How fashion conscious girls created 1,200 jobs at PrettyLittleThing warehouse in Sheffield

Umar Kamani, chief executive of PrettyLittleThing, at his new warehouse in Sheffield. Pic: Steve Parkin.
Umar Kamani, chief executive of PrettyLittleThing, at his new warehouse in Sheffield. Pic: Steve Parkin.
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What links Kourtney Kardashian, thousands of Sheffield girls and 1,200 new jobs for the city?

Kourtney, a US reality television star, is paid by fashion brand PrettyLittleThing to promote their clothes. But she isn’t alone, Kylie Jenner, a fellow social media star, and last year’s winner of Love Island, Amber Davies, are also on the books.

Umar Kamani, Mazher Iqbal, of Sheffield City Council, left, and Clipper founder and executive chairman Steve Parkin. Picture Steve Parkin.

Umar Kamani, Mazher Iqbal, of Sheffield City Council, left, and Clipper founder and executive chairman Steve Parkin. Picture Steve Parkin.

They wear super-trendy garments designed and made in under four weeks, creating an irresistible package for millions of girls across the globe - including 100,000 customers in Sheffield over the last 12 months, the firm says.

This success - PLT is growing 228 per cent a year - has led to it taking one of the biggest warehouses in the country, on Shepcote Lane, Tinsley, with the promise of 1,200 jobs.

Umar Kamani, the 30-year-old multi-millionaire boss, came to have a look at the largest part of his empire, arriving in a huge, black, convertible Rolls Royce.

He said: “I think PLT customers have built the brand. Young girls feel close to it and part of the culture. We’ve had a great reaction on social media. The buzz and excitement is amazing. I’m happy we can be a part of it and create a lot of jobs.

New 615'000 sq ft warehouse on Shecote Lane.  Picture Steve Parkin.

New 615'000 sq ft warehouse on Shecote Lane. Picture Steve Parkin.

“We know Sheffield. As a student I used to come and party in Sheffield’s bars and clubs.”

And the city knows the firm: taxis and trams have been painted its trademark pink.

PrettyLittleThing will despatch its first clothes from Tinsley in July and be fully operational by September.

It has signed a 10-year deal with Clipper Logistics to run the site and the two firms are sharing the multi-million costs of fitting it out with racking and automation.

From left: Coun Mazher Iqbal, Umar Kamani, and Clipper founder Steve Parkin.

From left: Coun Mazher Iqbal, Umar Kamani, and Clipper founder Steve Parkin.

Richard Cowlishaw, HR director at Clipper, said the warehouse would employ 600-900 ‘core’ staff and up to 1,200 at busy periods like Christmas and during promotions such as Black Friday. The building has space for extra floors that could accommodate a further 800 workers.

None of the jobs would be ‘zero hours’ and Clipper paid a “competitive, market rate”, above the minimum wage, he added. The warehouse will operate 24 hours-a-day 364 days-a-year.

Tony Mannix, chief executive of Clipper, said they had 44 sites across Europe for firms including Asda, John Lewis and Harvey Nichols. Online shopping was now 45 per cent of business.

He added: “As internet shopping gets bigger and Click and Collect gets more important, Sheffield is the perfect place for us. It has an available workforce and manageable costs.

“We want to bring people in and develop them. We want to change perceptions of logistics and distribution as forklifts and lorries.

“Sheffield City Council has been unbelievably supportive. It’s important for a business like us to know the council is going to help. We need to recruit quickly, set up operations and develop talent. It needs to feel like a partnership and that’s what we have here.”

The deal is set to be worth more than £1m-a-year in business rates to the council.

Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business, said it proved Sheffield was business friendly.

He added: “It’s great news after months of negotiations. Clipper has said they are here for the long term.”

The authority also helped find the site and with planning matters, he added.

Some £1.15m of taxpayers’ cash has been set aside by the Sheffield City Region organisation to pay Clipper for each job it creates, some £958 per job.

Chris Scholey of the SCR, said it was money well spent in return for the wages and business rates the firm would pay.

INTERNET DRIVES FAST FASHION

In the old days fashion buyers would select clothes in summer that would be in the shops in winter.

Even today, it takes several months for high street retailers to get new clothes on shelves, according to Paul Papworth, financial director at PrettyLittleThing.

In contrast, PLT garments go from the drawing board to girls’ wardrobes in under four weeks - with up to 50 per cent made in the UK for speed.

It allows the firm to collaborate with Kourtney Kardashian or Amber Davies of Love Island on new ranges which they model on Instagram and customers can buy.

As the website says: ‘Like what you see? Shop the looks from your fave influencer of the moment straight from the ‘Gram.’

Tony Mannix, boss of Clipper Logistics, which will run the new PLT Sheffield warehouse, said: “Customers are telling us what’s trendy, it’s no longer retailers telling the customer. But they want brands they trust.

“We need to be unbelievably fast and do it very well.”