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Nearly 200 jobs on the line as southern retail giants proposes store closures

Close to 200 jobs could soon be lost across the lower South Island, with southern retail giant H&J Smith announcing a proposal to shut several stores in Southland and Otago.

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Close to 200 jobs could go at the retail giant. Source: 1 NEWS

The proposal is to shut the Dunedin, Mosgiel, Balclutha and Te Anau branches.

“Personally it's very tough for me and our family as we’ve wrestled with this decision,” H&J Group managing director Jason Smith says.

The largest of the closures would come in the Dunedin department store, formerly known as Arthur Barnett. It's a store that’s operated in the city centre since 1903.

“They were kind of a grand building of everything really. With a tea rooms in the middle and a photo with Santa every Christmas,” Dunedin mayor Aaron Hawkins says.

The proposal is currently under consideration, with a decision expected in the next few weeks. If it’s to go ahead, the stores would close between August 2020 and February 2021.

The restructure would also see a downsizing of the company's Gore branch, while Invercargill and Queenstown stores would remain open.

Managing director Jason Smith saying the moves are necessary, if they’re to ensure the brand's survival.

“A hundred and twenty years we’ve been operating in this part of the world. To do the next 120, we need to be in very good shape… That’s what we’re aiming towards,” Mr Smith says.

Clutha mayor Bryan Cadogan says it’ll be a big blow to lose it’s Balclutha store, but also a timely reminder to consider how we shop.

“Every time you get something in the mail, there’s a staff member at the other end here that’s missing out,” he says.

A big blow for the local economy and for southern shoppers.