255 jobs at risk at Penguin Random House Rugby distribution centre

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Tuesday 08 December 2015

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Publishing giant Penguin Random House is set to close its largest distribution centre in Rugby, Warwickshire.


Physical book sales dropped by 5% to £2,748m in 2014

The company said it now has overcapacity in its distribution network due to a decline in physical book sales because of the growing e-book market.

All 255 jobs are at risk at the Rugby, Warwickshire-based distribution centre. Employees have been told about the firm’s proposals to close the centre in 2019 and informed that they are at risk of redundancy.

A four-month consultation over the proposal has now begun and redundancies will start in May 2017 if the closure goes ahead as planned.

The site’s book distribution operation would transfer to another of the group's distribution sites at Frating, near Colchester, Essex, in 2017/18.

A company spokesperson told PrintWeek the Frating site and a third distribution centre in Grantham, Lincolnshire would not be affected and added it is possible that Rugby-based employees could move across to one of these sites, but unlikely due to the geographic distance.

Penguin Random House UK chief executive Tom Weldon said: "This proposal is in no way a reflection of the contributions of all at Rugby, who have always provided an excellent service.

"Proposing to part company with colleagues is never easy. Making this proposal has been a difficult but thoroughly considered and necessary action which we believe will enable us to better match market requirements and continue to deliver the excellent distribution service for which we are known."

The business said e-book sales have gone from zero to around 25% of all book sales over the past eight years, following the launch of the Kindle in 2007.

According to the Publishers Association's latest figures, for 2014, total physical and digital book sales across the UK were down by 2% to £3.3bn. Physical book sales dropped by 5% to £2.7bn while total digital book sales rose by 11% to £563m. 

More than 100 members of union Unite work as warehouse operatives at the centre.

Unite regional officer Peter Coulson said: “It is a worrying time for the employees and their families, especially in the run-up to Christmas, and is a real blow to the local economy.

“We are due to meet the management on Tuesday 15 December to discuss the business case for closure and whether there are any options available to keep the Rugby site open.”

He added: “We will also be exploring all avenues to assist our members, including the possibility of redeployment and the company’s offer for training and support for those seeking new jobs.”

Penguin Random House was formed from the merger between Random House and Penguin Group in 2013. The group has published major 2015 titles including Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman and EL James’ Grey.

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