Updated: Galashiels’ H Samuel staff left feeling let down by national chain

Borders staff made redundant from jewellery chain H Samuel have hit out at the national firm, claiming they’ve been let down and misled.

By Kathryn Wylie
Thursday, 18th June 2020, 4:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th June 2020, 5:15 pm
H Samuel shop front.
H Samuel shop front.

The team of five staff at the Channel Street jeweller’s were paid off after store owners, Signet, made the decision not to reopen the Galashiels shop alongside a further 81 of its 477 stores nationwide.

In a joint statement staff told The Southern: “The team at H Samuel in Galashiels have been left feeling let down.

“It’s upsetting to see that the company has tried to make it seem like a necessary closure and that they did all they could to help their staff members during this difficult time.

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“The truth is, the five dedicated team members of H Samuel in Galashiels were left without jobs after three short phone calls, no offer of redeployment and no reason as to why our shop was selected for closure.

“It has taken the company five weeks to come forward and speak to the press about the closure of this branch.

“In that time, the former staff have been messaged by ex-customers asking where their orders and repairs are and if they’re safe. The company as a whole plans to shut 17% of shops as a way of coming out the pandemic stronger.

“As a team, we just hope the other employees set for redundancy are not kept in the dark as we have been and that when the company speaks to any press, that they are truthful and honest.”

Staff at the Galashiels shop, a staple on Channel Street for more than 40 years, had 17 years experience between them and were placed on furlough, subsidised by the company to full pay until that subsidy ended in May.

They were contacted by a district manager on May 12, with word that their shop would not reopen and they would be called individually to discuss redundancy.

“At this point each of us were told there was no option for relocation of employment as the only vacancy was at a store which was also not re-opening,” they added. “Our team were all officially made redundant on the May 27, and all of us are yet to receive our P45.

“None of us were told why our shop had been chosen to close, and in fact, found it very short-sighted of the company to close the only shop between Carlisle and Edinburgh - and the Carlisle store has subsequently shut meaning there is no H Samuel between Newcastle and Edinburgh.”

“We were proud to work in a small yet friendly shop in the middle of Galashiels. We had a range of brilliant repeat customers and had been told by higher management that we were a profitable shop on more than one occasion.

“Of course, retail is an unreliable business to be in at this time, even pre-Covid-19, and after Christmas when questioned with our district manager we were told our shop was not at risk, filling our team with a little relief after an especially busy Christmas period.” This week a H Samuel spokesman confirmed the store, which closed alongside all non-essential shops at the start of the coronavirus lockdown, would remain permanently closed.

He said: “Our H Samuel store in Galashiels is closing. It was closed in March with the Covid-19 lockdown and it now won’t reopen.

“We are of course contacting our customers, in order to connect them with any orders or repairs that maybe outstanding from the store.

“The others closes store for customers is in Edinburgh, however they cannot shop there at the moment either due to the fact shops aren’t allowed to reopen yet in Scotland.”

He refused to discuss the future of staff there, though, adding: “We don’t ever discuss issues relating to our store personnel.

“Wherever possible we are doing what we can to relocate our staff. But the outcome for some, sadly in these situations, is there won’t be good news for everybody.”

Of the stores closing, 38 are from the Ernest Jones portfolio, while 44 H Samuel boutiques will exit the high street.

The nearest H Samuel store in Edinburgh is on Princes Street.

The company says all customers with outstanding repairs or orders to collect are being contacted directly.