A permanent shift to online shopping has been blamed for the latest Fife retail casualty.
The branch inside the Kingdom Shopping Centre is one of 120 Argos stores selected for imminent closure as part of a cost-cutting programme.
Mid Fife and Glenrothes MSP Jenny Gilruth wrote to Sainsbury’s, which acquired Argos in 2016, to ask what support the store’s workers have received in terms of redeployment or finding other employment.
She also asked the supermarket giant to confirm there would be no redundancies since the furlough (Job Retention Scheme) has now been extended until March.
In a reply to the MSP Sainsbury’s said it believed a shift to online shopping would change back.
“Firstly I’d like to emphasise that we do not close stores lightly, but to ensure that we can meet our customers’ needs both now and in the future, we’ve had to make difficult decisions,” the reply said.
“We have seen our customers’ shopping habits transform in the last few months, with the vast majority of Argos sales now happening online and we don’t believe that will change back.”
Sainsbury’s added that it had not furloughed any employees during the pandemic. Instead workers from the Glenrothes Argos were “redeployed to help in other Argos stores, Sainsbury’s supermarkets and distribution centres”.
It added: “We are now doing everything we can to find our affected Argos colleagues permanent roles within the business when the consultation period, which is underway, concludes in the New Year.”
It came as the UK’s second largest supermarket firm posted a pre-tax loss of £137 million for the past year, after being hit by £438m in one-off costs related to store closures.
It plans to shut 420 standalone Argos branches over the next three-and-a-half years.
There are standalone Argos shops in Argos stores in Montrose, Arbroath, Cupar, Leven, Kirkcaldy, Dunfermline and Dundee.
Ms Gilruth said it was sad the store had not reopened for the busiest months of the year in the run up to Christmas.
She said: “I’m disappointed to learn from Sainsbury’s that the Argos Glenrothes store, closed at the start of the coronavirus epidemic, will not reopen.
“I understand that Sainsbury’s are consulting with their staff on possible redeployment opportunities and that this consultation closes in the New Year.
“I will continue to press Sainsbury’s for an assurance that there will be no redundancies before the end of the furlough extension in March next year.
“Losing your job at any time brings worry and uncertainty, but it is particularly tough during these difficult times and in the run up to Christmas.
“I know that the Argos Glenrothes store has always been particularly busy during Christmases past, so it is a shame that Sainsbury’s have decided not to give colleagues and customers a chance to return this year.”
Sainsbury’s said a list of the planned Argos shop closures was not available, throwing doubt on the future of Courier Country stores that are currently still trading, while it conducts a review of its estate.
As it shuts standalone Argos shops, it also intends to open 350 more Argos stores in Sainsbury’s and Argos collection points in supermarkets and convenience stores by March 2024.
The firm said: “As a result of this, we will no longer need as many Argos standalone stores and so we have said that we will close around 420 branches, bringing the UK Argos standalone store estate to around 100 by March 2024.
“120 Argos standalone stores have not reopened since we closed them back in March and these will remain closed permanently as a result of this update.
“While these stores have remained closed, many Argos colleagues have redeployed to help in other Argos stores and Sainsbury’s supermarkets.
“They will continue to do this during the consultation process and we will do everything possible to find them alternative roles within the business by the time this concludes in the New Year.
“We will close around a further 300 Argos standalone stores by March 2024 and are in the process of reviewing our estate.”
Last week Simon Roberts, the chief executive of Sainsbury’s said he wanted to make Argos a “simpler, more efficient and more profitable” business.
He said: “We will work really hard to find alternative roles for as many of these colleagues as possible and expect to be able to offer alternative roles for the majority of impacted colleagues.
“Given the unprecedented circumstances of this year and the challenges facing our colleagues, including the changes we are announcing today, I have informed the board that if a bonus is payable, I will waive any bonus entitlement for this financial year.”