Waitrose to axe nearly 700 staff and close at least five stores in huge shake-up

WAITROSE is to axe nearly 700 staff and close at least five stores in a huge shake-up.
The middle-class grocer — Britain’s seventh largest supermarket — has been hit by rising costs, customers defecting to cut-price rivals and slow online sales.

The store closure programme comes as Waitrose, the UK’s seventh largest supermarket, faces an increasingly challenging grocery market, with food costs rising, customers continuing to shop around for bargains and sales increasingly moving to online.

Waitrose traded strongly over Christmas with total sales up nearly 5 per cent and like-for-like sales in stores that have been open for at least a year up 2.8 per cent.

However, the company has indicated that it wants to invest further in its stores and in new product lines and is facing steeply rising costs.

Last month the John Lewis Partnership, which owns Waitrose, said that trading profit across the group was “under pressure as a result of wider changes taking place in retail.”

It also said that the much-loved staff bonus scheme – which is paid out to all staff each year – would be “significantly lower than last year”.

Ben Stimson, Waitrose Retail Director, said: “We’d always try hard to avoid closing branches but we review how our shops are doing commercially and respond where we have to. We’ll be consulting with our branch Partners on these proposed closures and will make sure they have all the support they need.”

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In another reorganisation that is intended to cut costs, the retailer said that it would change managers roles in a step that will lead to 180 fewer managers’ jobs over the next three years.

One Waitrose employee told The Sun: “Waitrose has been cutting store hours by 10% a month each month to offset drops in sales for the last six months.”

Staff on the shop floor have concerns over Waitrose Deliver, the home delivery service which has not made a profit since it was launched.

The Waitrose staffer said: “They are carrying on with it for fear of losing more market share to Aldi and Lidl – who don’t provide the service.”

A spokesman for the John Lewis Partnership said that discussions over this year’s bonus would take place at a board meeting in March.

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