Midlands Co-operative is to close down its Fashion & Home business over the next six months.
The phased closure of nine non-food stores across the Midlands region will affect 388 staff members in what is described as "significant and fundamental challenges" for the business.
Over the Christmas period, the Fashion & Home business reported a like-for-like decline of sales by 10.7 per cent, though the overall results for the society's portfolio saw sales up by 9.8 per cent in the three weeks to January 5th.
A statement from the society said: "Substantial losses have been incurred from the Fashion & Home operation for more than a decade and in spite of sustained efforts to improve performance, the latest financial projections indicate a further decline with increasing losses in future years."
The stores that are due to close are Chesterfield (Department Store, Warehouse); Coalville (Department Store); Derby (Department Store); Ilkeston (Department Store); Long Eaton (Bed Centre); Stafford (Department Store); West Bridgford (Fashion & Home Store); and Wigston (Department Store).
The Raunds branch will stop trading as a Fashion & Home store, but will continue to operate as a non-food outlet selling a range of other goods to be decided.
Midlands Co-operative Chief Executive Martyn Cheatle said: “Unfortunately, efforts to sell the business as a going concern have proved unsuccessful and after much consideration it is with great regret that the Board of Directors took this very difficult decision to close the Fashion & Home business. Please be assured that this decision was not taken lightly and 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 nine 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 and it is anticipated that the Society’s ambitious new food store development programme will help facilitate this. The society is also exploring viable change of use options for the Fashion & Home sites.
“As stated we will fully investigate redeployment opportunities in surrounding business units and Society operations. The Society is in full consultation with all affected staff and trade unions.”
All customer orders and gift vouchers will be honoured, and customer enquires will continue to be handled by staff at the Society’s Fashion & Home stores during the phased closure. In addition staff in local food stores will provide ongoing customer service; alternatively customers will be able to contact the Society’s Customer Service team at the Society’s Head Office in Lichfield.
• To contact the society, visit its website: www.midlands.coop