WHSmith to cut 1,500 jobs

WHSmith is set to cut 1,500 jobs as the Coronavirus hits sales on the High Street and in transport hubs.

The retailer expects to report a headline loss before tax for the financial year ending 31 August of between £70 million and £75 million.

Chief executive Carl Cowling stated: “COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact on the WHSmith Group.

“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,” he continued. “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,” he added.

Separately, William Hill announced that it will not reopen 119 branches closed during the lockdown.

The bookmaker chain has redeployed the majority of staff at the branches that are closing and only 16 redundancies are expected. The latest closures, representing about eight per cent of stores, will leave William Hill with 1,414 branches.

It furloughed around 7,000 staff and now plans to repay the government £24.5 million in funds claimed to support workers’ wages, after revealing profits of £141 million in the first six months of this year, thanks to a £200 million VAT refund.

Total revenues for the half-year fell to £554 million, but revenues were flat year on year when adjusting for closed stores in the last two weeks of June.

Chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson commented: “Our trading was strong before COVID-19, we controlled costs effectively during lockdown and we have recovered well post-lockdown, with good performances in our online businesses throughout the first half.”

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