The Cotton On Group has long been loved for the brands and trend-driven value products that it has brought to South Africa’s shores, such as Cotton On, Typo and Factorie. Now, the retail group has taken its presence in the region further by investing in a R300 million custom-built new central office and distribution centre in Johannesburg, that will further enhance their customer experience. Beyond signifying a commitment to the country, the new premises are an extension of the company’s pledge to Doing Good in all areas of its operations.
I was part of a handful of selected media to attend a VIP walk through of the new facility, and I got to see just how massive an operation it is to house millions of items, and to satisfy customers when they “add to cart” and order online.
Earlier this year, the Cotton On group published The Good Report, detailing sustainability as central to its purpose, making public its commitment to water, plastic and waste reduction, carbon neutrality, ethical sourcing, the use of recycled materials, sustainable packaging, uplifting women, the use of natural materials and more. This ethos was central to the design and construction of the new premises.
Combining grey water harvesting, a 200 kWp solar power plant, LED lighting, proximity sensors to reduce energy usage and an indigenous landscape, the new site was designed to operate with minimal impact to the environment. The company is currently transitioning all plastic polybags to be made with recycled plastic.
Featuring one the fastest supply chains in the world, the 22 000 sqm warehouse is geared to processing 6 000 e-commerce orders per day, 200 000 units to its retail network daily and over 20 million units per year. The centre features Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) storage and a pick mezzanine for unitised picking for store, wholesale and ecommerce orders. Built for growth and scale, an additional 50% of space will cater for future e-commerce processing.
Construction started in January 2021 and, since June 2022, 2,2million units have been moved from the company’s former premises in Pomona to the new site – more than 100 truckloads of stock.
Not only is the new campus kind to the environment and highly efficient logistically, employee wellness, safety and a harmonious work environment have been prioritized. Both the head office and warehouse staff enjoy the same facilities and services with welcoming entrances and chill areas replicated at the two entry points. There is a state-of-the-art gym with personal trainer available, meal delivery services, coffee machines, wi-fi for all, and plants to increase productivity and replenish focus. Staff entry uses a facial recognition system.
Open workspaces at the facility encourage conversation and collaboration. Each of the company’s divisions has their own brand room that represents the core themes of their brand. Break out pods and sitting areas are available for meetings, to take calls or just catch a breather.
“Our products are pretty magical and so is our team. The new bespoke site has been designed to deliver the best possible experience for our customers and to provide our team with a great place to work,” said Natalie Wills, Country Manager for the Cotton On Group. “The campus was designed with a ‘People First’ culture approach, which underpins what our brand stands for, and this puts us in good stead to continue our excellent customer service processes, and is an extension of our commitment to making a positive impact in all areas of our business,” she added.
Here’s a short video about the tour:
A short history of Cotton On:
Launched in Geelong, Australia, Cotton On Group’s vision is to take their Aussie lifestyle to the rest of the world, Doing Good along the way. With the purpose to make a positive difference in people’s lives, today the Group has eight brands, 1,400 stores operating in 22 countries, and 18,000 team members, making it one of Australia’s largest global fashion brands. In South Africa, Cotton On operates 167 retail outlets nationally including Cotton On, Cotton On Body, Cotton On Kids, Factorie and Typo stores.