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B&Q refuses to rule out Head Office job losses

B&Q bosses have refused to rule out job cuts at its Hampshire headquarters – a day after revealing a drop in sales at its UK stores.

The giant DIY firm announced earlier this year that it was considering a “realignment” of the board structure at its Chandler’s Ford centre – the workplace for 1,200 people.

But that process – as well as any decision on whether jobs will be lost – is likely to take at least two more months. Last night Eastleigh MP Chris Huhne said B&Q was “crucial” to the area and hoped cuts could be avoided.

Kingfisher, the company that owns the chain of superstores, revealed on Wednesday how the wettest summer in 100 years had wiped £30m from the group’s profits as demand for gardening and outdoor maintenance goods plunged.

B&Q sales in the UK and Ireland suffered a six per cent like-for-like decline to £2 billion as average footfall plunged 20 per cent in the severely weather- affected weeks. Retail profit fell 24 per cent, or nearly £40m, to £125m.

While sales of building products were hit by the adverse weather in the six months to the end of July, sales of indoor decorating products were up as customers switched their home improvement activities indoors.

But a company spokesman said their realignment scheme had nothing to do with the latest figures and that the process had already been under way.

When asked by the Daily Echo whether job losses could be ruled out, the spokesman said: “We can’t say that there won’t be any but we can’t give any numbers at this stage.”

She added in a statement: “Following the board changes announced on June 26 and the subsequent discussions around the realignment of our people behind our new board structure, we are creating a new team structure at our head office.

“We have taken a very different approach to creating this new organisation structure, choosing to build and design it with the full involvement of all our internal teams. “Everyone has thrown themselves into this approach with the simple aim of creating the right organisation for future sustainable growth.”

It comes just a year after staff transferred from their old workplace to a new 220,000 sq ft headquarters next door in Chestnut Avenue, Chandler’s Ford. The new office, named B&Q House, took just over two years to complete.

Last night Eastleigh Borough Council leader Keith House said the authority would work with the firm if job cuts were announced. He added: “B&Q are a major local employer and like most businesses in the construction and home improvement sector will have had difficult trading conditions.

“They have a reputation as a good employer and we will of course work with them and local training providers to help respond to job losses.”

Mr Huhne added: “Innovative employers like B&Q are crucial to our area, and I would hope that B&Q have a strong enough base here to ride out any difficulties and prevent job cuts.”

Source: Julian Robinson - Southern Daily Echo

14 September 2012
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