As many as 150 jobs are on the line as part of The Warehouse group's proposal to 11 close distribution centres and change staff rosters in eight stores under a radical new pilot scheme.
The retail group is planning to consolidate 11 regional distribution centres into one central facility and experiment with jobs in eight stores, it announced today.
Pejman Okhovat, The Warehouse chief executive, said the move would improve the company's online shopping service.
The new distribution centre would create about 100 jobs, but it was unclear whether any of the 150 affected staff would be re-employed at the single facility.
The Warehouse released a statement this morning, confirming "that as part of its transformation and efforts to improve experiences for its customers, it is proposing a number of changes within its business.
"The business is experiencing significant online growth and is seeing changes in customer shopping patterns, all of which require the business to adapt and change itself. There are two proposals underway that relate to the significant increase in online sales and the increasing customer expectations around that," Okhovat announced.
One was a consultation with team members in 11 in-store fulfilment centres where online orders are currently filled. The proposal recommends closing the centres and moving the online fulfilment task to centralised distribution centres. The proposed new centralised distribution model would offer customers a seamless experience with the online range being housed in a central location and supported by a world-class warehouse management system, Okhovat said.
The second proposal related to the customer engagement centre with changes designed to improve response times and service levels, particularly as customer interaction volumes increase.
"The proposed changes to the way the centres operate include increasing service hours and adding flexibility, particularly around scaling up peak periods such as Christmas. This will address the continued strong online customer growth, which requires ongoing flexibility to manage customer demand and make use of new technologies," Okhovat said.
"Part of this proposal will see customer enquiries being handled by either Wiri or Hamilton customer engagement centres and in some cases by a global partner. Our team members are currently providing feedback to the proposals and this will be considered before any decisions are made," Okhovat said.
"In addition to the two proposals, we have confirmed that we will be undertaking a pilot in eight of our The Warehouse stores to test how the implementation of an updated labour operating model and rosters will improve our in-store customer experience," he announced.
"The updated labour operating model reflects the changing patterns of customer behaviour, particularly as online and omnichannel gain importance for customers shopping habits. Until August last year, the model had remained largely unchanged for several years despite significant changes in customer expectations and the way we run our stores," Okhovat said.
The pilot would start next month and test changes to roster hours and assess the impact of the changes "which we anticipate will enable a more consistent customer experience in store, support better store planning, improve job satisfaction for our teams and ensure a fairer allocation of available hours for team members.
"We are working with team members in the pilot stores to understand their preferences around any updated shifts and hours," he said.
This move comes after a major leadership restructure last year, which affected 180 jobs across 92 stores.
Those changes hit supervisors and team leaders.
At the time, Kate Davis, First Union national coordinator for The Warehouse, said the changes were about cost-cutting.
"I think this is a far cry from The Warehouse we used to know, that Stephen Tindall built, which was like a community-based organisation that gave back to the workers," Davis said.
The Herald has contacted First Union for more information on Okhovat's announcement today.