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Blacks cuts jobs to aid recovery

Blacks Leisure will trial new storefits, review its brand portfolio and cut jobs in a bid to aid a recovery of the business over the next year.

The group issued a profit warning this week as like-for-like sales at boardsports chains Freespirit and O’Neill fell 10.8% for the six weeks to January 12.

Chief executive Neil Gillis said he would oversee a three-pronged strategy to cut costs by £3 million and boost sales.

Blacks will cut management jobs at its head office in Northampton. Gillis said the cuts would not include the senior team, but were likely to be in the buying, merchandising and design functions.

The firm will also launch more fashion- oriented storefits for its Blacks and Millets chains in March and its Freespirit fascia in April.

Gillis said: “There has been over-investment in out-of-town stores that haven’t worked and a lack of money spent on our core stores. We’ll make them brighter, more spacious and fashion-able, with more differentiation between Blacks and Millets.

“I think there’s a lot of potential in Freespirit and I don’t want to sell it off,” he added.

Gillis is also reviewing the brand mix across the chains, including introducing new international brands.

Full-year profits are set to be below market expectations. Like-for-likes were up 2.8% for the six weeks to January 12, with total sales up 2%, driven by Blacks and Millets, which were up 5.4% and 7.8% like-for-like respectively.

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