As many as 40 Homebase and Bunnings DIY stores in the UK could be closed after the group’s Australian owner said the UK arm of the business is currently under review – with hundreds of jobs at risk.
The news has led to speculation that the owners Wesfarmers, which bought Homebase two years ago for £340m, could be forced to exit the UK after a botched takeover and restructuring.
Wesfarmers’ managing director Rob Scott said that the UK business – which includes 250 stores – was expected to make a loss of £97m this half year following a loss of £54m in the year up to June 2017.
Scott said that the performance of the business had been below expectations and was “obviously disappointing”, but admitted the problems were “through our own doing” as the restructuring of the business meant they ditched popular ranges like bathrooms and kitchens and removed concessions such as Argos, Habitat and Laura Ashley without any alternatives.
He went on to say that between 20 – 40 UK stores could be closed as they try to move out of Homebase units that do not justify the investment required to turn them into Bunnings outlets. So far they have converted 19 Homebase stores into Bunnings stores, and plan to reveal further details of its operations review in June.
In response to the news, shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw has called on Homebase to immediately open up a dialogue with the union to ensure staff are properly represented throughout the review.
Usdaw National Officer, David Gill said:
Staff in Homebase stores are extremely concerned that Wesfarmers, the parent company of Homebase owners Bunnings UK, are reviewing the business after acquiring it barely two years ago. I have written to the company seeking clarification about their intentions and calling for them to involve Usdaw in the review to ensure the staff have a voice in their future.
Usdaw is the trade union for Homebase staff and now more than ever they need the representation and support we can provide. It is crucial that the company listens to the staff to make a success of the business.