VIP stops off at Stiller as part of 80-destination road trip

Published: 18 Apr 2024

The boss of Britain’s leading trade body for the warehousing industry motored along to Stiller’s Aycliffe site as part of a series of celebratory car trips.

To mark the 80th birthday of the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA) – as well as 2024’s “Year of Warehousing” campaign – UKWA CEO Clare Bottle is driving around the UK in her branded Tesla to visit 80 warehouses.

Stiller was number 16 on her itinerary, which began in Wellingborough in January and is due to take her through until mid-October.

On arrival at Aycliffe, she was given a warm North-East welcome, plus a tour of the vast site, by Stiller MD Matthew Stiller, warehouse manager Gary Auston, business development manager Thomas Prentice and the CEO of Stiller’s adopted charity The Children’s Foundation, Sean Soulsby.

During her two-hour stay, Clare was shown around the extensive, 350,000-sq ft Stiller complex, including their new dedicated facility for its contract packaging and assembly service.

Clare told Aycliffe Business that her quest to visit 80 warehouses is going well so far.

She said: “I’m loving it – I want to showcase to local areas that a warehouse in your community can be a real force for good.

“People sometimes imagine that a warehouse is a bad thing – I don’t know why, probably because they don’t know much about it.

“If you’ve never been inside, you might think it’s not relevant or a good thing, but a warehouse can have fabulous charitable-type links, as well as create great job opportunities and career prospects for people in the community.”

Clare said it was her first time visiting Stiller, which was founded in 1954 and last year posted an impressive £21m turnover, employing more than 200 people at its Aycliffe base.

As well as celebrating 80 years of the UKWA, Clare said her mission to visit 80 warehouses was about raising the profile of the industry – and getting the movers and shakers to take notice of a sector that’s vital to the UK economy.

She explained: “Consumers and businesses need the activities that go on inside warehouses, so we’re doing a bit of showcasing what we do for local communities and, in parallel, trying to capitalise on the fact it’s an election year and talk to politicians, policymakers and parliamentarians about why warehousing is such a good thing for the economy.

“Because of our connection to logistics and freight transport, we’re often seen as a sector that needs to be regulated – a sort of necessary evil.

“But we want to shift the rhetoric because if you look at any part of the economy, whether it’s healthcare, defence, retail or manufacturing, none of those things can function without the logistics to back them up.

“It still never ceases to amaze me the range of different goods you see when you go to warehouses. Everything you can imagine goes through a warehouse at some point.

“And we hear a lot from both big political parties about how they want to fuel more growth because our economy is stagnating. Well, one thing they could do to facilitate that growth is to unlock some of the things holding us back in warehousing – things like the planning system, which doesn’t work well for developing new warehouse buildings.”

During her Stiller tour, Clare was shown the new contract packaging base, 1.1km away from head office and, according to business development manager Thomas, “another important string to our bow”.

And she was particularly struck with the work of The Children’s Foundation, which uses Stiller’s fulfilment centre as a base to store, pack and distribute its boxes for new parents – boxes full of childcare essentials, along with developmentally stimulating books and toys.

Matthew Stiller, who was presented with a certificate to mark Clare’s visit, said: “It’s lovely to have a direct link to the head of your trade association.

“I’m pleased at UKWA’s renewed focus on training and career development within the sector.”