ALMOST 200 people are at risk of losing their jobs after Sainsbury’s announced the closure of its Merry Hill store at the end of the year.

Staff at the branch, which opened in October 1989, said they were told this week that the store will close for the final time on December 30.

A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said staff would be redeployed "where possible", adding: “Like all retailers, we keep our estate under review to ensure our business is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible and to ensure we provide customers with the best possible service.

“On this occasion, we have announced plans to close our Merry Hill supermarket. We’re now conducting a consultation process with all affected colleagues who we will support through the difficult period ahead.”

The announcement is a blow to the Brierley Hill shopping centre, coming just over a month after British Home Stores shut its Intu Merry Hill store, which saw a loss of nearly 100 staff.

However, an Intu spokesman said there are a “number of exciting new brands” in negotiations to come to the shopping centre, and are “sure” the investment will create new jobs.

The spokesman said: “Intu Merry Hill is an attractive location and is in strong demand from retailers.

“Over the last few months for example, Top Shop/Top Man have opened a flagship store doubling the size of their previous store, and there are new stores currently shop fitting including Five Guys and Moss Bros.

“There’s a lot going on at the centre and our plans mean that we have a number of exciting new brands currently in negotiations to take their first stores at intu Merry Hill whilst others are looking at their existing stores to make sure they are making the most of their presence in the centre.

“We’re sure that this investment will create new jobs.”