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Jobs risk as Homebase and Bunnings face store closures

By Chris Britcher

Hundreds of jobs across Kent could be at risk with reports the parent company behind DIY giants Homebase and Bunnings could be set to finally pull the plug on its brief stay in the UK.

Sky News is reporting advisors to the Australian firm Wesfarmers, which bought the Homebase brand in a £340 million deal in 2016, has received bids from investment firms Hilco, Alteri Investors and Endless - all of which specialise in turning around failing businesses.

A decision by Wesfarmers is expected by the weekend.

Bunnings brand has failed to take the DIY market by storm
Bunnings brand has failed to take the DIY market by storm

A likely consequence is the closure of "a signficant number" of its 220 stores nationwide in a desperate bid to cut costs and key the business alive.

Bunnings is a DIY giant in Australia and Wesfarmers had hoped to replicate its success in the UK.

But it has backfired, with Homebase said to be haemorrhaging some £20m a month and losing out to competition from market leader B&Q.

Earlier this year, one retail analyst described it as "undoubtedly the most disastrous retail acquisition in the UK ever".

Winter Olympic star Lizzy Yarnold at the opening of Bunnings Warehouse at Park Farm Road, Folkestone
Winter Olympic star Lizzy Yarnold at the opening of Bunnings Warehouse at Park Farm Road, Folkestone
Barry McGuigan and staff at the opening of the Bunnings Warehouse on the Mill Way Retail Park, Sittingbourne
Barry McGuigan and staff at the opening of the Bunnings Warehouse on the Mill Way Retail Park, Sittingbourne

Plans to convert all the Homebase stores to the Bunnings brand has now stalled, although branches in Westwood Cross, Folkestone, Sittingbourne and most recently Herne Bay, have gone ahead.

Sky quotes sources which claim Alteri and Hilco would look to close stores - leaving many staff out of work.

Homebase had been part of the Home Retail Group which also included catalogue shop Argos before both were sold - Argos to Sainsbury's.

Kent stores include Tunbridge Wells, Aylesford, Canterbury, Sevenoaks, Dartford and Chatham.

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