Ipswich: Menzies Distribution depot saved as firm invests in plant

AROUND 100 workers based at a newspaper and magazine distribution centre in Suffolk will be breathing a sigh of relief today after a review of the company’s network of depots resulted in it being chosen as a ‘hub’ branch.

Staff had feared for their future after the John Menzies group announced in May that it had begun a consultation with staff based at its Ipswich site over proposed changes to its network in the South East of England which could have seen the depot on the Ransomes Europark in Ipswich close.

But the company now says around �700,000 worth of new technology is set to be invested at Ipswich and confirmed that no redundancies will be made at the Ipswich branch. The Ipswich branch will become a ‘hub’ branch for the company with �700,000 invested in a sophisticated Hognestad & Sletterod packing line there, and Chelmsford and Norwich branches will become ‘spokes’ of the Ipswich branch.

Menzies Distribution’s Supply Chain Director Mark Cassie said: “We are always looking at our business to ensure our services are as efficient and effective as possible, and so we can offer our customers excellent service.

“In our latest review we looked closely at our operations in East Anglia, and as a result we have decided to make Ipswich a hub branch and we will be investing �700,000 in new technology which will further improve our service offer.”

The business announced in May that it was looking at its operation to ensure the business remained sustainable.

Menzies Distribution has more than 4,000 employees, currently operating from 19 ‘hub’ and 23 ‘spoke’ branches across the UK and Ireland. It distributes around 5.2million newspapers and 2.6million magazines a day to more than 25,000 retailers. In the first half of this year, its operating profits were �14m and its turnover was �648.2m.

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In an announcement to the trade in May, the firm said several proposals were being considered for its South East network, one of which involved the conversion of its Chelmsford ‘spoke’ into “a fully composite hub branch”. Under this option, the Ipswich branch would have closed, with all functions transferring to the new Chelmsford hub, and the Norwich branch would have become a newspapers-only spoke, with magazine packing and back office functions moving to Chelmsford.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Dugmore said it was “excellent news” and “a big vote of confidence” for Ipswich.

The group traces its history back to 1833 when John Menzies opened a bookshop in Princes Street, Edinburgh. The wholesale business began four years later when Menzies was appointed as Scottish agent for the monthly instalments of Charles Dicken’s novel The Pickwick Papers.

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