Retail crisis: WH Smith and M&Co to shed 1,900 jobs

WH Smith has four outlets in the north. Picture by Philip Toscano/PA Wire.
Ryan McAleer and PA

TWO major retailers have announced plans to shed 1,900 jobs.

WH Smith, which has four outlets in Northern Ireland is planning to cut up to 1,500 jobs, while fashion chain M&Co, which has stores in Magherafelt and Larne, is to close 47 shops and axe 380 jobs.

WH Smith’s presence in the north has been reduced to the three main airports. It also operates from the railway station at Great Victoria Street. All four are listed as temporarily closed on the retailer’s website.

The company said the cuts will mainly hit the sites in train stations and airports. Only 14 shops will close.

Most of the high street jobs to be lost will be among managers.

M&Co said its plans for a major restructuring of its business will secure its long-term future.

The high street chain said it will continue to operate with 218 stores and 2,200 employees after completing the restructuring, having hired Deloitte as administrators in April.

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said there was no news yet of how the Northern Ireland outlets will fare in the cuts.

“Over the past few weeks I have visited over a dozen villages, towns and cities in Northern Ireland, speaking to local retailers who have told me of just how bad the situation is with dozens of businesses facing likely closure.

“We need to be very clear. It is no longer a high streets crisis; it is a high streets emergency and requires immediate action from the Executive.

“In my meeting with the deputy First Minister this week I outlined the need for the Executive to immediately establish a high street recovery taskforce to bring together government departments, councils and business to co-ordinate policy and agree an action plan. I will also be meeting with the First Minister on Friday to discuss this emergency further.

“We need Governments in Belfast and London to agree a ‘Marshall Plan’ of stimulus and recovery for our high streets, villages, towns and cities before irreversible damage is done to our local economy.

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