Slumping Waitrose & Partners has decided to close four supermarkets - in Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute in Scotland, Four Oaks in the West Midlands, and Waterlooville in Hampshire.
Waitrose said details of each closure are not yet finalised, but the expectation is that Helensburgh will close in May and Four Oaks and Waterlooville will close in June.
The 403 Partners working at these shops will now enter a period of consultation. Waitrose said it will explore opportunities for those who wish to remain with the business. According to one report, some staff may be transferred to other stores, but others will be made redundant.
“We haven’t taken this decision lightly but we have to do what’s right for the business as a whole," Waitrose & Partners director of selling and service delivery, Simon Burdess, said. "Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, we haven’t been able to find a way to make these shops profitable in the long term."
According to a report in The Lochside Press, the Helensbrugh created 200 jobs in 2013 but has faced competition from Co-op and Tesco stores in the town centre, as well as from Asda and Morrisons. But recently, it has struggled to ward off Lidl eight miles away in Dumbarton, as well as Aldi in Alexandria.
Waitrose & Partners has 338 shops in England, Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands, 27 shops at Welcome Break locations, and Waitrose.com. The business has struggled to its third straight year of falling annual profits, which came after like-for-like sales dropped 2.7 per cent across John Lewis department stores and slipped 0.2 per cent at Waitrose.
The Guardian recently noted that John Lewis and Waitrose partners were to receive their lowest bonus in 67 years. Last month Sharon White, the new chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, broke the dire situation about jobs to its staff council during what she said was its ‘most challenging period’ since the 1920s.
“Our priority now is the wellbeing and future of our Partners in these shops," Burdess said. "We will do everything we can to support them and will explore opportunities for anyone wishing to remain with the Partnership.”