The bookseller Waterstone's is to axe up to 650 staff as it moves to a new distribution centre and focuses more on part-time staff. The job cuts, which will take place from the end of the month, are equivalent to 450 full-time roles, but goods-in and returns staff in stores will be most affected.
About a third of HMV Group-owned Waterstone's 300 branches will see minimal changes in staff numbers or working hours, but another third of its estate will have staff rotas changed substantially. The bulk of the redundancies will be at the remaining 100 or so stores, which are typically larger and currently have a greater proportion of staff involved in receiving books and putting them on the shelves.
The new distribution centre, or book hub, in Burton-on-Trent replaces the previous system of publishers making direct deliveries to Waterstone's stores, and marks the end of a two-year programme to improve its supply chain, as it seeks to cut costs in a declining book market.
A Waterstone's spokesman said: "The book hub is designed to consolidate orders from multiple publishers into a single delivery for each store and means these deliveries are easier to process and stock reaches the shelves more quickly." He added: "The business will be doing everything we can to minimise the final number of redundancies." The increased emphasis on part-time staff will see shops typically operate a 60/40 split between full-time and part-time employees.
The bookseller kicked off a national consultation process with its 4,500 employees in January, which ended yesterday. Waterstone's started trialling the book hub last year. When it is fully operational across its store network, the distribution centre will employ about 300 people. This week, HMV said that Waterstone's like-for-like sales had declined by 4.5 per cent for the 16 weeks ended 25 April.