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Boohoo Group CEO John Lyttle says there is a “bright future” for garment manufacturing in Leicester after the online fashion retailer officially opened its first manufacturing facility in the city.

The new factory represents a multi-million-pound investment by Boohoo Group and will be used as what the retailer calls a “centre of excellence” to reintroduce skills in garment manufacturing that it says have been lost in the UK over time. The site also includes office space and will be used to train Boohoo’s own product teams in responsible purchasing and the technical aspects of garment production.

The company is also in talks with local education providers about hosting students and other groups who are keen to learn about garment manufacturing and the UK fashion industry.

Production at the 23,000 sq ft factory is already underway and has created around 180 new jobs. In what Boohoo calls a change from the traditional way of operating a garment factory, the facility will operate across two shifts, creating double the job opportunities and greater flexibility for the team.

The site was officially opened during a ceremony on Friday (8 April) which was attended by Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, along with other local dignitaries and representatives from NGOs including Kevin McKeever, chair of the Garment & Textile Workers’ Trust and Tim Nelson, CEO of Hope for Justice.

Speaking after the event, Lyttle said: “This is a landmark moment for us and is a very visible demonstration of our commitment to Leicester and UK garment manufacturing. By operating the site as a centre of excellence, we want to bring back skills that have been lost over time and help our suppliers to diversify their product offerings, meaning they can win business from other retailers who we are hoping will be tempted to start sourcing from the UK again.

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He said: “It has been a difficult few years but I am confident there is a bright future ahead and today marks the start of a new chapter for the garment industry here in Leicester.”

Boohoo Group recently opened an in-house Textile & Apparel Laboratory to give the business and its suppliers better visibility of product performance, with a variety of retail testing available to ensure products meet both the legal and performance standards required.

Boohoo partnered with German inspection services group TÜV Rheinland on the facility which is located in its Manchester head office and will allow for fast, efficient, and cost-effective in-house garment testing.

The online retailer has also launched a new Supplier Hub system aimed at increasing resilience and control which was announced as part of the final report under the Boohoo Agenda for Change (A4C) programme conducted by Sir Brian Leveson.