Argos to shed jobs in digital strategy

Retailer Argos is to change from a catalogue to a digitally-led retail model, which will see 75 stores either closed or relocated in the next five years.

While some job losses are anticipated, the company’s parent, Home Retail Group, said that the intention is that Argos will employ more people by 2018 than it does currently.

A spokesperson said it was too early to say which stores and regions would be affected, but all of Argos’s 739 shops across Britain and Ireland will be reviewed.

Every store will be looked at as it comes to the end of its current lease arrangement, and assessed on a range of factors. such as profitability, attractiveness of location, and fit with the company’s new strategy.

Argos currently employs around 1,400 people in Ireland across 40 stores in the Republic and 27 in the North.

While still retaining a high street presence, Home Retail is looking to drive Argos’s digital sales and provide more product online. Argos is currently the second most visited internet retailer in Britain, and mobile shopping represented 7% of its total sales in the first half of its current financial year.

The company is targeting sales of £4.5bn (€5.6bn) by 2018. A review undertaken in the past six months found Argos to have “a strong customer franchise”, but a need to invest in order to restore the business to sustainable growth.

David Fitzsimons, chief executive of industry representative body Retail Excellence Ireland, suggested that while the news should not be seen as a warning sign for Argos’s Irish operations, it should come as no surprise.

“The company has a new managing director and is reinventing itself towards a more cost-effective strategy,” he said. “Like other international retailers here, Argos is experiencing legacy costs — including rent issues — and a low demand base. It has to do something.”

First-half figures issued yesterday for Home Retail Group, which also owns the Homebase DIY chain, showed a year-on-year drop in sales of 1% for the six months to the beginning of September to £2.53bn. First-half sales were up marginally at £1.69bn.

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