Fierce competition from online shopping has claimed yet another retail victim this week, with the Midlands Co-operative announcing that it is to close its Fashion & Home department stores.
The decision affects all of the nine outlets bar one, which could survive in a different form, and uncertainly now hangs over almost 400 jobs.
The society said that major changes in the retailing sector and the growth of online shopping over recent years had created “significant and fundamental challenges” for the society’s Fashion & Home business. It has incurred substantial losses for more than a decade, and despite efforts to improve performance the latest financial projections indicate further losses in future years.
Over the next six months, there will be a phased closure of the department stores in Chesterfield, Coalville, Derby, Ilkeston, Stafford, West Bridgford and Wigston and of the Long Eaton Bed Centre.
However, a spokesperson for the society told HousewaresLive.net that the store in Raunds, Wellingborough, might remain open.
“In Raunds we’re hoping to change the range stocked in the store to faster-selling homeware products to keep the store trading, but it’s still early days,” she said.
Some of the stores sell a mix of fashion and homewares, including cookshop lines, and others purely homewares.
Midlands Co-operative chief executive Martyn Cheatle said that efforts to sell the business as a going concern had proved unsuccessful, and that the decision to close had not been taken lightly but was necessary to protect the long-term future and growth of the society as a whole.
“A plan has been put in place for a phased closure of the society’s Fashion & Home stores over the next six months. This could potentially affect some 388 store-based employees, although every effort will be made to redeploy employees into other business areas.
“The society is also exploring viable change of use options for the Fashion & Home sites. It is anticipated that the Society’s Raunds Homestore will continue to trade but with a different product offer to the one currently stocked.”
All customer orders and gift vouchers will be honoured, and customer enquires will continue to be handled by staff at the Fashion & Home stores during the phased closure.