Lever Fabergé has pumped £27m into a state-of-the-art automated distribution centre it claims will make its supply chain the most retailer-friendly in the industry.

The 200,000 sq ft facility at Trax Park in Doncaster, will handle all of Lever Faberge’s personal care products, slashing costs and driving up customer service as the company bids to break the £1bn sales barrier by 2007, said Lever Fabergé chairman Keith Weed.

The Tibbett & Britten facility at Wakefield, the hub of personal care distribution for 20 years, was not built for purpose, and did not have the capacity or the kit to support Lever Fabergé’s growth, said Weed. “We have
been growing by more than 5% a year over the last decade and it became clear that we would grow out of Wakefield by the end of 2002 if we continued at the same pace. Back in the early ’80s, there was a huge amount of small parcel packing for independent chemists - and facilities were geared towards that. Today we are sending out truckloads of full pallets.”

Designed to take up to 45,000 pallets from 15 different manufacturing facilities across Europe, Trax Park was designed and built by Exel subsidiary Power Europe, which recently built automated facilities for Tesco, Sainsbury and Unilever Ice Cream and Frozen Food.

Transport is handled by Wincanton, which delivers goods on to retailers’ regional and national distribution centres, although Lever Fabergé has recently agreed to trial factory gate pricing with Tesco, which will collect its own stock shortly, said Weed. “We are trying to work out a mutually beneficial deal,” he said.

Separately, he revealed that Lever Fabergé was gearing up for a “major new product launch in home and personal care” next year and raising the for-sale sign over two brands already in its UK stable.

Details of the product launch are being kept under wraps, but a significant amount of investment was being pumped into the project, said Weed.

“On the one hand we are honing down the portfolio as part of the Path to Growth strategy to focus on leading brands, and there are a couple left to go.

“However, we are always looking at new brands,” he added. “We couldn’t have pulled off the growth in personal care this year without Sunsilk, for example.”
Elaine Watson