Luxury brand Burberry has announced its intention to relocate approximately 300 jobs into Leeds city centre from its London headquarters in a move it says reinforces its commitment to Yorkshire.
The maker of luxury clothes and goods is to open the Leeds office by October this year, a move it said would create a “second hub” for the international business alongside its London HQ.
It said the Leeds office - to be dubbed the Burberry Business Services Centre - will house much of Burberry’s finance, procurement and human resources operations, as well as some call centre and IT personnel.
Burberry bosses said Leeds had been selected for the new base ahead of several prospective sites both domestically and overseas, and cited its transport links, skilled workforce and reputation as a centre for business as the rationale for their choice.
The company has previously revealed plans to build a state-of-the-art manufacturing centre in the city to make its famous trench coats but has since placed these plans under review following internal changes in the business and the uncertainty in the wake of the Brexit vote.
However its chief operating and finance officer Julie Brown told The Yorkshire Post that the decision to create the new office in the city was totally separate to the ongoing internal discussions over the manufacturing site and said that it is to begin the consultation process of moving the jobs to Leeds immediately.
No firm details are given on the location of the new office as yet but Ms Brown assured this newspaper that it would be “around five minutes from the station”, with full details anticipated in the next few days following the competition of lease agreements.
The jobs are being relocated as part of Burberry’s previously announced plans to make massive reductions to its cost expenditure of around £100m.
Vacating office space in its current base in Westminster in the capital is one of the means it is employing to address this.
Ms Brown said: “Subject to consultation with employees this will bring under one roof our UK, European and European shared service team from procurement, from finance and HR and will be called the Burberry Business Services Centre.
“Our UK based customer service team will also move there as well as some IT roles relating to the helpdesk.
“We anticipate relocating approximately 300 roles predominantly from London to Leeds. We will start the move after the summer of this year and continue into next year.
“We are also delighted to deepen our ties with Leeds. It reinforces our commitment to the UK and to Yorkshire, which is of course the home of our iconic trench coat.
“What we are trying to do is have a second hub if you like in Yorkshire, which is the home of Burberry. That is one of the reasons why we have chosen to put this shared service centre into there.”
Ms Brown called the relocation of its shared service operations to Leeds “very good news for the UK and good news for Yorkshire”.
“One of the considerations we looked into was connections with universities so that you have got a highly skilled workforce and population available. And also favourability of the environment towards business here.
“We see it as an attractive destination for business generally. We assessed other UK destinations and we assessed overseas locations but we have chosen to stay in the UK with this.
“The historical connection with Burberry and our trench coat, and Leeds as a developing centre, both of those came together to say ‘yes, we will base it here’.
“The choice of Leeds is a strong endorsement and a vote of confidence in Leeds as a city.”
On the issue of the manufacturing plant Ms Brown said: “We are continuing to assess our plans for a weaving facility in Leeds.
“We are taking some time to think through the plans. We are definitely committed to retaining manufacturing in Yorkshire.
“What we are doing is assessing the plans whether we build a new facility since that announcement Brexit has occurred and created a lot of uncertainty and since that time we have had a lot of changes within the business as well. We want to take some time to get this right. It will be a very important investment for us.”
She added that if any of the staff being relocated to Leeds decided not to make the move that Burberry would recruit replacements into the city.
“The priority at the moment is the employees,” she said. “It is entirely down to them whether they relocate or not.”
The move has received warm welcome from the city’s civic and business leaders.
Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “This is fantastic news and a real vote of confidence in Leeds as a place to do business.
“It’s hugely exciting that we are the clear choice for Burberry to locate their newly-created shared service centre. It is testament to the value of Leeds as a destination for financial and professional services with the right infrastructure of skills, innovation and digital excellence to support that.
“We have a long and valued relationship with Burberry and will continue to work with them constructively as they continue to assess their plans for a manufacturing and weaving facility here.”
Gerald Jennings, President, Leeds Chamber of Commerce, said: “This announcement is really exciting news for Leeds and reinforces the point we continue to make, that great transport connectivity is fundamental to securing inward investment. As we have said previously, not a track has been laid for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail yet companies are already making strategic, long term decisions to locate and invest in Leeds. With our city’s heritage in clothing manufacturing, access to talent from some of the UK’s top universities and colleges, combined with the reputation for being the economic capital of Yorkshire I am sure Burberry will benefit from this investment into Leeds.”
Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) which worked with Burberry to support the business case for this new office added:
“It’s fantastic to see Burberry commit its future to the City Region and recognise the strength of our professional services offer and our heritage within the textiles industry. I’m delighted that the LEP were able to work closely with one of the world’s most recognisable brands to ensure it selected the region as the location for its new centre of excellence for business services.
“Today’s announcement comes as our City Region is seeing increased levels of interest from FTSE 100 companies who see benefits such as increased productivity as a result of relocating here.
“I look forward to working with Burberry in the future and further developing our long-standing relationship with this British icon!”
Christopher Bailey, Chief Creative and Chief Executive Officer of Burberry, said: “This is an important move for Burberry as we continue to deliver on the strategic priorities we outlined last year.
“In addition to the benefits it will bring to the business, opening an office in Leeds reinforces our commitment to the UK and to Yorkshire, home of our iconic trench coat.”