BRITAIN’S biggest dry-cleaning chain revealed yesterday that it is to put the shutters up at more than one in three of its stores this year in a retrenchment that could trigger more than 400 job losses.
Johnson Service Group chief executive Chris Sander said it was planning to shut 109 of its 307 branches, of which 24 are in Scotland, as the business continues a strategic refocus from stand-alone high street locations towards supermarket collection and delivery points.
No regional breakdown was given of which branches will close. Johnson Service has also not disclosed redundancy numbers but, with a typical store employing four, the planned closures could affect more than 400 jobs.
The latest shake-up comes after the group, which also closed more than 100 branches in 2012, said the dry-cleaning business failed to grow sales last year despite several initiatives to reach new customers. By contrast, the bigger textile rental arm, had “performed well,” Johnson said.
The group has established collection and delivery points in office buildings where high numbers of staff are employed, and now also has a presence within 78 Waitrose stores, including two in Scotland. Nearly 50 of these such locations are to be opened early in 2015.
The group, in a pre-close trading update before its results for 2014 are published on 3 March, said dry-cleaning “continues to operate in a difficult high street environment”.
Sander said: “We are commencing a consultation exercise with affected employees and anticipate that branches will close during the first half of the year.
“The remaining 198 better-performing premium branches are in more convenient locations with an infrastructure capable of receiving dry cleaning from various collection and delivery points.”
Most stores set for closure have leases expiring within the next two years, with renewal not seen as financially viable. Johnson said it was also planning to launch an online home collection and delivery service for higher-value or bulky items.
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