The three Sainsbury’s stores in the Borders not already earmarked for closure now face an uncertain future following the chain’s announcement that it plans to shut up to 55 of its shops over the next five years.
It also intends closing up to 70 Argos stores, so a question mark also hangs over the future of the catalogue store’s only stand-alone branch in the region, at Douglas Bridge in Galashiels.
That move, intended to cut costs by £500m by 2024, leaves staff at Sainsbury’s supermarkets in Kelso and Hawick and smaller store in Peebles, and at Argos in Galashiels, in the dark over their prospects as chief executive Mike Coupe says no decisions have yet been made on where the axe will fall.
The closures announced yesterday, September 25, will be offset by 10 larger stores and about 110 convenience stores opening over the same period, along with 80 Argos outlets within Sainsbury’s supermarkets, but, again, no locations are being disclosed as yet.
Sainsbury’s convenience store in Selkirk High Street, the chain’s first in the Borders, is already doomed, its closure having been announced in July and its 13 workers offered a choice of redeployment or redundancy.
The store, opened in 2009, is scheduled to shut next Friday, October 5.
Mr Coupe declined to give details of how many staff would be affected by the changes, which stores face the axe, where any new ones might open or when staff will be told if their stores are safe, saying only: “We think it’s a good news story for our colleagues.”
The chain’s finance chief, Kevin O’Byrne, added: “These are stores we don’t see a long-term future for.”
A spokesperson for the company explained that it reviews all its stores’ performance every five years to identify any that it deems to be underperforming and then takes action accordingly, however.
The London-based chain’s cost-cutting plans follow the failure of its ill-fated £7.3bn bid to take over rival retailer Asda. It also hopes to reduce its debts by £750m over the next three years.
Those moves come after it announced a 0.2% fall in like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, over its second quarter to September 21, marking an improvement on the 1.6% fall chalked up for the previous three months.
Like-for-like grocery sales were up by 0.6% in the second quarter, but that was offset by a 2% drop in general merchandise sales.
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 on by reduced promotional activity and the timing of new product releases in gaming and toys.”