Tesco announces 4,500 job cuts as it overhauls Metro stores

Wale Azeez, business reporter

Tesco is to cut around 4,500 staff in the latest round of redundancies at the UK's largest supermarket chain.

The majority of the jobs will be cut from 153 mid-size Metro stores, as well as from the smaller Express chain of shops and the larger superstores.

Tesco wants to overhaul its Metro stores in particular, saying that shoppers tend to use them for top-up shops rather than buying bigger baskets.

"The Metro format was originally designed for larger, weekly shops, but today nearly 70% of customers use them as convenience stores, buying food for that day," said the supermarket.

It said 134 Tesco Express stores - out of 1,750 - would see a reduction in opening hours due to lower footfalls.

Tesco - Britain's biggest private sector employer with more than 300,000 staff - also said it was changing the way it stocked stores, with more products going directly to the shop floor and fewer being held in the back.

Staff will be expected to be more flexible, working across different departments and adding more focus on keeping stock levels high during busy lunchtime rushes.

The company said there would be a "leaner management structure", with workers given headsets to communicate more easily.

Jason Tarry, Tesco's UK and Ireland chief executive, said: "In a challenging, evolving retail environment, with increasing cost pressures, we have to continue to review the way we run our stores to ensure we reflect the way our customers are shopping and do so in the most efficient way.

"We do not take any decision which impacts colleagues lightly, but have to make sure we remain relevant for customers and operate a sustainable business now and in the future."

Its shares were down nearly 2% following the announcement.

The move comes after Tesco announced in January a drive to cut 9,000 jobs as it looked to restructure its store and head office functions.

At the time,Tesco said it would close counters at 90 of its largest supermarkets.

It said changing customer habits meant that meat, fish or deli service areas were not being used as frequently and the remaining 700 stores could see a reduced counter service.

Other reforms included new stocking routines which, it said, reduced the need for staffing and the removal of a hot food service for workers.

Tesco also said in January that it hoped to redeploy half the staff facing job losses.

A year earlier, Tesco announced plans to "simplify" its operational structures, placing 1,700 roles at risk as it pursued further savings.

Shopworkers' trade union USDAW, which represents over 160,000 Tesco staff, said it has called for government intervention to tackle the UK retail crisis.

Pauline Foulkes, the union's national officer, said: "Our members at Tesco are shocked and dismayed by yet another round of potential job losses, coming just months after 9,000 staff were put at risk in stores.

"We will be working hard to make sure that any members potentially affected by these proposals are supported at this difficult time and throughout the consultation period.

"This issue is not confined to Tesco, our high streets are in crisis, with jobs being lost due to shops closing, retailers folding and businesses engaging in significant restructuring to survive.

"We need the Government to address the worries and concerns of shopworkers and our members."