Lidl has begun operations from a new £55 million logistics hub in Exeter as it looks to expand its distribution network and invest £1.45bn in its UK operations by 2019.
The new 50,000 m² facility in the Exeter Gateway business park will service 40 stores across the region during the busy Christmas period, rising to 51 from February 2018.
The opening comes as part of Lidl’s wider investment and modernisation programme across the South West. Half of the supermarket’s existing estate in the area is being refurbished in the next year.
Across the UK, Lidl has ambitious expansion plans, aiming to invest £1.45 billion in growing the business by 2019. RDCs will make up a significant part of this objective, with the Exeter site becoming the 12th in Lidl’s portfolio.
It is the third distribution centre opened by the supermarket in the past 12 months, following the opening of a facility in Wednesday in the West Midlands earlier this year.
The retailer also recently announced plans to build its largest RDC in Britain on a 34-acre site in Peterborough.
The Exeter centre will serve stores from Penzance to Burnham-on-Sea and across to Weymouth, with 1,700 pallets of products expected to pass through the facility every day.
Over Christmas the warehouse is predicted to distribute around 150,000 packs of carrots, 100,000 bags of parsnips and 100,000 packs of Brussels sprouts in the week leading up to Christmas day.
Lidl confirmed contracts with 14 suppliers to the centre, including prepared salad and vegetable manufacturer Kanes Foods, in deals set to be worth more than £100 million over the next five years.
The supermarket said it is also offering its partners extensive export opportunities to Lidl markets worldwide.
Regional director Mark Henry said: “Christmas is the busiest and most exciting time of year at Lidl. This new regional distribution centre will play an essential role in helping us meet growing customer demand.
“The South West is an important region for Lidl and it’s an area where we’ve experienced particularly strong growth.
“We remain committed to creating high-quality jobs for the communities we serve and this new centre gives us another great opportunity to do just that.”
Lidl said the new centre had created approximately 500 jobs for the area. And earlier this week Lidl became the UK’s highest-paying supermarket, after giving all 16,000 of its hourly-paid employees a raise.
This includes increasing entry-level wages to the new voluntary living wage to ensure that salaries support the real cost of living.
In 2015 the supermarket became the first British supermarket to make this commitment.