Waterstone’s is to axe up to 650 positions across all its 300 branches following the retailer’s move to a new distribution centre and a change in working patterns.

The bookseller said that “in spite of considerable efforts to minimise the effects of the changes” it may have to make as many as 650 redundancies, the equivalent to 450 full-time roles.

Waterstone’s began a consultation period in January with its 4,500 employees to look at how to change rotas and working patterns as a result of its new Book Hub, which is designed to ease deliveries and improve supply-chain efficiencies. The consultation process officially ends today.

The Book Hub will ultimately employ 300 people.

Goods-in and returns staff are likely to be most affected by the redundancies.

The retailer said: “The business will be doing everything we can to support the colleagues affected and minimise the final number of redundancies.”

Waterstone’s has been suffering in the downturn. In the 16 weeks ending April 25 like-for-likes slumped 4.5 per cent.