H&J Smith closure ‘blunt reminder’

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GRANT MILLER@nullalliedpress.co.nz

Proposed closures of retailer H&J Smith’s stores in Balclutha, Dunedin, Mosgiel and Te Anau and the reduction in size of its Gore store was a blow to the lower South Island, Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said.

‘‘It’s a blunt reminder that we need to be shopping locally,’’ Mr Cadogan said.

The Clutha community would rally to provide support for staff in the coming days, he said.

H&J Smith was established in 1900 as a drapery store in Invercargill and grew to be one of New Zealand’s largest privately owned retail companies.

On Monday the group announced it was proposing to shut its stores in many locations.
About 175 staff would be affected.

The company said the lingering impact of Covid-19 had led to the proposed changes, which were now under consideration, and a final decision would be made in early June.

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

H&J Group said cutting the size of its retail division was proposed to secure its long-term future.

Managing director Jason Smith said the company had been 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.