Dutch retailer RFS to build 100 mln euro online distribution centre
AMSTERDAM, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Dutch retailer RFS Holland Holding, which owns the wehkamp.nl online store, is to build what it says will be the world's largest automated online distribution centre, able to deliver 80,000 packages a day.
Internet shopping is growing rapidly in the Netherlands, with half of all purchases by Dutch retail customers expected to be online within a decade, RFS said.
Online sales in the country rose by about 10 percent to more than 10.5 billion euros ($14.2 billion) in 2012, the Dutch association for online retailers said on its website.
The new centre, covering 35,000 square metres, will be built in the northern Dutch city of Zwolle by 2015 at a cost of more than 100 million euros, RFS said.
RFS, which sells clothing, accessories, small electronic appliances and furniture, is the second-largest Dutch online retailer, with annual sales of 600 million euros.
The company said it will invest up to 80 million euros in the distribution centre, with Belgian warehouse developer WDP (WDPP.BR) investing up to 30 million euros and the Dutch government contributing up to 2 million euros in local infrastructure.
Technology will be supplied by Austrian distribution automation specialist Knapp AG (KNAPP.UL), RFS added.
The centre will use 468 automated warehouse shuttles to pick up items from 480,000 warehouse locations, enabling it to process 61 million items a year, or make 80,000 same-day deliveries in the Netherlands.
"Amazon has more floorspace and employees, but in terms of automated distribution among the online retailers, we will be the biggest," RFS spokesman Dirk van den Bogaart said in a telephone interview.
The warehouse will be the size of 10 football pitches and will have 8,000 pallet locations and 2.5km of shelving.
"The automisation will enable us to work twice as fast," Jurrie Jan Bruins, finance director at RFS, said in a statement. "Within 30 minutes of an order, the package will be ready to be delivered to the customer."
Dutch retailers have been investing heavily in online operations to compete for market share.
Royal Ahold this year acquired bol.com, the biggest non-food online retailer, for 350 million euros to expand its internet offering to include books, DVDs and toys. ($1 = 0.7414 euros)
(Reporting By Anthony Deutsch; Editing by David Goodman)