Johnsons dry cleaners in Kent
The company behind Johnson Cleaners, Britain’s largest dry-cleaning chain, plans to shut more than a third of its 307 high street outlets, with the likely loss of about 450 jobs.
Citing a “difficult high street environment”, Johnson Service Group said it will close 109 highstreet stores in the next six months, the second wave after more than 100 branch closures in 2012. The firm expects to take a £6.5m charge as a result. A typical store employs four to five people, many of whom work part-time.
The company, which traces its history back to 1780 and also owns the upmarket London dry-cleaning chain Jeeves of Belgravia (which is not affected by the closures), is moving away from the high street to more car-friendly locations such as supermarkets and petrol stations, to keep up with changing shopping patterns.
A spokesman said: “People want convenience: they want to drive and drop off their dry-cleaning. It’s another example of how the high street doesn’t seem as popular any more.”
The Cheshire company has been opening new outlets in Waitrose supermarkets and now has 78, with plans to add another 46 in the next three months. Johnson is also testing stores in garage forecourts and has set up collection and delivery points in large offices. It plans to launch a new online home and delivery service for valuable or bulky items this summer.
The firm did not disclose which branches will close, as consultation with staff is only just beginning. The majority of the 109 branches earmarked for closure have leases expiring within the next two years.
“Dry cleaning continues to operate in a difficult high street environment and despite several initiatives to reach new customers the like for like sales increase we achieved in 2013 has not been maintained in 2014,” Johnson said. It added that the remaining 198 better performing high street outlets are “in more convenient locations”.
Johnson also hires out work uniforms and hi-vis clothing, as well as hotel linen. Its textile rental division, the largest part of the group, has continued to perform well, with improved margins, better customer retention and strong new sales.