H&J Smith proposes store closures

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The Invercargill H&J Smith store will remain open. PHOTO: LUISA GIRAO

ABOUT 175 staff will lose their jobs if H&J Smith goes ahead with proposed closures of some of it stores in the southern region.

The mooted changes would see its flagship store in Invercargill and the Queenstown department store remain open.

However, its Dunedin, Mosgiel, Balclutha and Te Anau stores would close and its Gore business would be reduced in size.

The Armoury Store in Dunedin and Outdoor World in Queenstown, owned by H&J Smith Group, would also close.

The Take Note store in Gore would relocate.

The lingering impact of Covid-19 had led to the proposed changes.

The proposal was now under consideration and a final decision would be made in early June.

The closures and downsizing could occur from August this year to February 2021.

Managing director Jason Smith said the company was significantly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our retail division has been grappling with increasing wage and compliance costs, issues around store size and scale, difficulties securing supply, new entrants to the New Zealand market and the increasing dominance of multinational chains,” he said.

“We also have an ageing store network in need of capital expenditure…”

Pursuing upgrades would not be prudent given ongoing uncertainty post-Covid, he said.

“H&J Smith has been in operation for 120 years. To be here for 120 more, it’s now very clear we need a long-term view.”

Mr Smith said consolidating operations back to the Invercargill home base should secure a viable future for the company.

“I want to acknowledge all our staff, customers and suppliers who are impacted by this proposal,” Mr Smith said.

Other businesses operated by the H&J Smith Group Mega in Invercargill and Queenstown, and Laser Electrical in Invercargill

H&J Smith was established in 1900 as a drapery store in Invercargill.

It had grown to be one of New Zealand’s largest privately owned retail companies.

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