Auto Trader, the UK’s largest digital automotive marketplace, said its decision to relocate to Manchester has been vindicated by its ability to attract staff.

The company, which employs 600 people at its state-of-the-art office in First Street, said it had become impossible to recruit talented developers until its 2014 relocation.

The move came just a year after Auto Trader ditched its print edition in 2013 and went completely digital.

Alison Ross, customer experience and operations director at Auto Trader, spoke at a recent digital summit called by new Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and said the move and the decision to go completely digital has created a perfect storm. 

“We were previously in offices in Newton-le-Willows and Warrington and getting talented developers and digital people to work there was becoming impossible to be absolutely honest,” she said.

“Actually those buildings being distributed over several sites just wasn’t helping our way of working really being in those offices we were still trapped in a publishing way of working, an old way of working so we migrated everything online, but we weren’t being truly digital so we were making a very specific point of consolidating our offices into an environment that felt collaborative.

“We heat mapped where our people lived. We could have gone to Birchwood I guess, we could have gone to Liverpool but really coming to Manchester was the only option for us and we were drawn in at that time by the amount of graduates and by the universities.

"It’s been a great decision for us, it really worked out.”

Auto Trader’s recent accounts showed a 23 per cent lift in annual profits to £193.4m while its website now has around 12 million unique users a month. Of the 600 staff working out of First Street, exactly half are techies and half work in sales.

The office has its own ski lodge and a Volkswagen Camper van for meetings which Ross said is vital for attracting staff. “You need a few little gimmicks,” she said.

“Personally I’m not a fan of ball pits and slides but you do need to do something. The main purpose of those offices is to make it really easy for people to collaborate, to be able to do stand ups and work together, it’s a bit ironic really because the more digital we’ve become the more important it is to get everybody into one place.

“In all the offices in Manchester, people are doing more and more fantastic fit outs and that’s good but you’d hope that people are joining businesses on the basis of your culture.”

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