Belfast Telegraph

Jobs fears as Homebase mulls store closure

By John Mulgrew

Homebase could close its Omagh store with the loss of up to 40 jobs, it has emerged.

The DIY and furnishings company has written to staff at its Great Northern Retail Park branch to tell them they are at risk of redundancy.

It said workers may have a chance of being redeployed elsewhere in the company.

In a statement, the company confirmed it had "entered a period of consultation" over the proposed closure of the store.

A spokesman for the firm said: "Homebase can confirm that the business has entered a period of consultation with colleagues regarding the proposed closure of our store in the Great Northern Retail Park, Omagh.

"Colleagues at the store have been informed and we will be working with them to support them as much as possible.

"As the consultation is in progress, we are unable to comment further at this time."

SDLP Tyrone representative Daniel McCrossan said the news would "come as a devastating blow" for workers.

The closure threat comes after Homebase owner Home Retail Group issued a profits warning earlier this year, after earnings for the first half of the year nearly halved amid weak demand for televisions and tablet computers and hefty start-up costs for its same-day delivery service.

The firm said Homebase had enjoyed a better start to the year, with earnings up 23% to £34.3m helping the group increase its underlying pre-tax profits by 10%.

However, chief executive John Walden cautioned the overall performance was "mixed".

French DIY chain Leroy Merlin has been weighing up a bid for Homebase, according to recent reports.

Any sale of the kitchen and bathroom retailer could strengthen a bid for Argos, which is also owned by Homebase's parent firm, the Home Retail Group.

Earlier this year, DIY giant B&Q revealed it was closing more stores across Northern Ireland, with five out of nine set to be shut down.

The chain, which is owned by Kingfisher, said it was "changing the shape of its store network across the UK".

B&Q said that following a review of retail space requirements in Northern Ireland, the company "confirmed today that it proposes to move its business to four store locations in Northern Ireland by January 2017, with the closure of five stores".

Belfast Telegraph