Clarks has told almost 4,000 of its UK store staff that their roles are at risk of redundancy as part of radical plans to revive the struggling business.  

Retail Week understands the footwear specialist placed all 3,969 of its shopfloor workers into consultation this morning, on the eve of a second coronavirus lockdown in England.

Clarks said the proposed changes, which will not apply to its franchise stores, were designed to streamline store management teams “to improve efficiency” and “enhance” its customer service credentials. 

It added that new store team rotas would “more effectively align to customer shopping habits”. 

Sources close to the business said the roles of assistant manager and team leader will be made redundant in the majority of its 320 UK stores, but added that the 30-day consultation would involve all shopfloor staff.

Clarks refused to be drawn on how many employees were involved in the process or how many jobs were likely to be lost, but confirmed it had launched a consultation with “a number of UK employees relating to potential redundancies”.

It comes as Clarks steps up its ‘Made to Last’ plan, the blueprint it revealed in May. The strategy is centred on establishing a new “end-to-end” operating model and a refreshed brand focusing on its heritage and sustainability.

Under those plans, Clarks said 700 jobs would be axed by the end of 2021.

Clarks UK and Ireland boss Joe Ulloa said: “Like all businesses operating in today’s fast-changing and competitive environment, we’re continuously assessing ways to improve the service we offer, ensuring we continue to meet the needs of our customers today and into the future. 

“While not a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the impact of the ongoing crisis has accelerated the need to evolve and simplify our retail organisation in a way that truly delivers for our customers. 

“We recognise we are having to make difficult decisions, which are never easy, and we will be actively supporting our employees throughout the consultation period.” 

Details of the restructure emerged just an hour after Clarks confirmed that Hong Kong-based private equity firm LionRock Capital had agreed to acquire a majority stake in the business for £100m.

The investment is subject to shareholder approval and a CVA being blacked by the retailer’s creditors.

The CVA proposal is separate to the staff restructure and does not include any store closures. The plan would, however, result in 60 of Clarks’ shops moving to zero rent, while the remaining locations would switch to a turnover-based model.

Clarks said the capital injection from LionRock would “position the business for future long-term sustainable growth and deliver its strategy to revitalise the iconic footwear brand”. 

The coronavirus crisis has only added to what has been a turbulent period of trading for Clarks.

The retailer, which was established in 1825 and is still owned largely by members of the Clarks family, slumped to an £83m loss in 2019.