Putting life into Lifestore!

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Highstreet retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) is currently trialling a new store concept designed to take advantage of the growing market of consumers buying products for the home. Called Lifestore, the pilot scheme centres on M&S’ Gateshead store with a two-storey house built inside to provide the ideal environment for showcasing the retailer’s product range. M&S will extend the scheme this summer at a town centre store in Kingston-upon-Thames and in Summer 2005 with the opening of large scale store at West Thurrock’s Lakeside Retail Park.

M&S Lifestore scheme looks all set to revolutionise the experience of buying goods for the home. Built around the concept of a two-storey house, the Gateshead store – the first of its kind – brings together products for the home, from around the globe, in a format that fits the way people live their lives, via nine concept zones, including relax, renew and escape.

The opening of the Gateshead store is the first step in M&S’ bid to become a leader in the rapidly growing UK homeware market, estimated to be worth £20Bn, in which it currently holds a 2% share of the market.

And it has been up to European logistics specialist Christian Salvesen to design and implement the storage and fulfilment operation for the flagship M&S Lifestore at Gateshead. The company is providing a supply chain solution that is central to the success of the pilot store, and also involves its own employees dealing with M&S Lifestore customers.

It is also the first time that M&S has involved a contractor to the extent of dealing directly with customers at the store. Wearing M&S Lifestore uniform, Salvesen staff based on-site from 7am to 11pm on weekdays and seven days per week, will pick customer orders within 15 minutes, meet customers at the customer collection point and move goods to their car.

The fulfilment solution, designed by Christian Salvesen involves receiving, picking and replenishing 12,000 product lines from 350 suppliers around the world from a national distribution centre at Thorncliffe, Sheffield, and on-site at the new store.

Stock availability

Critical to the £14M pilot is an efficient supply chain. The warehouse solution, designed by Christian Salvesen, incorporates a 2,232sq m extension housing 10,000 pallet spaces at M&S’ general merchandising warehouse at Thorncliffe and a fit-out at the 1,023sq m warehouse at Gateshead. Fully racked to 12m at Thorncliffe, there is capacity to accommodate growing volumes of merchandise with the opening of other M&S Lifestores in Kingston-upon-Thames and Lakeside Retail Park, Thurrock.

The Store Warehouse in Gateshead features racking from Linpac Storage Systems which has been installed against a layout supplied by Salvesen’s Technical Services Group (TSG). The layout comprises four aisles of eight double bays along each side with ground plus six beams high.

Richard Wriglesworth, general manager of Salvesen’s Thorncliffe distribution centre, says that the first beam is set at 2m to allow safe access for the pickers of the two-man lift Collect By Car product, while the remaining beams are spaced at 1.3m intervals.

Picks, says Wriglesworth, are “generated on paper” in the Store Warehouse. As soon as an order is placed at the store cash till, Salvesen has a “15 minute KPI to have the stock ready for collection”. The stock is picked, usually in singles onto flatbed trolleys awaiting Salvesen staff to deliver take them to customers’ cars and help with loading.

Materials handling equipment at the Gateshead Store Warehouse has been provided by Linde Material Handling based on the specifications from Salvesen’s TSG. The equipment comprises reach trucks for locating

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