Woolworths is to close 30 stores across Australasia – including six Countdown supermarkets in New Zealand – through an operating model review, announced last week to the Australian stock exchange.
The plan includes a further 500 job losses, 1000 staff being moved from group office into businesses and the rollout of new Australian supermarkets being “slowed significantly”, chief executive officer Brad Banducci says in a stock exchange announcement.
The company is also looking to sell EziBuy, an Australasia e-commerce and catalogue retailer based in Palmerston North.
Just one New Zealand Countdown supermarket – Rangiora Central – is set to close this year.
Countdown intends to offer all 57 staff work at either the Rangiora East store, or one of the other remaining Christchurch stores, before the closure on 2 October, says James Walker, general manager corporate affairs.
One Countdown supermarket, Waihi, has already closed due to safety concerns.
The remaining four supermarkets set to close cannot be announced due to ongoing commercial discussions, such as with landlords. However, they are unlikely to happen for at least 12 months, Walker says.
“As we always do, we will work with team affected by these closures to transfer to nearby stores.”
Countdown plans to open three new stores in the next year, in Aotea (Wellington), Beachlands and Ashburton South. Two replacement stores in Waiheke Island and Mosgiel will also be built, Walker says.
“As a supermarket business, we’ve got to make sure we’re in a place where our customers need us to be. As a general rule, closing supermarkets and opening them is part of the business.”
The job losses are coming out of Woolworths’ head office and the closure of a distribution centre in Australia, Walker says.
But this side of the Tasman, Countdown is still going ahead with its plans to provide customers with more face-to-face service by creating about 600 new roles on the shop floor, such as checkouts, produce and night-fill. A further 200 staff will also be given extended hours.
“We want to make sure we’ve got the best possible service in our stores. Customer service is key,” he says.
Walker says Countdown’s customer numbers are growing year-on-year in New Zealand. He calls the changes a “minor readjustment and opportunity to redeploy”.
“Countdown is performing well. We’re closing some stores that we think, unfortunately, make sense to do so, but we’re opening new ones and will continue to open them in the foreseeable future.”
Countdown has 183 stores across New Zealand and 18,000 employees.