It’s only a minor footnote in the history of Burberry’s ongoing bromance with Leeds, but hey, I didn’t know how this stuff worked before this morning, so I thought I’d share it in case anyone else was interested.
It turns out that when Burberry were looking to cut costs by consolidating their business services operation in a new centre outside London, they had two options in mind, Leeds and Krakow in Poland.
The Krakow option was going to cost the international luxury brand £3.8m less than the Leeds one. So Burberry asked the powers-that-be in Leeds for £1.5m towards the overall project cost of £17.7m, and made an application for that amount to West Yorkshire’s regional public funding bodies.
According to papers released recently by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), the application made it clear that “without a grant of £1.5m the project would not take place within the proposed location”.
“If the grant application is not approved it is unlikely that the scheme would be
located in Leeds, and would instead be located in Krakow,” the papers add.
The reason they wanted the money was not just to narrow the cost gap between the two competing locations, but to “demonstrate to the organisation’s (Burberry’s) board that Leeds City Region is supportive of the company’s investment plans”.
Oh, and Burberry needed a decision pronto too.
So, no pressure, then.
The application – code-named “Project Primrose” to keep the applicant’s identity under wraps – was duly pushed through the system at speed in March and April, with final approval delegated to the WYCA’s managing director.
He gave it.
When Burberry made their announcement at the beginning of May, Leeds council leader Judith Blake said it was “hugely exciting that we are the clear choice for Burberry to locate their newly-created shared service centre.” (ed: my emphasis)
Whether Leeds would have been “the clear choice” if we hadn’t coughed up the necessary £1.5m in double quick time is probably debatable.