Coronavirus National & International

1,500 WH Smith jobs at risk due to declining sales

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WH Smith is considering cutting 1,500 jobs – 11% of its workforce – after the lockdown caused sales to plummet, accoording to the BBC.

Most of the jobs being lost will be at the company’s travel sites, situated at airports and railway stations.

The firm said the impact of the coronavirus outbreak meant it expected to report a loss of £70-75m for the year to the end of August.

WH Smith is the latest High Street name to consider job cuts amid the disruption caused by the pandemic.

The company has 575 High Street shops and employs more than 14,000 people. Revenue at its travel division, which includes stores at airports and rail stations, fell 92% in the first month of lockdown.

At its High Street division, sales were still 25% down in July after lockdown eased.

WH Smith said it had now reopened all its High Street stores and 246 of its largest travel division sites, those in airports, railway stations and hospitals.

The announcement comes after William Hill said 119 of its High Street betting shops would not re-open after the shutdown forced by the coronavirus outbreak. Also on Wednesday, fashion chain M&Co said it, too, was cutting 340 jobs and closing 47 stores.

WH Smith, which made £155m in profit last year, said the job cuts and associated restructuring would cost it between £15-19m, but added it had enough funds to get through a prolonged downturn.

Group chief executive Carl Cowling said: “While there has been some progress in our High Street business, it does continue to be adversely affected by low levels of footfall.

“As a result, we now need to take further action to reduce costs across our businesses. I regret that this will have an impact on a significant number of colleagues whose roles will be affected by these necessary actions.”

He added that the company would do “everything we can to support them at this challenging time”.

News of the latest cuts comes after a wave of retail redundancies. On Monday, DW Sports said up to 1,700 jobs were at risk. John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Boots and Selfridges are among other big names to announce job cuts.

The restaurant sector has also been hit hard, with Pizza Express warning on Tuesday that 1,100 jobs could go as part of a restructuring that could see 15% of outlets shut.

And the travel and tourism sector continues to suffer, with Hayes Travel saying on Monday that almost 900 jobs would go.

Barely a week into August, and already some 6,000 jobs have been lost or are under threat as the furlough scheme starts to wind down.

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