PARIS, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Carrefour, Europe's largest food retailer, could cut around 4 percent of its Italian workforce - or up to 590 staff - and downsize five of its 51 hypermarkets in the country to cope with falling sales, according to its 2019-2022 business plan.
The plan, unveiled to local unions this month, also entails investing some 400 million euros ($454 million) to boost the Italian convenience store network, with 300 new outlets planned, and boost E-commerce at the arm, added the French group.
The planned overhaul comes as a draft bill being championed by Italy's ruling coalition looks set to force shopping malls, outlets and supermarkets outside city centres to shut 26 Sundays a year.
Italy, which makes 6 percent of group sales, is a key market in Europe for Carrefour, after France and Spain.
Sales in that country fell 4 percent on a like-for-like basis last year amid fierce competition from rivals, especially online retailers.
Layoffs will be kept to a minimum and where possible will be done on a voluntary basis, said Carrefour.
Carrefour, which unveils 2018 earnings on Feb. 28, is in the midst of a global five-year plan to cut costs and jobs, boost its E-commerce investment and seek a partnership in China with Tencent to lift overall profits and revenue.
It had already cut jobs in France last year, and had also reduced non-food space in some of its French hypermarkets and turned five hypermarkets into franchises.
For 2019, the company is planning to reduce further the amount of space in stores dedicated to non-food items, turn more hypermarkets into franchises and open up more of its 'Drive' click-and-collect services.
($1 = 0.8810 euros) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Additional reporting by Pascale Denis)