GREATER Manchester’s outdated road network was a big factor in the planned closure of Shop Direct’s two sites in Oldham and a third in Salford with the loss of nearly 2,000 jobs.

Interim chief executive Derek Harding said the online retailer’s decision to move its distribution operation to the East Midlands was forced by logistical necessity.

His comments followed the company’s announcement that 1,177 permanent and 815 agency staff would lose their jobs when it begins leaving its sites in Greater Manchester from mid-2020.

Currently, there are 705 permanent staff and 636 agency staff at the distribution centre in Shaw, Oldham; 413 staff and 136 agency staff at the Raven Mill returns facility in Chadderton, Oldham, and 59 staff and 43 agency staff at Little Hulton.

Its operations will move to a site in near East Midlands Airport, adjacent to the M1 and with its own rail freight terminal.

However, Mr Harding said the Speke, Merseyside-based firm said its commitment to the North West “would remain and continue”.

He explained that Shop Direct, which owns the and, can currently deliver next-day orders if they or placed before 7pm.

He went on: “The competition and the expectations of the online customer is much greater than that. So we need to be able to offer midnight, next day anywhere in the country.

“We can’t do that from this site (Chadderton) or any of the others in Greater Manchester.

“Today it takes us about four hours, from when you place your order, to when your product finds itself in a box heading off to your house, given the layout and the nature of the site here.

“That four hours is given the nature of our layout here. At the new facility will be able to do that in 30 minutes.

“If you’re on the high street here in Shaw around Christmas or November, there are an awful lot of lorries coming and going. Unfortunately, the road network here was never designed for that volume of traffic.

Mr Harding continued: “This applies to this site and also those at Raven Mill and Little Hulton.

“We looked for 18 months at trying to figure out the best solution. Our default was to try to make this location work.

“But the new facility’s on the M1, it’s next to East Midlands Airport, it’s got a rail link, and 30 minutes after placing the order, the product’s dispatched and we can get to anywhere in the country same day, but initially, we’ll be doing it next day up till midnight.

“It’s regrettable and a tough decision. We haven’t taken it lightly, but when you look at what the customers are expecting and what the competition is doing, it’s the right thing for the business going forward.

“The key point today is that we’re telling our people now and we’ll work with them over the next two and a bit years to try to prepare them for it.”

Meanwhile, local politicians and authorities have weighed in with the their reaction in the wake of the announcement.

Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, whose constituency covers Shop Direct's Shaw facility, said: “This is devastating news for the Shop Direct staff and their families and the anticipated redundancies will have a dreadful effect on the local community.

“I'm bitterly disappointed that Shop Direct failed to engage with the council or myself before this morning about their plans to move to the East Midlands in the 18 months that this has been planned.

“I’ll be working closely with the council, unions and Mayor of Greater Manchester’s office to ensure that Shop Direct management are coordinating properly with trade union representatives and that they keep their commitment to support staff impacted by these anticipated redundancies with relevant financial support, training and advice.

“I’ll also be writing to the Prime Minister, and government ministers to demand they are fully engaged in the process of supporting my constituents through this difficult process.”

Jim McMahon, MP for Oldham West and Royton, said: “This is terrible news for people employed at the sites due for closure including, Shaw and Raven Mill in Oldham.

“Many of my constituents working here will be concerned about the future, and it is vital focused support is given to them.”

Oldham Council also pledged to help affected workers.

Helen Lockwood, executive director economy, skills and neighbourhoods, said: “This announcement has come out of the blue and we feel terrible for all those affected.

“The news that a major employer plans to leave is a blow to the borough.

“We are keen to have discussions with the company as soon as possible in order to find a solution that supports our local community.

“Our Get Oldham Working team are ready to offer our help and support to staff.”