Around 300 jobs at online bike retailer Chain Reaction Cycles in Co. Antrim are under threat with the proposed relocation to Wolverhampton of significant warehouse activities currently in Doagh, Carrickfergus and Ballyclare. There are currently 152 full-time jobs as well as 161 agency staff based in these warehouses in Northern Ireland.
Chain Reaction Cycles were taken over by Wiggle earlier this year and the newly formed company WiggleCRC said that it had carried out a review of operations in England and Northern Ireland after the deal. The losses would affect about half of its workforce in Northern Ireland.
The company also said that it had decided to keep its separate websites and brands, as well as a presence in Northern Ireland.
Chain Reaction Cycles started out as a small bike shop named Ballynure Cycles which was opened in 1985 by George and Janice Watson using a £1500 bank loan in the small village of Ballynure in Northern Ireland.
In late 1999 the company registered domain name www.ChainReactionCycles.com and launched the Chain Reaction Cycles website. The first sale was a chain link sold for 11p chain. The sales grew each year, and eventually Chain Reaction Cycles became the world’s largest online bike store. In 2011 revenues were £136.4 million (€170 million).
In 2013, Wiggle moved ahead of Chain Reaction when sales at the family-owned firm dropped six percent to £145m. The Watson family is said to have a personal fortune of £200m.
The statement from the company said: “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.”
“Should the proposal go ahead, we would expect the relocation of stock and activities to commence in late summer 2017,” the company added.
“We hope this extended period of time will help to smooth the transition for those affected. We recognise that these are uncertain times for affected employees and can confirm they will be treated fairly and in line with our values.
“We are fully committed to minimising the impact of these proposals and providing all the necessary support to affected employees in any way we can during and after this process.”