Clarks is cutting 900 jobs as the loss-making British retailer grapples with the growth of online shoe shopping as well as the financial strain of coronavirus-related store closures.
The 195-year-old British brand, which employs nearly 10,000 people, said it was cutting nearly 1,000 head office staff as part of a turnaround plan.
Giorgio Presca, Clarks chief executive, who joined the business in 2019, said there were exciting opportunities ahead for the business but it needed to “make some difficult decisions to get there”. It is the second round of cuts since Presca – with experience at Diesel and Levi’s – took charge, with 170 positions going at the end of last year.
Clarks is also looking at the future of its vast store network, which spans 1,400 stores in 75 countries. It has about 500 stores and concessions in the UK.
Clarks started making shoes in Street, Somerset, in 1825, when James Clark realised he and his brother, Cyrus, could make slippers from the offcuts of their sheepskin rug business. Still in private hands, the company’s ownership is spread among descendants of the family dynasty. However, in recent years the company’s financial performance has been deteriorating with the firm making an £83m loss in 2019.
Patrick O’Brien, analyst at research firm GlobalData, said Clarks had too many stores, with the brand – famous for its children’s shoes and desert boots – losing its hold on British shoppers. “Clarks is in a typical mid-market squeeze: like M&S it is a heritage brand that has been too slow to adapt to a changing market – both in terms of product development and addressing the shift to online,” he said.
Like other non-essential retailers, Clarks was forced to close stores in March as Covid-19 swept across the world. Although stores in places such as China are reopening, the closures have put a strain on the company’s finances, which is working with advisers to ensure it can weather the storm.