It took Lidl, the fourth biggest supermarket in the world, little over 18 months to establish its largest UK distribution centre on the outskirts of Exeter, creating 500 jobs for local people.
As part of The STEMM Cell presentations being held at Exeter Science Park, one of the bosses based at the depot has hosted a talk for the business community about the retail industry’s evolving landscape as well as the supermarket’s secret to success.
Timothy Nyahasha, Head of Administration and Human Resources for the South West of England, led the talk on Wednesday, December 6.
Mr Nyahasha addressed various pertinent questions including how an exponential rise in online shopping in recent years has affected the retail landscape, how technological advances in social media have impacted retailers, and whether investing in bricks and mortar is still a viable option for retailers.
The German discount food retailer opened its twelfth UK depot near Exeter this autumn as part of a commitment to invest £1.45bn in Great Britain between 2017-18. It’s South West distribution centre is the third to be built in the UK in 12 months and is the largest, taking in 46,000sqm.
Around 500 jobs were created with a number of different roles, including assistant team managers, warehouse operatives and desk clerks as well as kitchen assistants and porters to work in the catering team, with vacancies advertised on the company’s careers website.
Lidl employees are the best paid in supermarket sector following a pay rise announcement last month which saw wages increases for 16,000 hourly paid employees to £8.75 an hour, in response to the voluntary living wage campaign.
Lidl bought the Exeter site in February 2016 and it officially opened in November.
Mr Nyahasha, a business Masters graduate who is based at the Exeter depot, which is located close to the Exeter Science Park, said: “Lidl has various strategies of keeping costs low for customers: we have a unique business model based on simplicity, efficiency and agility. Examples include the way we pack our lorries; all of our lorries are packed to capacity to help save on fuel and energy.
“And we supply all of our stores directly, including all product groups and all consumables. Our warehouse designs are also based upon being energy efficient as possible. This achieves the dual aim of keeping costs low and reducing our carbon footprint.
“A lot of people don’t know that Lidl UK is passionate about working with British producers and sources two thirds of its products from the UK, working with suppliers across the British Isles wherever possible.”
Mr Nyahasha, added: “Different stores worldwide are responsible for different products that come from their country, for example, we have UK contracts with 14 suppliers in the South West which will be worth a total of more than one hundred million pounds over the next five years.
“This provides extensive export opportunities for the suppliers we work with to Lidl markets across the globe, while giving us great buying power, meaning we can keep prices low,” he explained.
“In the Westcountry, we have a longstanding relationship with local supplier Wyke farms, who produce our Valley Spire cheese range and whose cheddar we export extensively, due to the popularity in the other countries Lidl operates. Other suppliers in the South West include Country Confectionary, Kanes Foods and Crediton Dairy.”
The STEMM Cell @ Exeter Science Park – Inspiring Growth, kicked off in September with the autumn/winter programme including a diverse mix of speakers from science, technology, engineering, maths, medicine (STEMM) industries.
Previous speakers have included Dr Steven Hepplestone, Physics and Astronomy lecturer at the University of Exeter, discussing ‘solving the world energy crisis’; Devon marine biologist Imogen Napper whose research influenced a government ban on microbeads in cosmetics to reduce sea pollution. Forthcoming presentations include Ken Woods, Principal Conductor of English Symphony Orchestra discussing ‘leadership without words’.
Joe Pearce, Business Support Manager at Exeter Science Park, said: “The South West is home to a host of leading innovators, researchers, entrepreneurs and businesspeople, so we have created this platform to share the exciting knowledge and innovative projects that take place across Devon and beyond.
“All our speakers have been identified for their expertise, knowledge and skills in areas that can be passed on to bring about benefit to others.”
For more information visit www.exetersciencepark.co.uk/news-events/stemm-cell.