National retailer Bunnings is proposing to close stores in Ashburton, Hornby, Hastings, Cambridge, Rangiora, Te Awamutu and Putaruru with 145 staff affected.
The Australian-headquartered business today issued a statement which says following a network review and "the challenges of the recent trading environment", it has told staff of its proposal to close the stores.
Jacqui Coombes, Bunnings NZ director said: "Our absolute priority is the welfare of the 145 affected team members.
"This news is understandably upsetting and we will be working closely with our team during the consultation period to discuss their individual circumstances, including redeployment to other stores if possible.
"Despite the incredible efforts of our teams, the challenges at these stores have been exacerbated as a result of the Covid-19 environment and unfortunately these stores are no longer a viable part of our store network."
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The Ashburton Warehouse, the Hornby and Hastings trade centres and four smaller format stores in Cambridge, Rangiora, Te Awamutu and Putaruru are impacted.
"Bunnings is an active manager of its portfolio in both the Australian and New Zealand markets which includes new developments and openings as well as reviews such as this which have led to the decisions that have been made," it said.
The closures were connected to the challenges of the recent trading environment but also took into account other considerations including lease arrangements, individual store performance and suitability of location, with some of the stores always intended as temporary locations, it said.
"This also follows a review late last year which saw Bunnings close three of its smaller format stores at Te Aroha, Waikanae and Paeroa."
Consultation on the closures with staff would begin today.
The proposed closures follow previous measures to cut the strain from the New Zealand lockdown last month by temporarily reducing salaried staff hours and pay by 20 per cent and working with landlords on rental reductions, Coombes said.
Two years ago, Bunnings was aiming to almost double revenue by 2023 and employ a further 1200 to 1500 staff.
Australian Toby Lawrance, 46, took over heading the national business from Coombes in August 2017 and said in 2018 that the target was for annual sales revenue to rise from $1.3 billion in the June 30, 2018 year to $2b by 2023.
"It's a multi-pronged approach to getting new sites and with smaller regional stores, there's opportunities for upgrades or replacements. Our expansion in the next five years is to gear up. New stores will be in regional and metropolitan areas," said Lawrance, Bunnings NZ general manager.
"We'll create 1200 to 1500 new jobs over the next five years," he said in April 2018.
Back then, the business had 55 New Zealand stores: 27 Bunnings Warehouse outlets, 20 smaller-format stores and eight trade centres.
A $30m distribution centre with 2ha indoor floor space on a 37,500sq m site at 7 Kapau Dr, two blocks off George Bolt Memorial Dr near Auckland Airport, Mangere was created as a major hub.