distribution centre

Shaw National Distribution Centre

Shaw National Distribution Centre is a home shopping-catalogue warehousing and distribution centre owned and operated by Shop Direct Group located on Linney Lane of Shaw and Crompton, in the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham, Greater Manchester, England.

Although it occupies a number of 19th century built former cotton mills, it has been operated by Littlewoods as a distribution centre since 1989, distributing around 18 million individual items of stock to customers annually.


The Littlewoods Shaw Distribution Centre is currently the largest warehousing function within the Littlewoods Shop Direct Group, covering 23 acres and with (as of 2006) a workforce of over 850 employees (1250 at peak).

The multi-million pound complex stores over of products, and is made up of five buildings; three of which are converted cotton mills, built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and two state-of-the-art purpose built buildings added in the mid 1990s. The first, seen from Linney Lane, is a world-class £61million automated Bulk-Carton Storage facility. the second, which is accessed from Beal Lane, is home to a vast state-of-the-art packing hall and a distribution centre. The site is one of Europe's largest warehouse distribution centres.

The centre is the biggest private employer in the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham with staff employed either through LSDG themselves or through the Blue Arrow work agency. The site is a recognised by the British Quality Foundation as an 'Investor in Excellence'.


The site has been operational since 1979, soon after Littlewoods (then a P.L.C.) acquired the 20 acres of land occupied by no less than five cotton mills. "Lily", "Lily (No.2)" and "Newby" were stripped of their cotton-spinning heritage including the felling of chimneys and removal of reservoirs. They were also renovated and linked together with bridges. "Lily" and "Lily (No.2)" were equipped with a (then) hi-tec sorting system with the Lily mill becoming host to a huge state-of-the-art packing hall. Public land in front of the mills was also acquired and converted into trailer yards and staff car parks.

Meanwhile the "Dee" and "Ash" mills were demolished with intention of using the land to further expand the complex. This however was prevented by the fact the Dee mill's engine house was protected by English Heritage and so for the following 10 years, that's all that stood in the middle of a vast wasteland. Finally in the 1990s permission was granted to demolish the, now neglected, engine house and work began on building the extension to the now prosperous distribution centre. This included a massive project to reroute the River Beal from the centre of the land, to follow a path around the perimeter of the proposed building instead. The new building, which includes packing, sorting and distribution facilities complete with a large trailer yard, opened in 1997 and was put into full use in 2001.

At around the same time the Littlewoods also bought the adjacent "Rutland" mill with the intention of continuing a bridge connection from the other mills and converting it into an automated storage facility. However, it was decided this would cost more money than simply replacing the mill with a purpose made building. Nearby residents were informed of the demolition of Rutland mill and its replacement with a new 'one storey' warehouse, which was duly approved. In reality the new building, which opened in 1997, although is technically 'one storey', it is almost as tall as its predecessor. The local council and residents were displeased and have since revamped planning permission criteria for the area.


In 2006, the site won the "Business Excellence in the North of England: 2006" award for private sector firms with more than 250 staff.


The site, as of 2007, is set to become the retail company's only packing and distribution centre for non-bulk items, employing nearly one thousand staff; strengthening Littlewoods Shop Direct's position as the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham's largest private employer.


The continued development of the site has brought some criticism from local residents.

  • The new buildings, largely considered eyesores, have been accused of interfering with television reception due to their size and metallic structure.
  • The increased work at the site has brought more and more heavy goods vehicles, which now operate heavily during the night. Trailer shunters also operate at night and the company have been approached several times by officials to be told to keep the noise down.
  • In Autumn 2006, Muslim staff at the warehouse contacted local media and claimed they had been forced to resort to hiding and eating in the stock-storage aisles during Ramadan, as they were not granted allowance for breaking their fasts. Unions however counter-claimed this was in line with policy, legislation and business needs.

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