5,300 jobs go at Boots and John Lewis as employment slaughter decimates retail

The job cuts at Boots affect 7% of the workforce.

High street chain Boots and department store chain John Lewis are cutting a total of more than 5,000 jobs – blamed on the impact of COVID-19.

Boots, who have stores in Dumbarton High Street, Main Street, Alexandria and Sinclair Street, Helensburgh, have plans to axe 4,000 workers in a major shake-up while John Lewis , whose nearest branch is in the Buchanan Centre in Glasgow, said that eight of its shops were set to remain closed after the lockdown, putting 1,300 workers at risk.

The Boots restructuring will affect around 7% of the its workforce, in particular at its Nottingham support office.

Store deputy and assistant manager and customer adviser roles across the country are also facing the axe, while 48 Boots Opticians sites will close.

John Lewis said they are preparing for a phased reopening of their department stores.
John Lewis said eight shops would not reopen.

The John Lewis closures, which include two full-size department stores plus six smaller shops, were blamed on the impact of the pandemic in accelerating the shift from in-store shopping to online.

Boots pointed to a similar trend. Both companies have large stores at Braehead, where intu who own the retail park are already in financial trouble, and Buchanan Galleries.

The cuts add to thousands already announced this week – with logistics firm DHL cutting 2,200 roles at Jaguar Land Rover sites, newspaper publisher Reach axing 550 workers and Pret A Manger closing 30 shops, putting at least 1,000 jobs at risk.

Retail Sequence
Job cut deluge deepens despite high street help

Meanwhile, the UK boss of Burger King warned in a BBC interview that as many as 10% of its 530 stores may not be able to survive – threatening up to 1,600 jobs.

The announcements from Boots and John Lewis come a day after a “plan for jobs” announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak which offered measures including a VAT cut for the hospitality and tourism sector.

It was criticised by the retail industry which was not given similar help.

Boots stores were among “essential” retailers allowed to stay open during the lockdown but still saw sales fall 48% over the last three months.

The business, owned by US-listed Walgreens Boots Alliance, said that the cuts represented an “acceleration” of its transformation plans to improve profitability across the business.

Sebastian James, managing director of Boots UK, said: “The proposals announced today are decisive actions to accelerate our transformation plan, allow Boots to continue its vital role as part of the UK health system, and ensure profitable long-term growth.

“I am so very grateful to all our colleagues for their dedication during the last few challenging months.

“They have stepped forward to support their communities, our customers and the NHS during this time, and I am extremely proud to be serving alongside them.”

“In doing this, we are building a stronger and more modern Boots for our customers, patients and colleagues.

Walgreens said in a quarterly update to investors that the impact of COVID-19 on sales in the latest quarter was up to $750m (£584m), mainly reflecting its international division which includes Boots.

It said that footfall was down 85% in April, with customers advised to leave home only for food and medicine.

“While most Boots stores remained open throughout the UK lockdown to provide communities with pharmacy and essential healthcare, our largest premium beauty and fragrance counters were effectively closed,” Walgreens said.

It said the performance of the UK business, together with ongoing uncertainty related to the pandemic, would mean a write-down of $2bn (£1.6bn) on its value – sending the wider group to a $1.7bn (£1.3bn) loss for the third quarter.

Walgreens shares fell by 9% on Wall Street following the trading update.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said: “Even before this crisis, Boots had issues.

“Many of its stores need investment, its proposition lacks clarity, and it faces growing competition from both specialist and generalist beauty players alike.

“The pandemic and its aftermath will simply exacerbate these problems and have a materially negative impact on the business – which is one of the reasons why Walgreens has been quick to write down the intrinsic value of the division.”

One comment

  1. A tsunami of job losses is heading our way as Universal Credit lies waiting in the wings courtesy of a caring beneficial Conservative Government.

    With some commentators predicting that the unemployment levels will exceed those of the Great Depression misery and a blighted life is assured for many.

    Added to the misery of course will be the post Brexit attitude to workers, or at least the workers still in employment, where out of Europe the Conservative Government fully intend to repeal legislation such as TUPE, maximum 48 hour working week, paid maternity leave, together with proposals to further restrict access to employment tribunals.

    Yes the future under a right wing elite Conservative Government in Westminster is not going to be pretty, or at least for the majority. But really, would we have it any other way. The Poor House is our birthright, and by jingo we’re going to get it.

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