Jobs fears as Halfords plans to close up to 60 stores

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Cycling and car parts retailer Halfords expects to close up to 60 stores and garages by April 2021, putting hundreds of jobs at risk.

The company, which remained partially open during lockdown as it was classed as an essential retailer, has already permanently closed its 22 Cycle Republic stores and five Halfords stores and garages.

Around 75 of its 472 stores remained closed, but some are expected to reopen over the coming weeks and were not necessarily going to be the ones affected by the announcement, the company said. It has 843 sites in total – the remainder of which are garages.

It has not said how many jobs are likely to be affected by the store closures, but indicated that it would attempt to find alternative positions at other stores for those displaced by the decision.

In a statement, Halfords, which employs around 10,000 people, said: “Covid-19 has materially changed the retail outlook for the coming months and has overshadowed Brexit as the emerging risk.”

Earlier this month it warned that it could lose £10m this year if sales fell by 9.5%. This is despite a 57% increase in cycling-related sales during the lockdown, although it admitted this failed to offset a decrease in demand for car servicing, MOTs and spare parts as many people remained at home.

Last week high street retailers including Boots and John Lewis and restaurant chain Burger King announced that thousands of jobs were at risk because of the impact Covid-19 has had. This followed similar announcements by Pret A Manger, Harrods and TM Lewin earlier this month.

Retail trade union Usdaw said the retail industry desperately needed a recovery plan. General secretary Paddy Lillis said: “The government’s response to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus emergency on the retail industry, in the form of small business grants, business rates relief and VAT deferral, has helped take some pressure off. However, these interim measures will not sustain the industry for long.

“What the retail sector needs now is a tripartite approach of the government, unions and employers to develop a much needed retail recovery plan. We have long called for an industrial strategy for retail to help a sector that was already struggling before the coronavirus emergency. Now the situation is much worse.

“The government has a clear choice. Do they want to see the high street go to the wall, or do they want to help save it? Retail is an important feature of our towns and cities, it employs three million people and we need a stimulus package to save the industry.”

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