Thursday 27th Oct 2016 - Logistics Manager

Lifestore experience

The Marks & Spencer Lifestore store was launched in Gateshead last February. It is a brand new retail experience based on the rituals of everyday life, rather than retail convention, and takes customers through nine worlds that respond directly to the way we live. The idea is that Lifestore reflects the atmosphere of homes.

At Gateshead, a full-sized house has been built inside the store. The two-storey house features an interior and exterior staircase, and provides the ultimate environment to showcase M&S’ new range. Every year a different architect will design a new house.

The concept of Lifestore is to focus on the customer, not the product, and is organised around rituals not departments.

M&S’ Vittorio Radice, whose brainchild Lifestore is, comments: “The Marks & Spencer Lifestore will stand alone as a concept, but it can also be incorporated into existing stores. This will give our home offer more flexibility, and we intend that it will achieve authority through relevance and uniqueness, not through scale.”and picking at all levels; three-wheel counterbalance units, primarily for unloading lorries but can also locate and pick stock; pedestrian stacker/trammer trucks; and hand-pallet models.

Linde equipment was also specified for the Thorncliffe distribution centre in Sheffield and consists of reach trucks as well as hand-pallet units. Wriglesworth says: “For the most part, items are picked as full pallets for replenishing the Store Warehouse.” The exception, says Wriglesworth, are home delivery items, which are picked according to customer requirements.

The Thorncliffe centre opened 14 years ago as a dedicated distribution centre to M&S. Before this latest contract, the centre was already supplying more than 30 M&S stores in the North-east with all of their non-food requirements. It is now also acting as the holding centre for the Lifestore stock.

The 2,232sq m extension housing 10,000 pallet spaces for the Lifestore stock was designed and project managed by Salvesen. It contains racking from Linpac and consists of eight aisles with ground plus eight levels. Each aisle comprises 22 double bays each side with the beam heights the same as that used in the Store Warehouse. Two mezzanine floors feature over the stock preparation / receiving area.

The Holding Centre uses VoiteQ’s Pick By Voice technology because it provides “an eyes free, hands free environment”.

Wriglesworth comments: “Our competitive tender to take on this work showed that we had the potential for expansion on the site [at Thorncliffe] and already possessed the management and skilled workforce who can be used flexibly as demand requires between the traditional store activity and the new Lifestore – hence the M&S decision to expand, rather than set up a new dedicated warehouse.”

In-store visibility

Linking the Gateshead and Thorncliffe warehouses is ULTIMA, Salvesen’s in-house designed warehouse management system. Interfaced directly with M&S’ systems, ULTIMA gives M&S staff in-store visibility of stock levels and automates overnight replenishment from Thorncliffe. Orders raised in store are immediately interfaced to ULTIMA and picked by Salvesen for collection, with screens linked to ULTIMA in the collection bay letting customers know when their furniture is ready.

At Thorncliffe, Salvesen has installed the latest voice activated technology to control the picking process to satisfy orders raised in the Lifestore, on the Internet and through M&S’ homeware call centre.

Paul Denham, programme director for M&S Lifestore, says: “Marks & Spencer Lifestore provides an authoritative product offer, in an inspirational environment, giving customers the confidence to style their homes around the way they want to lead their lives. Working with Christian Salvesen, we have created our first ever ‘instant furniture’ offer, promising customers delivery of their goods within a 15 minute timeframe, moving them to their car and providing an enhanced experience, where the customer never lifts the product.”

Brian Gaunt, managing director at Christian Salvesen UK, comments: “The new Marks & Spencers’ Lifestore aims to redefine the way we furnish our homes. The entire fulfilment operation, from helping customers to the car to replenishing stock overnight, is geared to add to the customer experience, alongside the inspirational store environment and the significantly extended product offer.”

The contract builds on a 15-year relationship with M&S, to carry out storage and distribution of the retailer’s general merchandising from M&S’ Thorncliffe, Hardwick and Neasden sites. Last year, Salvesen was awarded a contract for M&S’ frozen warehousing and distribution to its 350 stores across the UK. n