Anxiouos wait for Index staff

STAFF at Index catalogue stores in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds were facing an anxious wait today to see if they will lose their jobs.The loss-making business has been given the axe by owner Littlewoods in a move set to cost up to 3,200 jobs across the country.

STAFF at Index catalogue stores in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds were facing an anxious wait today to see if they will lose their jobs.

The loss-making business has been given the axe by owner Littlewoods in a move set to cost up to 3,200 jobs across the country.

The plans by Littlewoods involve the closure of 126 Index outlets and the sale of the 33 remaining stores in the estate to rival Argos for £44million.

Littlewoods - owned by the Barclay brothers - said it had run out of patience with the chain, which it pointed out had racked up losses in almost every year of its 20-year history, amounting to more than £100million in total.

Shopworkers' union Usdaw said the news had come out of the blue and that workers would be "devastated" by the job losses. It called for a meeting with the Liverpool-based company in order to review the business case.

Littlewoods said at least 350 jobs at a distribution centre in Moxley in the West Midlands and 170 posts at the Liverpool head office were likely to be affected. The locations of the stores, which include the Suffolk sites, set to close will not be known until after all staff have been informed, likely to be tomorrow.

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Half of the 66 stand-alone Index stores will shut within six months, with the rest sold to Argos owner GUS. It plans to convert them to its own brand, taking 800 out of 4,000 Index staff in the process.

A further 93 Index stores, which trade within existing Littlewoods sites, will close with the space being retained by group.

Littlewoods chairman David Simons said: "Index has made a loss in nearly every year of its 20-year history, and has accumulated losses of over £100 million despite many attempts by different management teams to turn the business around."

He added: "The decision to divest the business has not been an easy one to make but it is the only solution to a difficult and unsustainable situation."

Usdaw national officer John Gorle said his priority was to help find other jobs within the group for his members.

He added: "This decision has come completely out of the blue. Our members who have contributed to the success of this company have been left reeling and utterly shocked by this devastating news."

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