WH Smith may cut 1,500 jobs after sales plummet


WH Smith and Post Office Image copyright WH Smith

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

A trading update said it expected to make losses of between £70-75m.

The company said it had been a very difficult decision. It said it was committed to supporting colleagues throughout the process and ensuring it was conducted fairly.

The newsagent is the latest High Street name to consider radical action amid the chaos caused by the coronavirus.

The company, which has 575 High Street shops and employs more than 14,000, saw revenue at its worst-hit divisions, those at airports and rail stations, fall by 92% in the first month of lockdown.

Its best performing division, the High Street, was still 25% down on last year in July after lockdown eased.

Just over half of its 600 UK travel sites, which include those at railway stations, airports and hospitals, are now open.

It said 246 of its largest sites had now reopened.

Retail woes

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.

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.

WH Smith 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 & Spencer, Boots and Selfridges are among other big names to announce a jobs shake-up.

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 Hays saying on Monday that almost 900 jobs would go.


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