Selfridges has told staff it plans to cut 450 jobs – around 14% of its total headcount – with annual sales set to be “significantly less” than last year due to the pandemic.
Managing director Anne Pitcher said high streets were changing even before COVID-19 and the upmarket retailer has now been forced to make “fundamental changes”.
She promised staff who are on furlough that the fact they were not working now would have no effect on whether their role would be impacted. She also promised staff they would receive more information on Wednesday.
Ms Pitcher said in an email to Selfridges staff: “How we work, shop and socialise is changing.
“Of course, our high streets were changing rapidly before COVID-19 arrived.”
She continued: “As a creative business at the forefront of retail, we have a proud history of leading the way, however the speed and magnitude of what is happening right now and the impact on trading means we must make some more fundamental changes to our organisation to stay ahead and realise a more sustainable future.
“Like many others, we are feeling the effects and acknowledge that recovery will be slow, with sales this year forecast to be significantly less than they were in 2019. It will, without doubt, be the toughest year we have experienced in our recent history.
“As a family business, the hardest decisions are the ones that affect our people, which is why it pains me to share news today of the toughest decision we have ever had to take that we will, very regrettably, need to make a 14% net reduction in our overall headcount, approximately 450 roles.”
Selfridges’ announcement comes after it emerged the chancellor is considering a new tax on goods sold online in a bid to save the high-street post-coronavirus.
The tax could be a 2% levy on online sales, which would raise £2bn a year, or a charge on deliveries, as part of a campaign to cut congestion and emissions.
The move comes after Chancellor Rishi Sunak highlighted concerns that business rates are effectively penalising high street stores and giving internet retailers an unfair advantage.