Saturday, May 02, 2009

Waterstone's to cut hundreds of jobs
01.05.09 Graeme Neill reporting in The Bookseller

Waterstone's could lose as many as 650 positions, following its move to a new distribution centre at Burton on Trent and a decision to use more part-time staff throughout the chain. The jobs cuts, which are equivalent to 450 full-time roles, could affect up to a third of Waterstone's 300 branches.
Waterstone's said it had made "considerable efforts to minimise the effects of the changes" and the final number of redundancies, adding that the "business will be doing everything [it] can to support those affected". Three hundred full-time staff will be hired by Unipart to work at Waterstone's new distribution hub at Burton-on-Trent, which will be fully operational from June.Waterstone's launched a national consultation process in January with its 4,500 employees, which formally ends today [Friday, 1st May]. Staff are now in consultation on a store level about their futures, with this process expected to be completed within the next four weeks.

Goods-in and returns staff are likely to be those most affected by the cuts: options open include working in other departments, other branches, or accepting reduced hours.A third of stores will face no changes and the remaining third will change their rotas.
Part-time roles have been given more weight in store rotas, with branches asked to operate on a 60/40 split between full-time and part-time staff. Footfall counters were placed in all stores to measure the peak times customers visited branches and rotas were changed accordingly.

Gerry Johnson, Waterstone's managing director, said: "We have stressed to everybody that this figure is not a target. What's more important is matching the rotas to what is needed in store. So if that means an 80/20 split then fine. We have stressed time and time again that 60/40 was merely a guideline."
Johnson dismissed suggestions that a greater reliance on part-time staff would lead to fewer experienced booksellers on the shop floor. He said: "There's absolutely no evidence of that. Being full-time or part-time does not change your passion and enthusiasm for books. It simply changes the number of hours you work in store. We have some absolutely brilliant full-timers and some absolutely brilliant part-timers. What matters to us is the enthusiasm and passion for books and the service they can give to customers."

The implementation of the hub marks the end of a two-year overhaul of Waterstone’s supply chain. Johnson said: "After Christmas we knew roughly what our timetable would be and we knew that quite a lot of work that was going on in our stores was going to change. The need to receive deliveries, unpack boxes and sort stock into specific areas of the store is all going to be done in the hub facility."

However, although Waterstone's has won praise among publishers for the way it has handled the move to the hub, the job cuts are certain to be controversial not least among its employees; speculation has been rife over the past week about the size of the job losses with staff being informed of redundancies at their stores this week.

There had been suggestions that as many as 800 jobs could be at risk. Twenty national representatives were elected to hold four meetings with senior management. Among the issues raised was the size of the redundancy package, which Johnson said has been increased.

Earlier this week the book chain reported a sales drop over the past year of 3.8%, in what Johnson described as a "difficult" market. But he added: "The business is in a strong place. Books are not immune from the recession but they are safer than other areas. The market will return to growth and when it does, we will be well placed to take advantage."


Anonymous said...

Diary Of An Oxygen Thief a facinating little oddity
which will soon be available at Barnes and Noble and Urban Outfitters... and good independent bookshops

Anonymous said...

Diary Of An Oxygen Thief is a facinating little oddity
which will soon be available at Barnes and Noble and Urban Outfitters and at good independent bookshops