The Post Office has been accused of delivering a "huge blow" to its network after announcing plans to seek partnerships with retail firms for 70 of its main high street branches.
The company said the move will help the offices remain in their current locations, pledging no compulsory redundancies. But the Communication Workers Union (CWU) described the decision as the "partial destruction" of the so-called Crown office network.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
Staff were in "shock" at the move, which would have a big impact on the high streets of small towns, said the union. There are 373 Crown Post Offices, sited mainly in high streets or busy shopping centres.
The Post Office said they were losing £40 million a year, so it was seeking retail partners for 70 branches, enabling them to stay in their current locations.
A number of Crown offices have closed over the years and services transferred to WH Smith and Co-op stores. The Post Office said it was seeking to link up with national partners, or local, independent firms, adding that if it could not find a suitable deal, the Crown office will remain.<
The Post Office said in a statement: "We are currently undertaking the biggest business transformation programme in the history of the Post Office.
"Our investment will maintain the size of the network and modernise branches to meet customer needs. Crown branches are a fundamental part of our long-term growth strategy and need to be brought into profit, currently operating at a £40 million annual loss."
CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said the announcement was a "huge blow" to the Post Office network, saying: "Staff will be in shock at the scale of what will effectively be the closures of Crown post offices across the country. This move will have a huge impact on the high streets of small towns earmarked to lose their Crown post office."
Robert Hammond, of Consumer Focus, said: "The Post Office network must change if it is to be sustainable.
"These changes to Crown post offices are part of the biggest-ever programme of change to the network and consumers will want to see Post Office services that are high-quality and accessible, and offer the products and services they need. This is more important than the issue of who operates the post office itself."
High Street casualties
CWU blasts Post Office tie-up plans
Administrators sounded the death knell for Woolworths in December 2008, leading to store closures that left 27,000 people out of work. Since its collapse former Woolworths stores have become a blight in many town centres and more than 100 of the large stores still lay vacant in January 2012.
Loyal customers didn't have go without the family favourite store for long however as it reappeared online as Woolworths.co.uk in 2009, after Shop Direct Home Shopping bought out the Woolworths name.
The greetings cards specialist became the latest highstreet casualty in May with 8,000 jobs on the line when it was forced it into administration. Its biggest supplier, American Greetings, then bought Clintons out of administration and put the retailer through a rebrand including a new logo and complete in-store revamps.
Its contemporary format includes new fixtures and fittings and easier to navigate stores, and will be rolled out to all 400 UK stores at the cost of £16million. Bosses aim to bring the brand back to profit within two years.
Poor sales in the run up to Christmas was the final nail in the coffin for several struggling chains, including lingerie retailer La Senza, which went bust in January 2012 with 146 shops and 2,600 staff. Kuwaiti retailer Alshaya bought part of the business, which saved 60 shops and 1,000 staff.
La Senza has been struggling in a similar way to other specialist shops such as Game and Mothercare, which have been hit by cut-price competition at supermarkets and have no alternative products to help shoulder losses.
Stricken retailer Blacks Leisure, which employed 3,600 staff across 98 Blacks stores and 208 Millets stores, went into administration in Janurary 2012 after failing to find an outright buyer.
Soon after its stores were bought by sportswear firm JD Sports in pre-pack deal - an insolvency procedure which sees a company being sold immediately after it has entered administration – which saw most of Blacks' £36 million of debt wiped out.
Fashion chain Bonmarche, which was part of the Peacock Group, was sold in January when the group collapsed due to unsustainable debts, resulting in 1,400 job losses and 160 store closures. Private equity firm Sun European Partners bought 230 stores, which continue to trade with 2,400 staff.
Peacocks collapsed under a £740 million net debt mountain in January 2012 in the biggest retail failure since Woolworths. Despite being sold out of administration to Edinburgh Woollen Mill in a deal that saved 380 stores and 6,000 jobs, administrators from KPMG were forced to close 224 stores with immediate effect. This lead to 3,350 redundancies from stores and Peacocks head office in Cardiff.
The high street name continues trading as bosses work to stabilise the situation, yet a further blow was dealt this month with news that the firm's pension fund is in £15.8 million shortfall as a result of the collapse.
Game buckled under its £85m debt pile in March 2012 and was placed into administration after being unable to pay a £21m rent bill. Administrator PwC immediately closed 277 shops, with the loss of 2,000 jobs. Soon after, investment firm, OpCapita bought 333 Game stores, saving more than 3,000 jobs.
Game's demise followed a string of profit warnings and the failure of nervous suppliers, including leading names Electronic Arts and Nintendo, to go on providing the latest games, further damaging poor sales.