Fenwicks in Colchester to cut jobs in another blow for Colchester town centre

Burglars smashed their way into Fenwicks department store in Colchester during the early hours of th

Burglars smashed their way into Fenwicks department store in Colchester during the early hours of this morning and stole expensive designer handbags. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Retailer Fenwick is swinging the axe on 421 jobs as part of a major cost-cutting drive, and 12 of those will be at its landmark Colchester store.

The department store chain said the cull, part of a turnaround effort, will affect management, support and shop floor staff.

The company employs 237 staff in its Colchester store. Fenwick opened on Colchester High Street in the former Williams and Griffith building following a £35m redevelopment.

In another blow for the store, last night, its front windows were smashed after an overnight break in and the area is currently cordoned off. It is believed a slab of concrete has been used to smash through the shopfront in order to gain access to handbags which were on display.

The news of job losses came as Fenwick posted a 93% fall in pre-tax profits to £2 million after being stung by a hefty impairment charge on the value of its properties and costs linked to a restructuring plan.


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A spokesperson for Fenwick said: “The transformation programme we announced last year is progressing to plan and we believe it will put Fenwick on a strong footing for future growth. As part of our programme we are investing in IT and other back office systems, in our flagship Newcastle store and in a new e-commerce offer, which will go live in early 2019. We have also restructured parts of the business and have made the difficult to decision to cut staff numbers across the business, reducing total headcount by 408 from a total of 3,250 colleagues.”

Of the Colchester job losses, seven will be made up of 7 compulsory redundancies and 5 voluntary redundancies.

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The Colchester store has recently invested in several changes in order to boost trade. Tiptree Jam opened their first cocktail bar in Essex in Fenwick in June and in July, Fenwick ran a competition for small businesses to win space to open pop up stalls in the Spring.

A spokesperson for Fenwick nationally said: “Our annual results reflect the challenging market conditions all department store groups are facing, including increased competition from online retail, declining footfall on the high street, and increasingly competitive price discounting - factors that have been exacerbated by a rise in the cost of living that has led to a fall in consumers’ disposable income.”

“We have also restructured parts of the business and have made the difficult to decision to cut staff numbers across the business, reducing total headcount by 421 to 2,879.”

Gross sales also decreased by 3.6% to £411.1 million in the 52 weeks to January 26.

This year has been torrid for high street retailers, with department stores showing some of the most significant signs of financial distress.

House of Fraser collapsed into administration last month and Debenhams has issued a string of profit warnings.

But Fenwick insisted that its transformation plan is on track.

The firm added: “The fact that sales fell only slightly last year demonstrates the strength of our local brand, and our product and customer service offer.

“As part of our programme we are investing in IT and other back office systems, in our flagship Newcastle store and in a new e-commerce offer, which will go live in early 2019.”

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