WH Smith warns 1,500 jobs at risk as coronavirus deals latest high street blow


WH Smith has said it could axe up to 1,500 jobs after the pandemic has caused a dramatic drop in the number of shoppers visiting its stores.

The retailer is looking to restructure its UK side of the businesses after sales dropped by 57 per cent in July compared with the same month last year.

WH Smith said stores in travel hotspots such as airports and train stations have been badly hit

The high street retailer said that its travel arm, which accounts for 75 per cent of business, has been worst hit by the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

It added that while shoppers were coming back to branches in airports and train stations it isn’t even close to the levels seen before the coronavirus crisis.

The restructure comes as many Brits continue to work from home, despite the Prime Minister urging employees to head into offices if they can.

Thousands of holidaymakers are also dodging airports and heading for a staycation instead as uncertainty continues over trips abroad.

It’s not clear if the proposed restructure will see any stores closed, but the firm expects it to cost the company between £15 million and £19 million.

The retailer said it now expects to make a loss of between £70 million and £75 million for the year to August.

It is now consulting with staff over the plans that could see more than a thousand out of a job.

If the job cuts go ahead, it will be the latest blow to the high street following lockdown.

Today, William Hill announced that it has permanently closed 119 stores affecting around 200 employees.

Yesterday, Pizza Express warned that it may close 67 UK restaurants putting 1,100 jobs at risk, while Currys PC World plans to cut 800 jobs.

WH Smith chief executive, Carl Cowling, said that footfall is also low in its high street stores.

In a statement he said: “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.”

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

During lockdown, 203 WH Smith stores stayed open because they had Post Office counters in them, which were classed as essential by the government.

All of its 575 high-street stores have now opened.

Mr 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.”

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