Weekly Round-Up

How is coronavirus impacting the retail industry? Keep up to date with SoundOut.





China’s retail sector is not due to fully recover for the coronavirus outbreak until the second half of 2020, according to experts.

Savills China Retail has predicted that although shoppers are now gradually returning to retail outlets and shopping malls in the country’s most affected areas, a full recovery is still months away.

China’s retail sector has largely been shut down since late January, and the rest of the world is looking towards the country for cues on how long the crisis will take to subside.

According to Savills, shopping malls in Shanghai are now seeing footfall at levels around 30 per cent of pre-crisis levels, and most centres have returned to normal shopping hours.

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Shanghai Fashion Week, which was hosted entirely digitally for the first time amid worldwide lockdown, attracted 2.5 million viewers within its first three hours.

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Matalan is offering staff at its distribution centre the chance to stay at home and come under the government’s scheme for paying 80 per cent of salaries for workers on furlough.

The fashion retailer said the move at its site in Knowsley, Merseyside, would ensure that anyone wanting to stay at home would have access to government support packages for staff whose jobs have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Tesco has expanded its home delivery and click-and-collect services after a surge in demand while Aldi has said it is relaxing some shopping restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tesco said it has grown its delivery and collection capacity to around 780,000 slots this week, up from 660,000 slots two weeks ago, with plans to increase this by another 100,000 in the coming weeks.

It also added more than 200 new vans and recruited another 2500 drivers and over 5000 pickers, as part of the delivery expansion.

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Wimbledon cancelled

The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club has cancelled the 2020 Wimbledon championships. This is the first time this decision has been taken since World War II.

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Marks & Spencer has announced a 15 per cent pay rise for shop floor staff working on the frontline in its food stores, and confirmed that furloughed staff will receive full pay.

The retailer said that staff across its stores and supply chain who continue to work will receive their additional pay reward “in recognition of the work they are doing to support their teams and the national effort to help customers access the products they need” during the coronavirus pandemic.

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J.C. Penney furloughs store and corporate staff as closures extend indefinitely

As COVID-19 continues its spread through the country, J.C. Penney joins a growing group of retailers extending their closures — this time without an end date in sight — and putting its employees on unpaid furlough as they try to manage a business with significantly less cash coming in from operations.

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Laura Ashley to cut 268 jobs after initially announced it would make up to 721 redundancies last week.

When it fell into administration last week, 721 workers were at risk, but most will now be furloughed.

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Contactless card spending limits will be raised to £45 today in widespread measures being but in place across the UK to help combat the spread of coronavirus.

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Amazon is being investigated by New York City’s commission on human rights after it sacked a warehouse worker who led a strike in protest of coronavirus safety measures.

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Asos’ Barnsley warehouse “should stay open” if changes are made according to the Community workers’ union despite widespread calls from staff and the public to close operations.

Community, which has represented distribution workers at Asos Barnsley warehouse since 2017, told Retail Week that it supported the location staying open as long as changes “can be implemented and we’re satisfied they’re working”.

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Mike Ashley has informed the executive team of Frasers Group that they will have their annual salaries cut to only £40,000 after April.

The billionaire retail tycoon pledged to pay all staff for the next month, informing them on Tuesday that it had guaranteed salaries until the end of April.

While warehouse staff, including those on zero hours contracts, would get their full salaries for this month, Ashley couldn’t commit to paying them beyond that.

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The Perfume Shop has become the latest retailer to shut its online operations in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The fragrance retailer’s parent company AS Watson had already closed its 231 shops on March 22, ahead of the government’s order to temporarily close all non-essential services.

As many as 1875 staff will be affected by the move, but they will be supported by AS Watson’s workforce financial package during the emergency period.

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Game says it will furlough its entire workforce until the end of April with regular pay, but cannot guarantee jobs after that date.

The video game retailer emailed its staff earlier this week informing them they will receive regular pay from March 26 until April 30, following the closure of all of its 247 stores on March 24, according to Eurogamer.

After this date the email warns staff: “We and you should plan for the next few months getting harder for our business.”

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H&M to Cut Working Hours Amid the Covid-19 Outbreak

As the global pandemic mounts, the retailer announced it is in talks with thousands of its employees about reducing hours to curb the spread of the virus.

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UK Businesses to Lean Heavily on Government Support

Almost half of British companies expect to furlough 50 percent or more of their workforce, according to a survey, meaning reliance on a government scheme that will pay up to 80 percent of employee wages.

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Morrisons triples staff bonus

Morrisons is tripling its staff bonus as a ‘thank you’ to colleagues for their hard work during the coronavirus pandemic.

All frontline colleagues will receive a 6% bonus on their earnings for the next 12 months rather than just the next eight to 12 weeks, meaning they will receive a bonus payment of £1,050 compared to the £351 that would have been paid last year.

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14,000 staff furloughed at Arcadia as execs face 50% pay cuts

Arcadia Group has furloughed 14,500 of its 16,000 employees, while senior leaders take a pay cut as a result of the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The news comes after the retail empire – which owns the likes of Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins – joined the list of retailers demanding rent cuts after their stores were forced to shut due to the pandemic.

Arcadia said all store staff had been furloughed since March 21, and “the majority” of its headquarter employees will follow suit from April 5.

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Primark bosses face 50% pay cuts

Primark executives and seniors at parent company AB Foods have slashed their pay by 50 per cent amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Primark chief executive Paul Marchant, AB Foods chief executive George Weston and the group’s finance director John Bason have all requested for their base pay to be temporarily slashed by 50 per cent during the crisis.

Meanwhile, all non-executive directors on the AB Foods board, including chairman Michael McLintock, have seen their base pay cut by 25 per cent.

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Deliveroo threatens to sack drivers and call the police on restaurants not exercising social distancing

Deliveroo has warned drivers they will be sacked if they “do not keep a safe distance from others” after photos emerged of delivery employees crowding into restaurants. A letter sent to drivers, seen by The Grocer, issued a stark warning to drivers that their “Supplier Agreement will be terminated” if they do not abide by social distancing rules set by the government. This comes after numerous complaints emerged on social media showing images of Deliveroo drivers in numerous chain restaurants crowding together.

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Video game sales smash records amid world-wide lockdown

Video game sales have smashed records over the past two weeks as the near world-wide lockdown forces people find new forms of entertainment. Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which launched on March 20 for the Nintendo Switch, become the fastest selling game for the platform in Japan by some margin.

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Amazon succumbs to pressure announcing it will provide face masks and temperature checks for all staff

Amazon has succumbed to pressure from staff, unions and government officials announcing plans to launch temperature checks and provide face masks for all staff. Following a week of staff walkouts and the launch of an investigation by New York City’s commission on human rights, Amazon said it would roll out the new measures in the US and Europe by early next week, according to a Reuters report.

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Debenhams prepares to file for bankruptcy

Debenhams is preparing to call in administrators after the struggling department store was forced to close all its outlets under the coronavirus lockdown.

The company, which has 22,000 staff and was rescued by its lenders after collapsing into administration only a year ago, is understood to be considering filing a formal notice of intention to appoint administrators next week.

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