Walmart’s South African unit Massmart has revealed plans to cut as many as 1,440 jobs.

The decision follows the company’s store optimisation project that marked a number of underperforming stores in its portfolio.

As part of the move, a total of 34 Dion-Wired and Masscash stores are expected to be affected.

Dion-Wired is an electronics and appliances company, while Masscash includes cash and carry, food and cosmetics wholesale outlets.

Massmart said in a statement: “Consequent to this project, the Massmart Group seeks to advise shareholders that Massmart has commenced, a potential store closure consultation process in terms of section 189 and section 189A of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995, as amended, with organised labour and other relevant stakeholders.

“Shareholders will be advised of the outcome of the consultation process.”

Massmart comprises nine wholesale and retail chains, as well as one buying group. The group is majority-owned by Walmart.

It operates around 450 stores in 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with around 48,500 full-time employees.

According to a spokesman cited by Bloomberg, the closing process could take at least two months.

Reuters has reported that the company, which is currently led by former Walmart executive Mitchell Slape, experienced losses following a rise in the country’s unemployment rate.

The news agency also noted that the retailer is currently in discussions with unions and other stakeholders over the closures.