Retailers and food chains announce gradual re-opening

Social distancing measures at B&Q as it reopens its stores
George Cracknell Wright/LNP/Shutterstock

A number of businesses have announced gradual re-opening measures – including B&Q, Homebase and Pret.

DIY retailer B&Q opened all of its 288 shops yesterday (30 April), while rival Homebase plans to have 70 of its 164 stores open by this weekend. Both have introduced strict safety measures including limiting the number of people in store, card-only payments and screens at checkouts.

Pret A Manger, the sandwich chain, said that it will open 20 London branches today for takeaway coffee and food, or for orders through delivery apps such as Just Eat or Deliveroo. It has already opened 10 stores, with opening times only until 2pm and physical distancing measures in store.

Other food chains, such as Nando’s and Burger King, announced yesterday that they would begin to trade again to prepare food for takeaway or delivery.

However, popular bakery chain Greggs, which has more than 2,000 shops nationwide, has postponed its decision to reopen amid fears that crowds of customers could gather. A proposed trial of opening 20 stores has been put on hold after “significant interest”, the company said.

With the next review of lockdown measures due on 7 May, the government plans to issue guidance next week on how workplaces can safely reopen.

According to reports, the guidance is being prepared for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) by Ernst & Young, and will likely include advice for specific workplaces including call centres and retail stores.

As a number of companies begin to re-open, several face going to the wall or cutting jobs.

Clothing chains Oasis and Warehouse have both announced they will cease trading all stores and online shopping, leading to the loss of more than 1,800 jobs. The brands were sold to restructuring company Hilco but failed to secure a rescue deal.

Budget airline Ryanair has announced it will cut 3,000 jobs, equivalent to 15% of its workforce. The redundancies will mostly be among pilots and cabin crew, and there will likely be a pay-cut of up to 20% for other staff.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said that further details would be announced by 1 July, but if a coronavirus vaccine is not found, “we may have to announce more cuts and deeper cuts in the future”.

Elsewhere, Victoria Beckham has reversed the decision to furlough 30 of her fashion label staff after the move drew criticism. The company has “now reconsidered and we accept there’s a better way forward for our business”, according to a spokesperson.

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