Brighton and Hove staff face uncertainty as big firms ponder branch closures

Posted On 03 Dec 2017 at 7:27 pm

Staff working in shops in Brighton and Hove face more uncertainty after a spate of recent announcements and market rumours about branch closures.

Travel agent Thomas Cook, toy retailer Toys R Us and bank group RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) are among the national and international chains reviewing their high street operations.

Thomas Cook said that it would close 50 branches, affecting 400 staff, with the details due to be finalised within three months.

It was unclear whether the branches in North Street, Brighton, and Church Road, Hove, were among those earmarked for closure.

The company said that it hoped to redeploy some staff to online roles where the number of holiday bookings has been rising rapidly.

The travel business will have closed almost half of its 1,200-strong network in just over five years by the end of the process.

It said that it was targeting its least profitable stores and has previously shut premises with “onerous leases”.

Toys R Us is also expected to thin out its branch network although the Hove store – at the Goldstone Retail Park – should survive the cull.

The toy shop chain is to close about 25 stores – almost a quarter of its British branches – with out-of-town stores most at risk.

Insiders believe that the Hove branch is one of the company’s star performers and likely to be spared as several hundred jobs go.

The American parent company of Toys R Us filed for protection from bankruptcy in September as it sought to restructure debts of £3.7 billion.

Sky News reported that the British business was preparing to seek a “company voluntary arrangement” within days and that this could leave many landlords out of pocket.

BHS, Focus DIY and JJB Sports all entered similar deals to try to reschedule their debts but ended up going bust.

The news comes as RBS announced the closure of two branches locally – one in London Road, Brighton, and the Portslade and West Hove branch, on the corner of Boundary Road and New Church Road, Hove.

Lloyds Bank and Yorkshire Building Society announced branch closures elsewhere in the past week.

And Four Seasons, which owns the Bon Accord care home, in New Church Road, is struggling under the weight of its debt.

Its future will be clearer, one way or another, in just under a fortnight.

The Local Data Company, which monitors shop vacancies, reported a slowdown in new openings a few months ago.

Its figures for Brighton and Hove though are usually better than for many places given the mix of national chains and independents here.

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