Page last updated at 18:33 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Shop Direct group cuts 1,150 jobs

Gates at premises of Shop Direct
Shop Direct owns a number of brands, including Littlewoods

One of the UK's biggest home shopping retailers has announced plans to axe 1,150 jobs in north-west England.

The Shop Direct group, formerly Littlewoods Home Shopping, said it planned to close its Crosby call centre, with the loss of 1,000 posts.

About 150 further redundancies will be made at the company's headquarters in Speke and Aintree in Liverpool, and sites in Preston and Manchester.

It said a growth in online sales had prompted a fall in telephone orders.

Shop Direct said the closure of its Crosby call centre, one of seven across the UK, was part of its transformation into an online-led business.

A 90-day consultation with staff affected by the decision is getting under way.

Our business is changing because the way our customers choose to shop with us is changing
Chief Executive Mark Newton Jones

Despite the announcement, Shop Direct has described itself as a "strong and growing" business.

It reported healthy trading over Christmas with group sales up 9%, and online sales growing by 44%.

Shop Direct's online business accounts for 56% of its sales and this is predicted to rise to 70% by 2010/11.

The company's spokeswoman added that as well as Crosby and Speke, redundancies will be sought at Shop Direct's financial services division in Aintree, Liverpool, a call centre in Preston and at the warehousing division in Manchester.

Chief Executive Mark Newton Jones said: "We recognise that this will be a difficult time for those members of our team impacted by today's announcement.

"Our business is changing because the way our customers choose to shop with us is changing.

"We anticipate that 70 percent of our sales will be online by 2010/11 and, therefore, the future of our business is online-led.

"We are a strong and growing business. In order to maintain this growth, we need to continue to adapt and change to the needs of our customers."

Workers stunned

Mr Newton said 250 of those staff affected by the cuts would be offered re-location.

But workers at the call centre were left "stunned" by the announcement on Wednesday, the Usdaw union said.

Spokesman David Johnson said: "Our members are understandably extremely shocked and distressed at this announcement which the company made just this morning.

"We will be starting a consultation process with the company tomorrow and will be examining in detail their business case to close the Crosby call centre.

"The company maintain that the decision is not due to the current economic climate but is necessary because of the steady decline of the traditional catalogue home shopping business as customers switch to the internet."

Shop Direct Group includes the former catalogue shopping giants of Littlewoods, Great Universal and Kays.

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