UP to 1,500 jobs at WH Smith are under threat as the pandemic deals a big blow to the retailer's finances.

The company is expected to suffer a pre-tax loss of up to £75 million pre-tax at the end of the financial year on August 31.

Bosses are now preparing to restructure the chain and cut hundreds of jobs in a bid to bounce back from this difficult year which has seen footfall plummet.

The restructure is still in early consultations but is earmarked to cost between £15 million and £19 million.

Around 700 people are currently employed at the high street retailer's Greenbridge base, but where the axe will fall, jobs-wise, is not yet known.

WH Smith group chief executive Carl Cowling said: " I regret that this will have an impact on a significant number of colleagues whose roles will be affected by these necessary actions, and we will do everything we can to support them at this challenging time.

“While we are mindful of the continuing uncertainties that exist, we are a resilient and versatile business.

"The operational actions we are taking along with the financing arrangements that are in place, put us in a strong position to navigate this time of uncertainty and we are well positioned to benefit in due course from the recovery of our key markets.

"Covid-19 continues to have a significant impact on the WH Smith group. Throughout the pandemic, we have responded quickly and taken decisive actions to protect the business including substantially strengthening our financial position."

Shops in airports and train stations were hit by low passenger numbers and the chain's high street stores experienced similar low levels of trade.

Just over half of its UK travel shops reopened, 246 of its largest sites started trading again, and all 575 high-street stores opened but footfall is strongly down compared to last year.

Revenue was 57 per cent lower last month compared to July 2019, even as sites started to welcome customers back, with most of this loss coming from the travel arm.

The restructure plan comes a month after the retailer announced that it is cutting a total of 150 jobs from its Swindon and London offices.

The board said it is confident that the group has enough money in liquidity to allow it to operate throughout a prolonged downturn in trade.

Its 2020 preliminary results will be announced on November 12.