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Internet Christmas Shopping From Gourock 2006-11-22

Posted by clype in Articles of Interest, Europe, Money, Scotland, Statistics.

This is the 21st century version of ‘Santa’s grotto’. Between now and Christmas Eve, more than 150 000 gifts, from Jamie Oliver cookbooks to ‘Dr Who’ board games, will pass through this vast warehouse, on their way from the factory to the table under the tree.

Five times the size of a football pitch, it is Scotland’s biggest contribution to the on-line shopping boom — a consequence of our demand for an easier, cheaper alternative to the high street shop.

Internet retail sales in Britain amounted to 13 000 million GBP in the first half of 2006 — 40 per cent higher than in the same period last year. Yet the impact of our rush towards ‘e-tailing’ — including the creation of this 28 000 m2 ‘fulfilment centre’ in Gourock for Amazon customers — has yet to be fully understood.

What effect will the embrace of home shopping have on the traditional high street store? And does ordering using the computer really reduce our impact on the environment, as internet retailers claim?

Mr.Andrew Watson, of ‘The Federation of Small Business in Scotland‘, worries about the future of some shops:

‘This is part of the globalisation agenda which is facing small traders and of course there will be winners and losers. Some people will choose convenience and price of the internet over their local shop.

‘But some things are more convenient because they can be purchased straight away. At some point down the line they might not be able to go out and buy a pint of milk right away because the nearest shop is miles away. That, in reality, is the choice that consumers are making.’

Amazon‘, the world’s biggest on-line retailer, has created more than 1 000 full-time jobs in Scotland with the development here of two of its three UK distribution warehouses — known as ‘customer fulfilment centres’.

The biggest is in Gourock, Inverclyde. Where thousands of workers once forged Glasgow’s status as Britain’s second city by hammering and welding on Clyde ships, their grandchildren now fold CDs and books into parcels. In Glenrothes, a similar 18 600 m2 warehouse, supplemented by a 14 000 m2 overspill during busy periods, handles mostly larger items such as garden tools and dinner sets.

From the moment you click ‘buy’ on the ‘Amazon’ website, a command-chain of track-suited workers somewhere in Scotland is sorting your order into boxes until it trundles down a chute and onto the back of a lorry.

But while this type of shopping lacks the glamour and excitement of the pre-Christmas hunt through department stores, the convenience of web shopping has captured Britain’s imagination in a way unseen since the arrival of the self-service supermarket four decades ago.

On 2006-11-21 ‘Amazon’ recorded its fastest-ever pre-order sellout item — the new 180 GBP ‘Nintendo Wii console’ — which ran out in seven minutes. And a ‘Mintel’ survey in 2006-07 confirmed that UK shoppers were the most enthusiastic in the EU about internet shopping, having spent 9 800 million GBP on-line in 2005, outstripping Germany and France.

The Interactive Media in Retail Group‘, (‘The IMRG’)which represents companies including ‘Homebase’, ‘MasterCard’, ‘Tesco’ and ‘Wickes’, says the phenomenon is delivering significant environmental benefits that are not being recognised or harnessed to their full potential.

  • Its ‘go green, go online’ campaign claimed that ‘shopping online makes a real contribution towards protecting the planet by reducing the amount of energy and materials you use’.

But does the claim stack up? At Gourock, a round-the-clock stream of lorries thunders in and out of ‘Amazon’s’ warehouse car park and onwards towards depots, airports and railheads. And the location does not necessarily mean a reduction in the number of road miles travelled by our Christmas gifts. In fact, it can mean they make a round trip of several hundred miles.

‘When you click your order, the distribution centre is chosen by inventory, not your location,’ explained Mr.Alan Lyall, Amazon’s energetic Head of European operations

‘If the items you want are all available in one centre, that is where they will be shipped from in order to best achieve our delivery guarantee.’

So a customer ordering in Lerwick is as likely to receive a delivery originating from Luton as they are from Gourock.

In New York, the rise of e-tailing created a surge in foam packaging, which was too light to be recycled economically. Ms.Mary Rayner, a spokesman for ‘The Ethical Consumer magazine’, said:

‘Some goods arrive from Internet shops completely over-packaged. However, the Internet does give small, ethically-drive companies a space to trade that they wouldn’t have on the high street.’

‘The IMRG’ says packaging is a minor concern compared with the amount of energy saved by using computers at home rather than driving to shops. But most travel in retail is for grocery shopping, and more than three-quarters of supermarket customers have never even tried home delivery.

‘Amazon’ believes the future lies in its expansion as a ‘find-anything’ shop. In the United States of America its customers can order anything from cat food and milk to car parts and furniture.

‘We cannot entirely predict what will happen, but we’re fairly sure customers are unlikely to chose less convenience or higher prices,’ said Mr.Lyall.


  • 46 450–The area in square metres occupied by ‘Amazon’s’ two distribution centres in Scotland, at Gourock, Inverclyde, and Glenrothes, Fife;
  • 480 000–The number of items delivered by ‘Amazon’ last Christmas — a figure expected to be ‘blown away’ this year, with deliveries closer to one million.
  • 1998– The year Amazon went on-line in Britain
  • 2 170 million GBP– The value of sales to customers in Europe and Japan in the third quarter of this year. This compares with 330 million GBP for the whole of 2001;
  • 15– The gap in minutes between lorries leaving ‘Amazon’ distribution centres on its busiest days;
  • 5– The area in numbers of football pitches of the Gourock distribution centre;
  • 200– The number of countries which received items sorted and packaged by ‘Amazon’ in Scotland:
  • 61 000 000– The total of registered customers worldwide;
  • 26– The expected percentage increase in sales in 2006, compared with last year;
  • 12 000– The number of ‘Amazon’ employees worldwide;
  • 1994–The year ‘Amazon’ was founded by Jeff Bezos in Seattle, Washington;
  • 15– How many minutes before the residents of the remote Atlantic archipelago ‘Tristan da Cunha’ placed their first on-line order with ‘Amazon’ after being granted a UK postcode (TDCU 1ZZ) in 2005.


1. Ashley - 2012-10-21

Most of the jobs in Amazon warehouses are short term contracts and all of them are minimum wage or just above. The Temps there are treated very poorly and this year is no different. How do I know ? Well I have been working there for a two months. They talk a load of crap about treating their ‘associates’ with respect but management from top to bottom (including employment agency managers) treat us like scum.

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