The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to cut jobs and close branches. The latest to be affected is supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s, and retail brand, Argos, which Sainsbury’s bought in 2016.
The company has announced that it plans to close around 420 standalone Argos stores over the next few years, by March 2024.
This will reduce the number of standalone Argos stores to around 100 branches.
Jobs will also be lost, as the meat, fish and delicatessen counters will also be closed permanently in Sainsbury’s stores.
The supermarket chain explained that when it closed its meat, fish and delicatessen counters in March as part of the first lockdown rules, customers had communicated that they were happy buying these products in the aisles instead.
“Our pizza and patisseries counters remain open and we continue to freshly bake bread in 1,348 stores,” Sainsbury’s said in a statement.
While Argos branches will be closed, Sainsbury’s also added, “We will open up to 150 more Argos stores in Sainsbury’s and add 150-200 more Argos collection points in supermarkets and convenience stores, so that every Sainsbury’s supermarket will have either an Argos store or a collection point.”
What will happen to staff?
Simon Roberts, chief executive of Sainsbury’s, said, “We are talking to colleagues today about where the changes we are announcing in Argos standalone stores and food counters will impact their roles.”
He added, “We will work really hard to find alternative roles for as many of these colleagues as possible and expect to be able to offer alternative roles for the majority of impacted colleagues.”
However, it is explained that while alternative roles are to be sought out for staff, around 3,500 Sainsbury’s and Argos staff could ultimately lose their jobs as part of the supermarket’s proposals.
“We have an excellent track record of finding alternative roles for colleagues - for example, where we have moved colleagues from Argos standalone stores to stores in Sainsbury's supermarkets, we have retained 90 per cent of colleagues,” Roberts said.
An increase in digital sales
Roberts explained that around 19 per cent of its sales were digital this time last year - now, nearly 40 per cent of its sales are digital.
“Covid-19 has accelerated a number of shifts in our industry. Investments over recent years in digital and technology have laid the foundations for us to flex and adapt quickly as customers needed to shop differently,” Roberts said.
The supermarket chain also revealed that digital sales were up 117 per cent, to £5.8 billion, with online grocery shopping sales also up 102 per cent.