(Adds store letter, background)
LONDON, July 28 (Reuters) - Upmarket British department store chain Selfridges said it needed to cut 450 jobs or 14% of its workforce, the latest UK retailer to be hit by the coronavirus pandemic which has battered sales and shut shops on the country's high streets.
Selfridges, whose flagship London store is housed in a historic building on Oxford Street that opened in 1909, said in a letter to staff on Tuesday that the recovery from COVID-19 would be slow and it needed to make fundamental changes.
Britain's retailers were already struggling with high rents, business taxes, tight margins, a shift to online and preparations for Brexit even before they were hammered by the coronavirus lockdown.
Since shops re-opened in June, footfall has struggled to recover to previous levels and a drop in the number of tourists to London, where the Selfridges iconic yellow store bags are a familiar sight, will also have taken its toll on Selfridges.
"We are feeling the effects and acknowledge that recovery will be slow, with sales this year forecast to be significantly less than they were in 2019," Selfridges Group Managing Director Anne Pitcher said in the letter.
British retailer Marks & Spencer said earlier in July it planned to cut 950 jobs, while health and beauty chain Boots and department store group John Lewis have said they will likely shed over 5,000 jobs between them.
Selfridges, which specialises in luxury shopping, also has stores in Birmingham and Manchester and is owned by privately-held Selfridges Group, which also owns Holt Renfrew in Canada and Brown Thomas in Ireland. (Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Susan Fenton)