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Tool hire workers face anxious wait as company prepares to close dozens of stores

PUBLISHED: 09:19 08 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:30 08 October 2020

HSS Hire in Bluestem Road, Ipswich. the company has yet to reveal which stores it plans to close  Picture: GOOGLEMAPS

HSS Hire in Bluestem Road, Ipswich. the company has yet to reveal which stores it plans to close Picture: GOOGLEMAPS

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A tool hire firm is looking to axe around 300 jobs as it closes dozens of branches across the UK and embraces new technology.

HSS Hire in Cratfield Road, Bury St Edmunds  Picture: GOOGLEMAPSHSS Hire in Cratfield Road, Bury St Edmunds Picture: GOOGLEMAPS

HSS Hire – which has an outlet which remains open in Bury St Edmunds and another in Ipswich which is temporarily closed – would not say which of its stores are earmarked for closure.

“We are not currently disclosing that information as the process is ongoing. We will provide an update further down the line,” a spokesman said.

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The company said it plans to invest more in technology, cutting out the need for many of its sites – meaning it could shut 134 branches.

As a result, around 300 workers are likely to lose their jobs, with consultations set to start.

HSS Hire employs more than 2,000 people across the UK, and operates 240 branches.

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Chief executive Steve Ashmore said the coronavirus crisis had demonstrated that the business was now ready to accelerate its strategy by further investing in its technological platforms.

“These investments will allow us to reduce our physical footprint which, while regrettably resulting in the loss of around 300 roles, allows us to become a more agile, technology-driven business which is essential in our markets, as well as reducing costs and enhancing shareholder value.”

The business makes most of its money by renting tools to business customers in the UK and Ireland, as well as renting out to a lesser extent to private customers.

Its finances took a major hit many building sites closed during lockdown.

The company lost £12.5m in the first half of the year – over £5m more than last year – on revenue of £125.8m, which was down 22%.

But revenue has bounced back, clawing back from 63% of what it was last year during the second quarter to about 90% today, it said.

“Our recent investment in technology has proved critical, allowing us to support our customers during lockdown, our digital channels and click-and-collect service providing low-contact alternatives to branches,” Mr Ashmore said.

“As a result, we have now seen revenue return to above 90% of 2019 levels, with profitability back to pre-Covid-19 levels.”


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