Number of workers facing redundancy rises further as more retailers announce cuts

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More high street retailers have announced plans for redundancies. The true impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic on the UK’s workforce continues to bite.

WHSmith is planning to cut up to 1,500 jobs as bosses said its recovery from the Covid-19 lockdown has been “slow”.

The retailer said it is starting to consult with staff over plans that could see as many as 1,500 of them losing their roles.

The company said it needed to reduce costs as its shops in airports and train stations are hit by low passenger numbers and its high street stores also suffer from low footfall.

The company said just over half of its UK travel shops have reopened and that 246 of its largest sites have started trading again.

All of its 575 high-street stores have opened, the business said, but footfall is strongly down compared to last year.

Revenue was 57% lower last month compared to July 2019, even as sites started to welcome customers back, with most of this loss coming from the travel arm.

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“We now need to take further action to reduce costs across our businesses,” said chief executive Carl Cowling.

“I regret that this will have an impact on a significant number of colleagues whose roles will be affected by these necessary actions and we will do everything we can to support them at this challenging time.”

Meanwhile, fashion chain M&Co also announced it will close 47 stores and axe 380 jobs as part of a major restructuring it said will secure the company’s long-term future.

The high street chain said it will continue to operate with 218 stores and 2,200 employees after completing the restructuring, having hired Deloitte as administrators in April.

The retailer said it believes its reduced network of stores, focused on local high streets, will strengthen its position, “with the coronavirus outbreak reducing appetites to travel longer distances on public transport”.

Chief executive Andy McGeoch said the company took a “huge financial hit” after having to shut its stores in March due to the pandemic.

He said: “We reopened most stores in June and have been exploring every possible option, but it was obvious that the business, as previously structured, would remain under severe pressure from the ongoing challenges of Covid-19.

“It quickly became clear the best way to save most jobs and most stores was to enter administration, with a new company acquiring the assets of the old business, and this process has now been finalised.”

McGeoch said staff in stores and at its Glasgow and London headquarters will be impacted by the job cuts.

He said: “It’s not a decision we took lightly, after more than 50 years of trading, but it gives us a sustainable basis from which to rebuild, with the majority of our staff keeping their jobs and 218 stores in high streets across the country remaining open.

“The most difficult part of this process is undoubtedly seeing around 380 colleagues in stores and at our Glasgow and London operations leaving the business.

“It’s a terrible situation for them and I’m desperately sorry that we couldn’t come up with a viable plan which would have saved all the jobs.”

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