Ocado Retail chief celebrates Sunderland team’s success

Ocado Retail’s CEO, Mel Smith CBE, has spoken of the ‘huge significance’ of the firm’s Sunderland site, less than two years after the global grocer arrived in the city. 

With 300 full time employees already in post, less than 18 months since it opened a new base in the city centre’s Beam building on Riverside Sunderland, the company has transferred its Sunderland team to its growing Retail arm, a move that will create greater development opportunities for its talented employees.

The transfer to Ocado Retail from its logistics business was celebrated with colleagues yesterday [Monday, March 15], with CEO of Ocado Retail, Melanie Smith CBE and the rest of the Ocado Retail leadership team, present to mark the occasion. 

Mel, who joined Ocado Retail after holding a Strategy Director role at Marks & Spencer, said she was proud to count the Sunderland office as part of her team, and that – as the firm aims to increase its customer base from 350,000 a week to closer to 500,000 a week – the team would play an important role in the ongoing expansion of the firm. 

“The move into Sunderland has really helped the company to advance its growth plans and I am delighted to now count the 300-strong Customer Hub team as part of Ocado Retail.

“Despite only opening our Sunderland base in late 2019, with less than 6 months of operations before Covid-19 hit the UK, the team have shown incredible commitment.  We have been able to quickly ramp up operations in Sunderland, building a talented team from a standing start. 

“The skilled workforce was just one of the reasons we were attracted to the area and Sunderland has delivered for us.”

She added: “Today’s a really exciting day, and it’s been fantastic to celebrate with colleagues as we all look to an exciting future for Ocado Retail.”

The event saw socially-distanced celebrations running throughout the day, with staff attending in small groups to meet the leadership team. 

Patrick Melia, chief executive of Sunderland City Council attended the event to learn more about Ocado’s plans and share with Mel, and Ocado’s leadership team, the vision for Riverside Sunderland.

“Ocado’s a fantastic brand that is going from strength to strength and we are thrilled to have them in Sunderland,” he said.

“As the great many businesses that choose Sunderland know, we have an unrivalled skills-base, attractive offices that represent excellent value for money, and we have an enviable work-life balance which means businesses here enjoy the benefit of happy colleagues who deliver service with a smile.  We’re thrilled Ocado Retail is seeing these many benefits.”

Ocado announced plans to move into The Beam in summer 2019, with colleagues moving in shortly after.  It is one of three businesses that occupies the office, with training and health and safety company, Penshaw View, and oil and gas software business Asset55, also calling the building home.

The Beam was the first building to take shape on Riverside Sunderland, heralding the transformation of the former Vaux Brewery site.  Since then, plans for City Hall have moved forward, and the building is little over six months from completion, and two further offices are set to be constructed, after planning permission was granted earlier this year. 

Just over the road, the Auditorium is also in the final phases of construction.  A new hotel is rising from the ground at Keel Square, a new Culture House will take shape directly opposite and the ground is being prepared for investment at the former Crowtree site.  Work is also expected to get started on the first tranche of 1,000 new homes on the city’s riverside, and a new pedestrian bridge will link both sides of the river.