life. As a council we have backed the city centre with public sector investment, and today’s news demonstrates how that is attracting increased private sector investment. With the latest figures showing £1.5bn being invested in the city, and £500m of that going into the city centre, this is a big step in the transformation of Sunderland as we build a more healthy, vibrant and dynamic city.
The Vaux site was identified as a major regeneration site and has received £10.8m from the government’s Local Growth Deal through the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in addition to loan funding of £2.5m from the North East Investment Fund (NEIF).
Helen Golightly, Chief Executive of the North East LEP, said: “This is fantastic news for the Vaux site and the region as a whole. The BEAM is central to the plans for the wider site and attracting a major employer such as Ocado is a key milestone that will unlock further development that will lead to the creation of more and better jobs for our citizens.”