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ASOS warehouse fire halts operations

22 June 2014

A criminal investigation has been launched to establish the cause of a fire at the ASOS warehouse in Barnsley on 20 June. The warehouse is more than 60,000 square metres in size and is the bedrock of the global fashion retailer’s operations.

South Yorkshire Police are treating the incident as deliberate. Around 500 workers were safely evacuated from the premises and nobody was injured.

Investigating Fire Officer for South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, Simon Rodgers said: "The fire involved four floors of the warehouse and the blaze was contained in the area of origin by firefighters."

The fire is thought to have broken out on the second floor of the five storey building, before spreading to the third and fourth floors. At its height, the fire was tackled by 10 fire engines, an aerial ladder platform and a High Volume Pump.

The facility holds millions of fashion items and in the fire’s aftermath great piles of smoke and fire damaged clothes were piled up outside the fuflillment centre.

ASOS said damage had occurred but that it expected operations to be back up and running within a day or two.

For a number of reasons the arson attack comes at a critical time for the online fashion retailer.

First, since issuing a profit warning earlier in the year, ASOS shares have declined in value sharply and when markets open for trading on Monday morning, it is likely the share price will take another beating.

Secondly, because the ASOS operation is to a large extent dependent on the Barnsley facility, the greater the remedial work needed in the warehouse the greater the effect it will have on the retailer’s ability to fulfill orders.

Thirdly, ASOS was at an advanced stage in mechanising the Barnsley warehouse in a bid to increase efficiencies and reduce labour cost per unit. It is unclear to what extent the fire has damaged newly installed equipment or will set back the migration to faster, more automated processes.