Up to 1,500 jobs to go at WHSmith as stations and airports are abandoned

WH Smiths

WHSmith is looking to cut up to 1,500 jobs after the high street retailer said its recovery from the COVID-19 lockdown remained slow.

With other firms also threatening redundancies, including PizzaExpress, DW Sports and Hays Travel, it brings the total number to almost 6,000 so far this week alone.

WHSmith said it was starting to consult with staff over the cost-cutting plans after its revenue was down 57% in July compared with the same month last year, even as its shops started to welcome customers back.

While most of the loss came from its coronavirus-hit travel business, the company said its shops in airports and train stations had been hit by low passenger numbers, while its high street stores also suffered from low footfall.

It said it now expected to make a loss of between £70m and £75m for the year to August, when the results are announced in November.

WHSmith group chief executive Carl Cowling said: “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.

“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.

“I regret that this will have an impact on a significant number of colleagues whose roles will be affected by these necessary actions, and we will do everything we can to support them at this challenging time.”

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While travel revenue had started to recover from April, when it was down 92% on last year, sales were still nearly three-quarters lower in July.

Meanwhile, the high street business went from 71% down in April to 25% down in July compared with the same months last year.

Mr Cowling added: “COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact on the WHSmith group.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have responded quickly and taken decisive actions to protect the business, including substantially strengthening our financial position.

“We have also welcomed support from government where available.”