THE cluster of robot-operated retail mega-warehouses ship out two million online fashion orders, 500,000 toys and 200,000 books a week.
Just nine miles away in the decaying village high street of Goldthorpe, South Yorks, the local clothes shop is lucky to sell 20 items a day.
The contrast serves as a stark reminder of how online shopping is killing the UK’s high streets.
This week, a startling picture from inside the mega-warehouse of clothing brand PrettyLittleThing — the size of 15 football pitches — showed 3,000 workers piling a million orders into boxes ahead of the Black Friday sale.
The firm is one of many including Amazon, Next, Asos and Victoria Plum that, in the past five years, have set up internet distribution centres along a ten-mile stretch of the M1 near Sheffield nicknamed Factoryville by locals.
Former miner Graham Gill, 61, who runs Goldthorpe’s J&G News convenience store, says: “It used to be bustling around here but look at it now — a ghost town. I remember when this street used to be full of people heading off to work in the pits, doing their shopping or walking to the bank or cinema.
‘I COULD CLOSE UP SHOP AND NO ONE WOULD NOTICE’
“Now all the banks have closed, so has the school and the cinemas, and there isn’t much passing trade. On some days I feel I could close up shop and no one would notice.
“We try to sell a bit of everything but there are weeks when I might only sell a couple of toys for, say, £5 or £10 each, while these online firms are flogging thousands of products at rock-bottom prices. How are you going to compete with that?
“I’m worried. I’ll have to pack it in before long. You only have to look at all the boarded-up windows to see how many other places have given up already.”
Fifty years ago, Goldthorpe’s High Street was the centre of a proud pit village that boasted two cinemas, five shoe shops, a hotel, a bustling outdoor market of 64 stalls and branches for most major banks.
Its market shut in April and many believe the shift to online shopping contributed to its demise.
This is reflected globally, with online sales up 16 per cent year on year and high-street footfall down by three per cent.
Jenny Majid, 47, runs the Destiny clothes shop in Goldthorpe and switched from selling baby clothes to school uniforms after finding the online competition too fierce.
She says: “There’s no one out shopping for baby things. They buy it on the internet.
“We sell about 20 school uniforms on a good day but compare that with the thousands they flog at Tesco. We can only make a couple of hundred quid a day, while those firms make millions.”
Janet Booth, 58, worked as a trader in Goldthorpe’s market until it closed. She opened Jan’s Little Pet Shop earlier this year but is already considering giving up.
‘ASK A HUMAN’
She says: “I’m barely making enough to cover the £45 I have to pay in rent each week.
“It’s a shame but I don’t think I’ll keep it going much longer. There is no money in a shop like this now.” Unemployed mum-of-three Lisa Daykin, 48, is struggling to find work after being laid off by Avon Cosmetics last year.
She says: “I’ve been going door to door handing out CVs but there aren’t any jobs. People round here don’t have much money and when they do shop, it’s all online.”
The Asos mega-warehouse employs almost 4,000 people and ships out hundreds of thousands of clothes a week. Amazon, nearby, will soon have more than 1,000 staff dispatching tens of thousands of trucks nationwide every year.
But Keith Walton, 79, has been running Waltons Fabrics in Goldthorpe for 50 years and says it is bucking the downward trend.
He says: “I’ve a good name round here and keep my prices lower than on the internet, so what we do works. We sell for as little as £1 a square metre. The internet is killing local business but if you work hard, there is still money to be made.
“The only way to compete with online is to give customers something the likes of PrettyLittleThing can’t: An ability to feel the fabric, ask a question to a human and pay in cash.”