A week on the high street

18th March 2020

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Retail and leisure

Fashion and home brand Laura Ashley has gone into administration after a rescue deal was abandoned due to the COVID-19 outbreak. A statement from the brand said “the COVID-19 outbreak has had an immediate and significant impact on trading, and ongoing developments indicate that this will be a sustained national situation.”

 

The chancellor has announced a 12 month business rates holiday for all retailers and pubs in a bid to support the retail market throughout the COVID-19 crisis. He also announced that retailers with insurance would be able to make a claim off the back of Government advice for people to avoid leisure venues. Smaller businesses, or those without insurance will also be protected with cash grants of up to £25k. The chancellor said the UK had “never faced an economic fight like this one” but stated “we will get through this and we will do whatever it takes”.

 

Furniture and bed brands Harveys and Bensons for Beds have both been put up for sale by their owner Alteri Investors. Between the two brands over 2,700 jobs are at risk operating from 269 stores across the UK.

 

Iceland was the first supermarket to launch an initiative to open early to cater for the elderly or vulnerable in light of the nationwide stockpiling due to the COVID-19 outbreak. From today, 100 branches including a store in Belfast and another in Thanet will open at 8am to allow shoppers most in need access to food and household essentials. Sainsbury’s has also followed suit and will introduce priority online delivery slots for those who cannot get into a store easily. Supermarkets have come together to urge people not to stockpile. With no impact on the supply chain, shortages have been caused purely by consumers panic buying and some chains have imposed limits on volumes of certain products which can be bought at once.

 

Carluccio’s has asked for a 3 month holiday from rental payments as it struggles to cope with a huge dip in customers due to the COVID-19 outbreak. CEO of Carluccio’s Mark Jones said that footfall fell sharply by 40% in central London, which has seen the most rapid acceleration of the disease. He said “Our modelling is that things are going to get a lot worse for a long time before we can even talk about better”.

 

Halfords has taken the decision to close the Cycle Republic chain, which operates from 22 stores across the country. Closures are expected in the latter half of this year which will just leave digital brand Tredz to cater for cycling enthusiasts.

 

More uncertainty over the future of shopping centre owner, intu, after it failed to raise enough equity last week to remain operational. In a statement, intu said that it was “not able to form a reasonable expectation” that it would be able to meet its liabilities beyond March 2021. It also reported that the portfolio fell by 22% in value last year.

 

An offer has been recommended by the board of menswear brand Moss Bros for Brigadier Acquisition Company (Bidco) to takeover and revamp the business. Bidco plan to make the brand more profitable through careful sourcing of products and improvements to their ecommerce arm. No store closures are envisaged at this time.

 

Dixons Carphone announced this week that it will close all 531 standalone Carphone Warehouse stores, which will result in 2,900 redundancies. The mobile phone arm of the business is set to lose £90m this year, so this move is a bid to get back to profitability. Dixons Carphone will continue to sell mobile phones through the Currys PC World estate and they hope to redeploy 40% of the affected staff.

 

in other news...

Cinema giants Odeon and Cineworld have joined Everyman in closing all of their cinemas until further notice because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Selfridges has also announced that it is to close all stores from 7pm tonight in a bid to contain the outbreak. It will still operate through it’s ecommerce infrastructure. Department store chain Debenhams has partnered with designer Lucy Tiffney with a cook and dine range featuring her signature jungle prints. Costa has agreed a major deal with Burts Snacks that will see four flavours on sale across the country. Thai restaurant group Giggling Squid will launch their first dark kitchen in Wandsworth next week.  Deliveroo is launching a ‘no-contact drop-off’ service to calm customers concerns with the COVID-19 crisis intensifying.

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