Sainsbury’s is “resetting” its store management structure in a move that will leave “thousands” of shopfloor staff facing an uncertain future, Retail Week can reveal.

The grocer is axing the roles of deputy manager, department manager and team leader, in sweeping changes that will affect staff across its supermarket and c-store estate.

The roles will be replaced in each branch by operations managers and a newly created customer and trading manager position, for which impacted workers will be invited to apply.

Store staff were informed of the move this morning and a consultation over the proposed changes will now run until May.

Sainsbury’s could not confirm the exact number of employees who would be affected by the change – but said it was “thousands” – or how many new roles would be created.

Details of the restructure emerged less than 24 hours after Sainsbury’s big four rival Tesco culled 1,700 roles in a bid to “simplify” its operations.

As revealed by Retail Week, Britain’s biggest grocer has made the roles of people manager, compliance manager and customer experience manager redundant in stores and fulfilment centres across the UK.

It will replace them with 900 new people partners, learning partners, colleague relations partners and colleague administrators. 

Cost savings

Sainsbury’s insisted its latest restructure was not designed to reduce headcount in its stores, but admitted it would help the business step up its cost-cutting drive.

The supermarket giant aims to find £500m in cost savings over the next three years as it grapples with the growth of online, changing consumer habits and a raft of cost headwinds including the introduction of the national living wage and the apprenticeship levy.

Last October, it revealed plans to axe 1,400 store-based payroll and human resources jobs and launched a restructure of HR functions at its bank and at Argos.

Sainsbury’s said the money saved from its latest wave of changes would be ploughed back into enhancing the shopping experience in its stores, sharpening prices and improving the financial packages of staff members who are appointed as customer and trading managers.

Those who are successful in applying for the new roles will move from hourly rates of pay onto salaried contracts. They will also be able to accrue bonuses based on their store’s performance.

‘Efficient and effective’

Sainsbury’s retail and operations director Simon Roberts told Retail Week: “As a retail leadership team, we’ve worked on a number of elements of retail change that we think are not only needed, but it’s the right time to reset our supermarket operations.

“It comes in the context of: how do we do even more of the right things for customers?”

Roberts added: “We’re proposing a store management structure that will deliver best in class leadership and, in many cases, will offer an improved reward package for new management roles.

“The proposals will introduce a more efficient and effective structure, designed to meet the challenges of today’s retail environment. They will deliver cost savings to be invested in our customer offer and in our colleagues as they continue to provide the very best service for our customers.

“Our intention is not to reduce overall headcount as a result of these proposals. I appreciate this will be a difficult time for those affected and we will fully support our people through these changes.”