Retail gloom deepens with loss of 1,000 jobs at Boots

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The Independent Online

Boots the chemist will confirm the widespread gloom on the high street this week by unveiling the cutting of 1,000 jobs at its head office.

Boots the chemist will confirm the widespread gloom on the high street this week by unveiling the cutting of 1,000 jobs at its head office.

The news will come as many other retailers open their books for the crucial Christmas trading period, showing that the weeks of warnings about the lack of cash flowing into their tills were well-founded.

The new chief executive of Boots, Richard Baker, will tell 1,000 people, mostly at its Nottingham head office, this week that their jobs will be culled from the total head count of 3,000.

The cuts will come on top of 500 jobs Boots cut from the head office last June. Boots will give a trading statement on Friday.

Marks & Spencer will be one of the most high-profile casualties of lacklustre demand among consumers, with City analysts braced for the company to admit that its clothing range, especially womenswear, lost out to rivals in the highly competitive Christmas trading period. Like-for-like sales are thought to be down as much as 5 per cent on the same period last year.

The performance, which will be unveiled on Wednesday, is sufficiently dire that speculation was growing at the weekend that M&S has asked the headhunter Egon Zehnder to look for a so-called clothing tsar. such a move would raise questions about the future of David Norgrove, the director whose responsibilities include clothing.

Belinda Earl, the former head of Debenhams, and Stephen Sunnucks, the chief executive of New Look, are thought to have been contacted about filling the new position to mastermind a revival in the M&S clothing business.

M&S's approach is similar to that taken in its home division, where it hired Vittorio Radice from Selfridges last March.

The electrical goods giant Dixons is also trying to find a way to lift its performance and will update the City this week on its project to move business to cheaper out-of-town megastores. Such a move could lead to the closure of hundreds of Dixons shops on high streets across the UK.

Among the supermarkets, J Sainsbury, which gives a trading update today, is expected to show an improvement on its recent disappointing performances, but it will continue to lag far behind the strong sales growth of market leader Tesco, and of Wm Morrison, which is buying smaller rival Safeway.

M&S will be joined on Wednesday by Matalan, the discount retailer that recently shocked the City with a profits warning.

On a brighter note, Tesco, is set to reaffirm its dominance among the supermarkets, having seen sales at Christmas strongly boosted by non-food items such as DVDs and CDs. HMV, which owns the Waterstone's book chain, is also thought to have done well, as has Mothercare.