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Big jobs hit as Big W announces closure of Monarto distribution centre and 30 stores

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More than 200 jobs are in limbo at Big W’s Monarto distribution centre, which is expected to shut down by 2021 as Woolworths swings the axe across its struggling Big W chain.

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Many more workers also face an uncertain future, with Woolworths planning to shut 30 Big W stores – 16 per cent of the total – across Australia within three years.

But Woolworths won’t reveal how many, if any, targeted stores are in South Australia.

Shortly after announcing its Big W restructure plans to the Australian Stock Exchange, Woolworths confirmed that 212 people currently worked at its Monarto distribution centre.

“The lease at Monarto ends in (2021) and it is expected the distribution centre will close at this time,” a Woolworths Group spokesperson said in a statement.

“We have not taken this decision lightly, and understand the impact it will have on our teams and the local community.

“It is a difficult but necessary step that will position our distribution centre network closer to more of our stores and help underpin the viability of Big W into the future.

“We will work closely with our team members to explore redeployment opportunities across our group wherever possible.”

A second distribution centre in Queensland will close in 2023.

Woolworths says it won’t yet reveal the locations of 30 Big W stores set to close due to ongoing talks with landlords, but understands it “will create some uncertainty for our teams and the communities in which we operate, particularly in regional areas”.

“The majority of our store network is set to remain open and we’re committed to doing the right thing for our team in impacted stores.” the spokesperson said.

“We will inform our team members, customers and community stakeholders well in advance of changes to any specific store.”

South Australian Treasurer Rob Lucas said he hoped Woolworths would be able to find new job opportunities within its network for the SA workers affected.

“Clearly Woolworths is a massive company and there should be some capacity for redeployment and retraining within the group,” the treasurer told reporters today.

“Ultimately this is a commercial decision that has been taken by a private sector player which will have a significant impact on those individual workers and families.”

Lucas said the State Government did not intend to offer any direct financial help.

He said while there was potentially a significant number of positions to go, someone losing their job with Big W was no different to someone losing their job with a local cafe or smaller store.

The decision by Woolworths to close Big W stores was also a reflection of the increased competition from the online retail industry.

“One of the issues that concerns them is the influence of online trading,” Lucas said.

“It is an issue that bricks and mortar retailers are increasingly having to confront.”

Woolworths decided on deep cuts to the underperforming Big W chain following a national review of operations.

Big W lost $110 million last financial year, and is on track for a 2019 financial year loss of $80-$100 million.

Woolworths told the ASX today it would take a $370 million hit in its full-year results, including $270 million in lease and exit costs for shutting stores.

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