Fenwick department store to axe 421 jobs after profits fall 93%

Fenwick at the opening of its Christmas window in Newcastle in 2017
Fenwick at the opening of its Christmas window in Newcastle in 2017
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Retailer Fenwick is swinging the axe on 421 jobs as part of a major cost-cutting drive amid a collapse in annual profits.

The department store chain, which has branches in York, London and the South East as well as its famous flagship Newcastle store, said the cull, part of a turnaround effort, will affect management, support and shop floor staff.

It came as Fenwick, whose Newcastle store pulls in shoppers from across the North East, posted a 93% fall in pre-tax profits to £2million after being stung by a hefty impairment charge on the value of its properties and costs linked to a restructuring plan.

A spokeswoman for Fenwick 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.

Pre-exceptional operating profit dropped from £14.4 million to £6.5 million.

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."