International companies’ search for post-Brexit UK hub boosting Snetterton logistics firm

Johnston Logistics UK finance director, Rob McIndoe, in one of the warehouses at Snetterton. Picture

Johnston Logistics UK finance director, Rob McIndoe, in one of the warehouses at Snetterton. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

While many businesses are bemoaning the trade barriers which Brexit could cause, a logistics company off the A11 has found a silver lining.

Johnston Logistics, which sits in a sector hub in Snetterton with distributors like DPD and FedEx on its doorstep, provides warehousing for companies including major UK supermarkets and Amazon.

The 30-year-old firm has increased its warehouse capacity to 400,000 sqft recently – capable of holding around 35,000 pallets – and has space to expand by a further 10%.

Its customer base is already global, with clients in Canada, Australia and Israel.

But with fears of increased border security in the UK post-Brexit, more international companies are seeking out UK logistics hubs – and many are turning to Johnston.

Director Rob McIndoe said international enquiries have almost doubled in the past year, helped by the engagement of a new marketing firm in November.

'We have experienced businesses looking for a UK hub, businesses based both in the EU and outside, to protect their position post-Brexit,' he said.

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'As a business we already work with companies abroad so we are able to demonstrate to potential new business that we have that working relationship.'

He added: 'We want to grow our skills to be the 'go to' for logistics provision, either for companies wanting to come into the UK for Brexit provisions or to come into East Anglia from other parts of the UK.'

Mr McIndoe's decision to drive the business 'in the direction of quality' has led to a raft of industry accreditations, including BRC (British Retail Consortium) AA certified warehousing, authorised economic operator (AEO) status from HMRC – an internationally recognised standard – and organic certification from the Soil Association.

It is also accredited to carry out due diligence checks for customers importing goods to the UK.

Its main market is food and drink storage although one of its most recently secured contracts is with an Italian clothes company.

Mr McIndoe said being able to offer big names, such as the major supermarkets it works with, as part of a tender had helped business, but he added: 'We have also got to deliver on it'.

The business is now also sharing best practice with companies in and outside the UK on excise and customs, using its 10 years of experience in the alcohol industry.

The e-commerce boom

Storage for e-commerce is another growing area for Johnston Logistics.

One of its major clients is Amazon – it deals with the firm directly, storing stock for its warehouses, and also provides warehousing for companies who sell through the global platform.

While entering the e-commerce world has benefits for business, it has had an impact on day-to-day operations.

The growth in demand for next-day delivery means orders are being received later, and the company has had to implement a night shift for its factory workers, who pick and pack online orders for distribution.

It is also bringing in new warehouse management software to help improve its e-commerce service.

'It has become a 'day one for day two' operation. It is fast paced and we have got to keep up,' said Mr McIndoe.

He believes the increased number of e-commerce enquiries the company is seeing 'is related to what we are seeing on the high street'.