Masters would take ‘many years’ to be profitable: Chairman

AN UNCERTAIN future is facing more than 100 staff at Masters Lismore after the hardware chain's parent company, Woolworths, announced it would either sell or wind-up its stores.

The announcement yesterday by chairman Gordon Cairns came after reported losses of up to $700 million over four years.

In a statement, Mr Cairns said it would "take many years for Masters to become profitable".

"We have determined we cannot continue to sustain ongoing losses from this business," he said.

Masters' $11.5 million Lismore store has been trading for less than 12 months after opening on February 21 last year.

The Lismore store is one of more than 60 outlets across Australia.

Masters Lismore acting manager Leanne Thompson told The Northern Star she "would not be making any comment to the media".

The 10,000sq m facility stocks 35,000 different items and employs 104 staff.

Before the store opened, general manager Greg McMahon said Masters was proud it was able to contribute to lowering regional unemployment.

"We're very happy to be part of, and able to help, the community with that large unemployment problem," he said.

The announcement came after American home improvement firm Lowe's opted to force Woolworths to buy its 33% stake in Masters, an option that became available as part of their joint venture in October 2015.

If Woolworths is unable to sell all of the business and has to close any of the operations, it said it would seek to provide alternate employment opportunities within the Woolworths group to all current home improvement employees.

Woolworths said it would honour all gift certificates, product warranties, returns and lay-bys, as well as the completion of any contracted home improvement projects such as kitchens, bathrooms and floor coverings.

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