Almost 50 jobs are under threat at online and catalogue retailer Shop Direct as it opened redundancy talks at its head office.

The retailer, which owns Littlewoods, Very and Isme, is targeting staff in the buying and merchandising division. Staff are said to have been “stunned” by the move, according to the Mail on Sunday.

Shop Direct said it would offer voluntary redundancy where possible.

A spokeswoman said the redundancies are a result of “dramatic changes” at the business. reported in January that Shop Direct chief executive Mark Newton-Jones is set to leave the retailer but will stay until July 2013 to ensure a smooth transition with his successor and maintain stability during the year.

Shop Direct’s sales jumped 9% over Christmas but it said it expected sales to be hit in 2012 due to the tough market.