Sainsbury’s has dismissed speculation that the shuttering of a Northern Ireland store is a “weathervane” for mass closures.
The supermarket recently revealed that it was closing down its Craigavon site, putting the jobs of over 100 employees at risk.
Trade union Unite said Sainsbury’s explanation – that the store had been hurt by “changing demographics” – did not make sense.
According to regional officer Taryn Trainor, this was “cover for the impact of post-Brexit trading arrangements under the Northern Ireland Protocol”.
“There are fears this closure could be a weathervane for more to come,” she continued.
Major retailers have struggled to import products into the province thanks to Brexit regulations.
Earlier this week, Marks & Spencer cancelled online deliveries of Christmas food, citing “the complex checks and delays resulting from Brexit”.
However, speaking to the Grocery Gazette, Sainsbury’s denied that its 12 remaining stores across Northern Ireland were facing the axe.
“We’re committed to serving our customers in Northern Ireland and there are no other closures planned,” a spokesperson said.
“Customers can continue to shop with us online and at our stores in the surrounding area.”
Sainsbury’s is reportedly trying to find “alternative roles” within the company for the Craigavon employees.
Speaking to The Grocer last month, then-Craigavon store manager Emer Compston said the shock of Brexit had been cushioned by a new partnership with wholesaler Henderson’s.
Availability “hasn’t been affected as much as I initially feared,” he added.