As a major retail firm reveals proposals to end its operations in Bolton, Seamus McDonnell looks at the effect it will have on staff.

MORE than 50 jobs are at risk as a national retailer reduces its operations in Bolton.

Shop Direct has revealed proposals to shut its head office on Orlando Street, and a distribution centre at Croal Mill, on Blackshaw Lane, along with widespread closures at stores across the country.

READ MORE: What next for Shop Direct staff?

The proposals are part of a national plan aimed at bringing an end to Littlewoods Clearance stores, which sell discount products that were not sold on websites like and

READ MORE: Littlewoods and Shop Direct - a timeline

Bosses at Shop Direct say the current system of clearing unsold items is registering a loss for the company and that they will instead sell the stock through a third party.

It comes just months after the firm announced nearly 2,000 redundancies in Greater Manchester, with the closure of three sites in Little Hulton and Oldham, set to relocated to the East Midlands in 2020.

Sam Perkins, group retail director at Shop Direct said the clearance stores had been “successful in clearing unsold stock for many years” but explained the company was undergoing a “digital transformation” which has driven a review into practices.

In recent years, Littlewoods – known by many as a catalogue retailer – has taken its main operations entirely online, initially closing its high street stores before removing its mail order catalogue. This has led to the company registering operating profits of more than £200 million in the year to June.

“We found that selling unsold stock in bulk to third parties is the most efficient way to clear it,” Mr Perkins said.

“Simplifying our approach in this way will allow us to free up money to invest further in our digital future and focus on our core pureplay online business.

“The proposal to close Littlewoods Clearance is a difficult decision, but one we believe is necessary for our business.

“Our priority is to provide a fair outcome for our team and we’ll do everything we can to support potentially impacted colleagues.

“The company’s recognised trade union, USDAW, is aware of the proposals, and we are keeping them updated on progress.”

In April, USDAW stepped in to negotiate for staff who were set to lose out, working alongside Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Barbara Keeley MP for Worsley and Eccles.

Sue Ianson, area organiser for the union said of the latest announcement: “It’s just really disappointing, I feel for all those people that are there.

“We will be engaging with the company and opening discussions with them at a meeting this Wednesday.”

The union is expected to ask Shop Direct how they will help with new skills for staff and what they will do to ease the burden for those that will lose their jobs.

As part of the proposals the company has offered a consultation period, which will end in February, and gives relevant parties the chance to put forward their concerns.

In total the end of Littlewoods Clearance will impact on 143 staff across the country, working at stores branded The Outlet, and for websites including Bargain Crazy.

These include Bolton’s head office and distribution hub – branded a ‘fulfilment centre’ – as well as stores in Bulwell, Nottinghamshire; Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire; Wisbech, Cambridgeshire; Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent; Flint, Flintshire; Llandudno, Conwy; and Newtown, Powys.

The 850,000 sqft new site will create around 500 jobs, with between 200 and 300 agency workers brought in during peak periods.

It comes amid a sustained push by shop direct to move their business model away from the catalogue system which initially made Littlewoods famous.

The brand closed the majority of its high street stores in 2005, launching a range of online brands before merging into Shop Direct.

It had consistently maintained a presence in Bolton, but cited problems with Greater Manchester’s road network as the major reason behind the closure of its Little Hulton, Shaw and Chadderton distribution centres.

The company’s recent profits are partially down to the success of After its debut in 2009 the brand launched its own clothing label in 2016 and registered a revenue of £1.5 billion in the year to June, up by 9.9%.

However, revenues at Littlewoods actually fell in the same period, dropping by 14.5 percent to £570 million a year, partially down to an increasingly challenging homeware market.