Belfast Telegraph

Homebase closures threaten hundreds of Northern Ireland jobs

By Emma Deighan

Hundreds of jobs are at risk at Homebase stores in Northern Ireland as its Australian owner announces it will close up to 40 outlets throughout the UK.

Westfarmers, which owns Homebase’s parent firm Bunnings UK, said that trading at the chain has been “poor” since it acquired the retailer two years ago.

“The Homebase acquisition has been below our expectations which is obviously disappointing.

“In light of this, a review of Bunnings UK has commenced to identify the actions required to improve shareholder returns,” Wesfarmers managing director Rob Scott said.

The group, which has nine stores in Northern Ireland, later confirmed that between 20 and 40 of the worst performing Homebase stores could close down in the latest sign of distress on the British high street.

Homebase operates from 250 stores and employs 12,000 in total in the UK however its press office would not confirm which stores would be affected.

A spokesman for the group told the Belfast Telegraph: “It’s too early to say and it’s not appropriate to speculate at this point.  Our team will always be the first to know of any updates.”

Poor trading at Homebase is expected to drag Bunnings into an underlying loss of £97m for the first half of the year, Wesfarmers confirmed.

“We need to address underperformance in our portfolio that is detracting from positive performance in other areas, and the announcement today sets out decisive actions to achieve this,” Mr Scott added.

Bunnings acquired Homebase in 2016 in a £340m deal and has been attempting to reposition the brand.

As well as revamping the stores and slashing prices, Homebase is in the process of being rebranded as Bunnings.

But Wesfarmers said that its review will evaluate the performance of rebranded pilot stores to “inform the future plans for Bunnings UK”.

In addition Peter “PJ” Davis, the man who spearheaded the foray into the UK, is to retire from the business with Damian McGloughlin taking his place.

The potential store closures come following a miserable January for the high street, which has seen thousands of jobs disappear after Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons also swung the axe.

Retailers have been hit by a surge in Brexit-fuelled inflation, which has seen the cost of goods rocket and consumer confidence plummet since the referendum result.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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