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Around 300 permanent and agency jobs at risk at online retail giant Chain Reaction Cycles

By Margaret Canning

Published 26/10/2016

The losses will affect more than half its total workforce.
The losses will affect more than half its total workforce.

Around 300 permanent and agency jobs are at risk at online retail giant Chain Reaction Cycles after its takeover by rival Wiggle, it was announced today.

New-formed company WiggleCRC said 152 full-time jobs in its Co Antrim operations are at risk of redundancy as well as the posts of 161 agency staff, with the jobs to go next year.

The losses will affect more than half its total workforce.

The company said jobs were being moved from warehouses in Doagh, Ballyclare and Carrickfergus as it shifts most of its distribution to its warehouse in Wolverhampton.

It said it had carried out a review of operations in England and Northern Ireland after the deal, and had decided to keep its separate websites and brands, as well as a presence in Northern Ireland.

But it added: “As part of the review we are aware that delivery, including later order cut-offs and speed, is becoming increasingly important for customers and a highly competitive area for all etailers.

"For WiggleCRC to retain its position and remain competitive in the UK as well as increasingly global markets, we have concluded that this can be best achieved by concentrating the majority of our distribution through our warehouse facility in Wolverhampton.

“This necessary step, will require the relocation of significant warehouse activities currently in Doagh, Carrickfergus and Ballyclare.

“As part of this proposal, bikes and frames, including bike assembly handling activities and our wheel build operation would remain in Ballyclare.”

Chain Reaction Cycles was set up by the Watson family in 1984, starting out as a small bike shop in Ballynure.  But when Chris Watson, the son of the founders George and Janice, started working for the family firm, he branched out into online retail.

The company then became a massive success before it became a target for a merger with its bigger rival, Wiggle.  The merger was completed in June this year.

South Antrim DUP MLAs have expressed disappointment at the news.

Paul Girvan MLA said: "Today’s announcement of potential job losses will come as a great shock to those employed by the company. Chain Reaction Cycles have a manufacturing site in Ballyclare and are a very successful company, therefore today's announcement is disappointing.

"In July the company merged with Wiggle. As I understand the company carried out a review and have decided to move to a warehouse facility in Wolverhampton. If this proposal goes ahead it will affect up to 152 employees in Doagh, Carrickfergus and Ballyclare and a further 161 agency staff.

"First and foremost, my thoughts are with the employees who have received this news and face an uncertain time. Companies like Chain Reaction Cycles are important to the local economy. I hope to bring a DUP delegation to meet with senior management, as a matter of urgency, to discuss today’s news."

Speaking jointly to press, DUP MLAs Pam Cameron and Trevor Clarke further added: "This is troubling news for the Antrim area as many will have been employed by Chain Reaction Cycles. The news will be felt most acutely with the employees.

"It is important that we work together with the employees, senior management and the Economy Minister to try and save jobs, which are so vital to the Northern Ireland economy."

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