At the opening of the RDC, Morrisons chief executive Marc Bolland said the facility would enable the retailer to expand in the south east and London, introducing the brand to consumers who previously hadn't been in a Morrisons.
"We have a physical advantage now, being able to serve Greater London and the south east," Bolland told The Grocer. "We can transport food so it is fresher, faster, and there are more expansion opportunities. It is part of our journey from national to nationwide."
Morrisons' total investment in the 920,000 sq ft site, which it owns outright, was more than £100m. Finance director Richard Pennycook said the company had originally planned to lease the site but the credit crunch gave it the opportunity to buy instead. He added that its development had been planned since Morrisons acquired Safeway in 2005.
"When we came out of the integration there was too much distribution in the north and not enough in the south," he said.
Bolland also revealed Morrisons may move some of its distribution from road to rail. The Sittingbourne site has good access to rail, he said: "We need to explore how much it is going to cost, but it might be the next step."
The RDC has taken on 800 staff but received over 15,000 applications for jobs. As the site moves to full capacity next spring, staff numbers are expected to increase to 1,000.
Morrisons rolls out 'UK's largest training scheme' (23/10/09)