WH Smith has announced around 1,500 jobs may need to be cut as the newsagent tackles the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its stores.
The company, which employs more than 14,000 people, updated the City on trading this morning, revealing that while total revenues were down 83% during the lockdown in April, last month they remained 57% less in July, when compared to 2019.
Its travel locations were most affected, but it has begun a phased reopening of UK stores at airport and railway stations and now has 53% of its travel stores open.
WH Smith group chief executive Carl Cowling said: “Throughout the pandemic, we have responded quickly and taken decisive actions to protect the business including substantially strengthening our financial position. We have also welcomed support from government where available.
“In our travel business, while we are beginning to see early signs of recovery in some of our markets, the speed of recovery continues to be slow. At the same time, 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, and we will do everything we can to support them at this challenging time.”
WH Smith said it had reviewed store operations across its travel and high street businesses and is now starting a collective consultation on a proposed restructure “which could lead to up to circa 1500 roles becoming redundant”.
In a statement it said it has been a “very difficult decision and we are committed to supporting all our colleagues throughout this process and ensuring it is conducted fairly”. It believed the restructuring costs would be in the region of £15m – £19m, reflecting the WH Smith’s enhanced redundancy policy.
Cowling added: “While we are mindful of the continuing uncertainties that exist, we are a resilient and versatile business. The operational actions we are taking along with the financing arrangements that are in place, put us in a strong position to navigate this time of uncertainty and we are well positioned to benefit in due course from the recovery of our key markets.”
Meanwhile, bookmaker William Hill said 119 of its high street betting shops will not re-open after the lockdown. It said around 300 staff were affected but that all but 20 had been redeployed. It also announced it would be repaying the funds it has claimed under the Coronavirus Job Retenton Scheme to help protect the jobs of around 7,000 retail employees.