Belfast Telegraph

Argos shops in Northern Ireland risk closure as Sainsburys plans cull of stand-alone outlets

Argos (KIrsty O’Connor/PA)
Argos (KIrsty O’Connor/PA)

By Mark McConville

Up to 15 Argos stores in Northern Ireland could be at risk of closure after Sainsbury’s announced plans to shut stand-alone outlets and open new stores within its supermarkets.

The group said it will shut up to 70 Argos shops and open around 80 instead within its supermarkets.

There are 20 Argos store here in total but it is understood the move is unlikely to affect the five outlets already based in a Sainsbury’s supermarket.

The firm also plans to close up to 15 large supermarkets and as many as 40 convenience stores, which could affect the 14 stores in Northern Ireland.

But it also said it will open around 10 big stores and some 110 convenience outlets under the plan, which it insisted will increase its store estate.

The company declined to say how many jobs would be impacted by the changes.

The five-year plan, being led by chief executive Mike Coupe, is set to cut costs by around £500 million over the next five years and comes after the failure of its ill-fated £7.3 billion takeover tilt for rival Asda.

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Sainsbury’s also revealed narrowed sales declines in its second quarter, but warned over a £50 million hit to underlying half-year profits.

It blamed the interim profits warning on the impact of cost cutting, with weather and higher marketing costs also taking their toll, though it stuck by full-year forecasts.

Sainsbury’s also announced its financial services arm would stop new mortgage lending “immediately” as part of its five-year plan.

It comes amid reports the group is looking to sell off its mortgage book, following rival Tesco’s recent move to offload its home lending business.

Details of the plans came as Sainsbury’s announced a 0.2% fall in like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, over its second quarter to September 21.

This marked an improvement on the 1.6% fall seen in the previous three months.

Sainsbury’s said like-for-like grocery sales rose by 0.6% in the second quarter, but this was offset by a 2% drop in general merchandise sales - which includes the Argos business.

Mr Coupe said: “Sales momentum was stronger in all areas and we further improved our performance relative to our competitors, particularly in grocery.

“Argos continued to grow market share in key categories, but sales were impacted by reduced promotional activity and the timing of new product releases in gaming and toys.”

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