Selfridges announces job cuts as it braces for ‘toughest year’ in recent history

By Becky Bargh 28-Jul-2020

The luxury fashion and cosmetics retailer has said it will reduce its headcount by 450, representing around 14% of its staff

Selfridges has told staff it plans to make 450 redundancies as it braces for a significant reduction in annual sales due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an email to employees, the luxury department store chain’s Managing Director Anne Pitcher said it was one of the firm’s hardest decisions and that “very regrettably” 14% of its headcount would have to be reduced.

Pitcher also admitted that the high street was changing “rapidly”, even before the arrival of Covid-19, and that the retailer must make “fundamental changes” in order to survive.

“Like many others, we are feeling the effects and acknowledge that recovery will be slow, with sales this year forecast to be significantly less than they were in 2019,” she wrote.

“It will, without doubt, be the toughest year we have experienced in our recent history.”

She continued: “The task ahead is significant and, as we look to reinvent retail and prepare to build back, we will need to go further.”

Pitcher confirmed that staff on furlough would not necessarily be impacted by the decision.

UK retail hit by Covid-19

Selfridges' announcement coincides with wide-scale upheaval, resulting in store closures and job losses, within the UK retail sector.

Harrods, John Lewis and Boots are all expected to reduce their staff headcount as the effects of the pandemic continue to stifle sales.

Struggling UK retailer Debenhams has also entered administration and is now exploring options including a sale to an external buyer.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, around 1 in 12 workers are employed in retail worldwide and the sector accounts for almost 5% of GDP.

The intergovernmental organisation said that in order for retail to weather the shock of the pandemic, governments should make liquidity assistance available.

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It also recommends helping essential retailers manage labour supply shortages and supporting firms with the implementation of social distancing measures.