Welcome to Santa’s gigantic online grotto - in Fife

IT IS the largest Amazon depot in Europe, a vast warehouse that stretches the length of 14 football pitches and which at its peak will receive 27 orders per second.

Yesterday, First Minister Alex Salmond opened the internet retailer’s vast new “fulfilment centre” in Fife, or as millions of customers across Britain and Europe will come to view it: “Santa’s grotto”.

The huge warehouse in Dunfermline employs not elves but 750 full-time staff, who will be joined by a further 750 seasonal workers, to ensure that everything from a pair of Hunter Unisex Gloss wellies to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is dutifully wrapped and under the tree by Christmas Day.

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At its peak on Cyber Monday, 5 December, which is the busiest day of the year for online shopping, the warehouse can expect to shift more than 200 tonnes of goods within a single 24-hour period.

An army of “pickers” will gather the components of about ten customers’ orders at a time, guided by a hand-held “satnav” device that displays what is to be collected and the shortest possible route around the one million sq ft warehouse.

Once collected, the goods are packed and, if necessary, gift-wrapped, before snaking through the centre on a motorised conveyor belt to the vast lorry bays where they are collected for delivery.

Yesterday, Mr Salmond joined the company’s European operations vice-president, Allan Lyall, and Fife Council leader Peter Grant to officially open the fulfilment centre.

Mr Salmond also opened Amazon’s new customer service centre at Waverley Gate in Edinburgh, which handles internet and telephone customer queries, and is said to be planning about 900 permanent and temporary jobs over five years.

Mr Salmond said: “The opening of Amazon’s fantastic new fulfilment centre in Dunfermline is a testament to their continued success as a world-leading online retailer.

“The Scottish Government, working with our enterprise agencies and with SDI [Scottish Development International], is determined to continue working with leading global companies such as Amazon to encourage them to invest and grow their business in Scotland, delivering jobs and supporting economic growth across the country.”

Both developments, along with the creation of 200 posts at Amazon’s Gourock warehouse, have been given £4.3 million in Scottish Enterprise Regional Selective Assistance grants and training awards. Another £6.3m is available for Amazon, to support the construction of the Dunfermline building through the Scottish Enterprise Property Support Scheme.

Amazon now has seven fulfilment centres in the UK: in Dunfermline, Gourock, Swansea Bay, Marston Gate, Peterborough, Doncaster and Rugeley.

The Dunfermline centre is sited on development land alongside the M90 near the A92 junction. Initially a bookseller, Amazon has expanded its range to offer millions of items across a range of categories.

Mr Lyall said: “We aim to offer our customers the highest level of service and this centre will play an important role in the delivery of millions of items to customers all over the UK, Europe and the world.

“The talented workforce from our Glenrothes fulfilment centre is transferring to Dunfermline and bringing with them a wealth of experience and Amazon knowledge for the benefit of all our customers.

“Scotland has been a fantastic location for a number of Amazon fulfilment centres over the years, so when we needed a home for our new customer service centre, Edinburgh was top of the list.

“With the new fulfilment centre and customer services centre in place, we look forward to a busy Christmas period and providing our customers with low prices, vast selection and a high level of convenience.”