AROUND 200 jobs are under threat at one of Portsmouth’s most successful companies as it considers moving part of its operation to the Midlands.
Staff working in online bike retailer Wiggle’s distribution centre in North Harbour, Portsmouth, have been told a ‘consultation process’ has begun, with redundancies a possibility if the firm decides to move out of the area.
A source has told The News up to 200 permanent staff and agency workers are worried they could lose their jobs.
Wiggle says it has had to look for a new centre outside of the city because none of the properties on the market are large enough to meet demand.
However, it has stressed it will continue growing other elements of the business in the city – with its head office recently moving to 1000 Lakeside in Western Road, North Harbour.
One Wiggle warehouse employee, who did not want to be named, said: ‘Everyone is feeling deflated and less motivated knowing that it’s unlikely we will have a job this time next year, and that we now need to find a new job in times that are still hard for people to find employment.
‘We have been told the move is still in the early planning stages, but they have told us redundancies will start as early as next July if needs be.
‘I’m already looking for jobs and have applied for a couple already, and I know some of my colleagues are doing the same.
‘Others who have worked for Wiggle for longer are waiting to see what redundancy packages are on offer.’
Staff were told in a briefing ‘no-one is formally at risk of redundancy at this point’.
Richard Boon, human resources director for Wiggle, told The News: ‘Wiggle is considering relocating its warehouse operations.
‘The exceptional growth of Wiggle has resulted in the need for more warehouse space than the current 95,000 sq ft.
‘We now require warehouse space of around 300,000 sq ft to maintain our growth momentum.
‘Wiggle has been unable to find suitable premises in the Portsmouth area for its needs.
‘The midlands is one of those options. We continue to grow our presence in Portsmouth.
‘If redundancies become necessary as a result of any move, it is unlikely that any would be implemented before summer 2015.
‘We would certainly consider relocating staff to any new site.’
The company refused to say how many people work in its distribution centre because it would give ‘competitive advantage to other companies’ but said it is fewer than The News has been told by sources.
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said she will contact Wiggle to see if she or the government could assist with finding a larger site for the firm’s distribution operation to stay in the area.
‘We are always looking at declassifying old Ministry of Defence sites and other public land across the region,’ she said.
‘We have to make sure they are available for businesses. I have taken a lot of calls recently from businesses looking to move to the area who are looking for sites.
‘We have a lot of office space here but spaces for storage and factory floors is at a premium.’
Councillor Luke Stubbs, Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic development, said he will see what the authority can do to help find a site.
He said: ‘Wiggle started as a bike shop in Portsmouth nearly a century ago.
‘It would be a huge shame to lose them now and obviously the loss of jobs would be a heavy blow.
‘The supply of warehouse space within Portsmouth itself is pretty much fixed, but there may be sites within the wider region.’