62 jobs threatened at Chain Reaction Cycles as workers offered relocation to Wolverhampton

Jobs are under threat at the WiggleCRC operation in Ballyclare
Gary McDonald Business Editor

MORE than 60 workers at Ballyclare-based cycle retailer Chain Reaction face relocating to Wolverhampton or losing their jobs.

Its owner Wiggle, which acquired the company four years ago for £73 million, says it needs to consolidate its warehouse and bike assembly operations and has entered into a consultation with workers.

Around 62 staff are impacted, and one of the potential solutions from management is offering them posts at Wiggle's operations in England's West Midlands.

The company's director of distribution Simon Downie said: “We're undergoing a consultation to review if the operations from our Whitepark warehouse will be consolidated with our Citadel warehouse in Wolverhampton.

“This decision isn't taken lightly, and we are currently undergoing a consultation period with all employees who could be impacted if the plans were to proceed.

“Our team is of the upmost importance to us and if the proposed plans are approved our ambition is to ensure as few job losses as possible.

“We would offer the opportunity for all staff to relocate to our Wolverhampton site and, where it is not possible for employees to relocate, we're ensuring we give them all the support we can to find a new position.

“The proposed plans have arisen to allow us to increase efficiencies in the business which will improve our customers' experience. The proposed plans are still in consultation period and no decisions will be finalised until the end of October at the earliest.

“Northern Ireland remains an important part of the WiggleCRC Group and the proposed plans to consolidate the warehouse and bike build operations will not impact our wider operations in Northern Ireland or the group's long-term ambitions for the Chain Reaction Cycles brand.”

Chain Reaction, which started as Ballynure Cycles in 1984 by George and Janice Watson with a bank loan of £1,500, emerged as one of the big success stories of the dotcom era in Northern Ireland.

It grew to become the world's largest online bike shop, selling 20,000 items a day to customers in 160 countries and with a staff of more than 600.

The firm opened its own 50,000 sq ft warehouse in 2005 and followed this up with a 10,000 sq ft flagship retail premises in Belfast in 2011.

When it was acquired by Wiggle in February 2016, the firm had annual sales of around £150 million.

But within eight months of the takeover, the newly-formed firm WiggleCRC decided to concentrate its warehouse facilities in Wolverhampton, leading to the loss of more than 200 jobs in Northern Ireland.

At the time, unions described the proposal as "outrageous" and "a clear case of corporate asset-stripping".

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