TOOL rental company HSS Hire plans to axe about 300 jobs as it closes dozens of branches up and down the country despite profit being back to pre-Covid levels.

The business – which has three branches in the Southern DailyEcho area – said it would invest more in technology, cutting out the need for many of its sites, meaning it could shut 134 branches.

Around 300 people are likely to lose their jobs with the company, with consultations set to start.

HSS Hire employs more than 2,000 people across the UK.

It has sites at Millbrook Road, Southampton; Stanstead Road Trade Park in Eastleigh; and Fareham Business Park.

Chief executive Steve Ashmore said; “Covid-19 has demonstrated that we are now ready to accelerate our strategy by further investing in our technological platforms.

“These investments will allow us to reduce our physical footprint which, whilst regrettably resulting in the loss of around 300 roles, allows us to become a more agile, technology-driven business which is essential in our markets, as well as reducing costs and enhancing shareholder value.”

The business makes most of its money by renting tools to business customers in the UK and Ireland, though a small proportion of its rentals are also used by private customers.

As many building sites closed across the country during the depths of lockdown, HSS took a major hit to its finances.

The company lost £12.5million in the first half of the year, a loss more than £5m bigger than last year, on revenue of £125.8 million, down 22 per cent.

But revenue has bounced back from lows of 63 per cent of last year’s levels during the second quarter to around 90 per cent today, HSS said.

“Our recent investment in technology has proved critical, allowing us to support our customers during lockdown, our digital channels and click-and-collect service providing low-contact alternatives to branches,” Mr Ashmore said.

“As a result, we have now seen revenue return to above 90 per cent of 2019 levels, with profitability back to pre-Covid-19 levels.”