South African-based retail giant Woolworths Holdings has taken decisive action to counteract the impact of COVID-19.

The David Jones and Country Road Group owner has appointed investment bank UBS to review both businesses, in a bid to reduce a $464 million debt burden.

David Jones will close a portion of its 48 stores and sell property interests, including its iconic Bourke Street (Melbourne) site as part of the move.

The sale is expected for completion in July, reportedly in line with its estimated $500 million valuation.

The move follows a sharp decline in sales amid the COVID-19 outbreak, plunging by more than one-third in the eight weeks leading to the end of April.

Despite trading through the pandemic, sales at the department store across March and April fell 35.8%.

Similarly, Country Road Group saw a 50.4% decline over the same period as its entire retail network shuttered.

A boom in online sales - double in the case of David Jones - was not enough to offset the declines.

"We expect the challenging and fluid operating environment brought about by the pandemic, to continue for the foreseeable future," the company said in its update.

"In these unprecedented times, the Board and management team will continue to act swiftly and decisively to protect the Group's financial position."

UBS will investigate the companies' capital structure and property portfolio in a bid to future-proof the business.

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