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’Volatile’  trading conditions are blamed on Waitrose’s property portfolio restructure 

Waitrose has become the second major supermarket to make cutbacks to its property team, following moves by Asda last month.

The supermarket said it was carrying out a restructure, which would see the merger of the previously separate property functions of Waitrose and its parent company John Lewis.

It would not reveal the number of redundancies expected to be caused by the move but said it would impact on its property and development teams, and was designed to lead to a more efficient way or working.

The Grocer understands from sources that because of the changes some staff have had to reapply for their jobs or face possible redundancy.

In its first-half reports in September, Waitrose blamed a plunge in profits of more than 17% partly on the amount of cash it had poured into its store renovation programme.

It said investment in improving its store portfolio - either giving stores full makeovers or making small changes to elements such as lighting and service counters - had driven down margins.

In January, John Lewis partnership chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield warned of “volatile” trading conditions caused by structural changes taking place in the retail industry.

The cutbacks in the property section coincide with the departure last month of Waitrose property director Nigel Keen, who left the business after 18 years.

Keen, who set out to “modernise” Waitrose’s real estate in 1999, was instrumental in building Waitrose’s property portfolio from 146 branches when he joined to more than 350 as well as being instrumental to the retailer’s attempts to tap the convenience market by opening Little Waitrose convenience stores.

A spokesman for Waitrose said the structural changes were aimed at “creating a single Partnership function operating across the whole organisation, creating more rewarding roles for partners, driving more efficient ways of operating, and ultimately helping us enhance the service we offer our customers across John Lewis and Waitrose”.

“The proposals come as the John Lewis Partnership accelerates its strategy to drive greater productivity within its head office functions and alignment across its brands, against a backdrop of structural changes in the retail industry.”

The restructure by Waitrose follows Asda’s move to slash its property division in January, with the loss of 30 jobs.