Wednesday 5 August 2020 10:18 am

WH Smith to cut 1,500 jobs as high street and travel footfall plummets

WH Smith is preparing to cut 1,500 jobs, the high street retailer announced this morning, as it warned it expects to post a full-year loss of £75m due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The retailer said it is reviewing its store operations across both its travel and high street businesses due to lower high street footfall and a sharp drop in passenger numbers.

Read more: WH Smith revenue dives 85 per cent during coronavirus lockdown

This morning’s announcement brought the number of job cuts this week to 5,100 after Pizza Express, Dixons Carphone and gym group DW Sports revealed redundancy plans.

Group total revenue was down 57 per cent last month, with travel revenue down 73 per cent and high street sales down 35 per cent.

In April, the first full month of lockdown, travel revenue plummeted 92 per cent as commuters began working from home and holidays were cancelled. High street revenue in April was down 71 per cent.

Read more: UK firms cut a total of 100,000 jobs amid coronavirus pandemic

In a statement this morning WH Smith said: “We are now starting a collective consultation on a proposed restructure which could lead to up to c.1,500 roles becoming redundant.

“This has been a very difficult decision and we are committed to supporting all our colleagues throughout this process and ensuring it is conducted fairly.”

Restructuring costs are expected to be between £15m to £19m.

WH Smith has reopened 53 per cent of its travel stores, despite significantly lower passenger numbers.

The retailer kept its 203 stores with Post Offices open throughout the crisis and has since reopened its remaining high street stores.

However footfall is also sharply down on 2019 levels.

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.

Read more: Coronavirus: WH Smith raises £165.9m through share placing

“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.”

More to follow