Greetings card retailer Clintons has opened its first distribution centre in a bid to “significantly” improve margins.

Three head office buildings in Loughton, Essex, have been converted into a 35,000 sq ft warehouse, which will service the retailer’s store portfolio with seasonal and everyday collections.

The retailer, which had previously required its 50 suppliers to deliver direct to stores, is bringing suppliers to the new warehouse on board in phases.

Clintons is now run by US greetings card retailer Schurman Retail Group after it was bought out of administration by US supplier and Schurman shareholder American Greetings in June.

Schurman chief operating officer Ken Rendina said the distribution centre will give Clintons more flexibility in its supply chain.

Under the previous system it was difficult to replenish stock and to inform store managers about delivery schedules.

Rendina said: “The beauty about having the distribution centre is that we are in control of shipments.

“We can give stores good advance warning as to when they will get their deliveries, which at the moment is down to the suppliers.”

The new approach also opens up import opportunities. Rendina said: “It allows us to import products from other areas of the world and take bulk orders. It will be the first time Clintons can import and distribute Far East product.”

He added that the greater buying power of Schurman, which owns 400 stores in the US, and 397-store Clintons will bring product into UK stores that “has never been seen before”.

Schurman is to launch its Papyrus fascia in the UK in March in a former Clintons store in Bluewater. Another Papyrus shop is expected to follow in Westfield London.

Rendina said Schurman would seek to open more Papyrus stores but it will depend on available locations for the upmarket greetings card and gift store.