Jobs threatened as Midlands Co-op closes stores in Wigston and Coalville
Dozens more shop jobs have been put in jeopardy following the announcement two department stores are to close.
Midlands Co-op said yesterday it planned to shut its fashion and homeware outlets in Bell Street, Wigston, and Belvoir Road, Coalville.
The organisation said it would close nine of its department stores across the Midlands over the next six months, putting a total of 388 jobs at risk.
There are 47 employees at the Wigston store and 12 in Coalville.
A spokeswoman for Midlands Co-op said it hoped the Wigston site could be put to another use.
She said there were no plans to close the post office inside the store.
Councillor Lee Bentley, who represents Wigston on Oadby and Wigston Borough Council, said the announcement was a blow for the town.
"It's one of the mainstays of the Bell Street shopping area," he said.
"I went in there only the other day to buy a pair of shoes. It's a great shame."
Councillor John Legrys, district councillor for Coalville, said: "I'm devastated. This has been a flagship store for Coalville town centre for many years.
"I hope the Co-op will make an effort to find an alternative use for it."
Martyn Cheatle, Midlands Co-op chief executive, said competition from other stores and online retailers had hit trade.
"The society has been incurring substantial losses from the fashion and home operation for more than a decade and in spite of sustained efforts to improve performance, the latest financial projections indicate a further decline with increasing losses in future years," he said.
"Unfortunately, efforts to sell the business as a going concern have proved unsuccessful and, after much consideration, it is with great regret that the board of directors has taken this very difficult decision to close the fashion and home business."
Managers said they had begun a 90-day consultation with affected staff.
The closures do not affect the Co-op department store in Hinckley, which is run by the Heart of England Co-op Society.
Co-op food stores in Wigston and Coalville are also unaffected.
Last week, dozens of retail jobs in the county were put at risk when HMV and Blockbuster went into administration.
Administrators said yesterday that they would close the Blockbuster store in Beaumont Leys, Leicester, in the next few weeks, with the loss of about five jobs.
An announcement about the other six Blockbuster stores in the county has yet to be made.