Utopia Distribution Services (UDS) and DP World, a provider of global end-to-end supply-chain solutions, will open the UK’s biggest distribution warehouse for physical music and video at the end of August.
The 25,000 sq metre Bicester site, fitted and operated by DP World, will be a centralised home for UK physical distribution. Driven by 80-plus state-of-the-art ‘pick robots’, it will have a daily handling capacity of over 100,000 units, increasing to over 250,000 during peak periods.
Shipping over 30 million units a year across the UK and export territories, the warehouse will distribute 70% of the UK’s physical music, for clients including UMG, Sony Music Entertainment and PIAS, as well as 35% of the UK’s physical video market – amounting to over 50% of the UK music and home entertainment markets combined.
The new site has been created to meet ongoing demand for physical music and video. Year-to-date BPI statistics reveal unit sales for physical albums are up year-on-year, supported by a 14% growth in vinyl album sales.
This is borne out of physical’s ongoing role in chart success, with 23 out of 25 UK No. 1 albums released in the year to date topping the albums chart off the back of a majority of physical sales. Globally, market leader Universal Music Group reported an 18.3% year-on-year increase in physical revenue for the first six months of 2023.
The UK's home entertainment market saw its 10th consecutive year of revenue growth in 2022. Physical video retail grew to £209m, with sales of Blu-ray and Blu-ray 4k UHD now over 40% of the total market (ERA).
The opening will see UDS relocate from its Aylesbury unit, which was inherited from Cinram, whose assets Utopia acquired in 2022. As operations cease at Aylesbury ahead of the new opening, a planned two-week suspension to services is due to take place from August 14-28.
The transition from Aylesbury to Bicester will see all jobs protected, with free transport provided to the new premises. With more capacity for product, and online orders no longer needing to travel to a retailer’s warehouse on the way to the consumer, distribution is more efficient, resulting in less impact on the environment.
Drew Hill, MD Utopia Distribution Services and VP distribution services, Utopia Music, said: “We’re pleased to be working closely with DP World on a smooth transition to our brand new state-of-the-art facility. With UDS distributing for over 50% of the UK’s combined music and video market, our investment in this infrastructure marks a bright and exciting future for physical entertainment.”
Our investment in this infrastructure marks a bright and exciting future for physical entertainment
Jonathan Himsworth, vice president sales at DP World Logistics, added: “DP World brings together an unparalleled combination of assets and expertise to build creative solutions to the hardest problems in logistics, and this is why so many of the world’s largest and most recognisable brands trust us to deliver on their supply chain needs. To this end, we are very excited about working with Utopia to support the renaissance of physical music in the UK.”
Sophie Jones, BPI chief strategy officer, said: “Demand for albums on vinyl just keeps growing, while there are positive signs the long-term decline in CD purchasing is slowing and starting to bottom out. Both formats support a strong and healthy physical sector that plays an important role in the UK’s vibrant music economy led by streaming.
“This huge new warehouse and the investment it represents makes a welcome commitment to British music’s infrastructure and channels of distribution that will help to sustain the growth in demand for music on physical format for the foreseeable future and beyond.”
Kim Bayley, CEO of the Digital Entertainment & Retail Association (ERA), said: “CD, vinyl and DVD are still a vital part of the entertainment market. Moving over 50% of the UK's music and video stock to a new warehouse was never going to be an easy task but ERA and its members applaud UDS for the tremendous effort which is going into the move. We look forward to a smooth transition and the benefits that this huge investment in the supply chain will bring.”
Liz Bales, CEO, British Association for Screen Entertainment (BASE), added: “Physical formats are such an important part of Home Entertainment, so it’s fantastic to see this continued investment in an area of the business that has served consumers so well for so long, allowing them to own and keep the shows and films that they love. The exceptional value of DVDs, as well as the superior at-home experience of 4K UHD, supports the ongoing appetite for these formats with audiences. We look forward to working together in the future.”
Utopia Music’s other physical distributor, Proper Music Group, will continue operating from its Dartford warehouse.