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Coronavirus: A timeline of how the deadly COVID-19 outbreak is evolving

4:47 pm

Philip Day appoints FRP to value Peacocks and Edinburgh Woollen Mill

Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group CEO Philip Day has begun the process of potentially selling UK fashion chains Peacocks and Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

Day, whose retail group also owns Peacocks, Jaeger and Jane Norman among other brands, has appointed advisory firm FRP to seek the business value of the two retail chains.

Two weeks ago, Day also began exploring possible sale options for brands Jaeger, Austin Reed, and Jacques Vert after being approached by international investors. Day also appointed FRP to assess these businesses.

Will the chains be sold?

According to the Financial Times, a source “close to the process” said that Day is unlikely to sell the Edinburgh Woollen Mill chain and that the retailer has not received any interest.

Sources have also stated that FRP has been appointed to seek market intelligence for the chains’ value as an exploratory process and not in preparation for selling.

However, the Sunday Times claimed that FRP asked bidders for offers by last Friday. FRP and Day have both refused to comment.

Why would Day seek a sale?

Some restructuring experts have theorised that a sale of these businesses could be a prelude to an insolvency process which would result in the chain being returned to Day without debts and lease obligations.

Last year, Day’s holding company acquired fashion retailer Bonmarché from the stock market for £5.7m. It was then placed in administration three months later, only to be reacquired by Day earlier this year for £24m, free of debt and liabilities.

During the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown in England, Peacocks acquired tens of millions of pounds in debt after being unable to pay landlords and suppliers. This debt will be inherited by any buyer of the business.

4:57 pm

John Lewis staff will not receive a bonus after £625m pre-tax loss

UK department store chain John Lewis & Partners saw a £635m pre-tax loss for the six months to 25 July, a sharp decrease from the retailer’s £192m profit the year before.

The John Lewis Partnership, which also includes supermarket Waitrose, saw a first-half loss of £55m, after higher costs from the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic offset a 1% rise in sales.

The pre-tax loss of £635m was calculated after a £470m write-down in the store’s value and other exceptional items were taken into account.

As a result of the loss, staff bonuses will not be paid this year for the first time since 1953, which was during the aftermath of World War Two.

John Lewis chair Dame Sharon White said: “We came through then to be even stronger and we will do so again. I know this will come as a blow to partners who have worked so hard this year. The decision in no way detracts from the commitment and dedication that you have shown.”

Staff bonuses will resume at John Lewis once the debt is reduced and annual profits rise above £150m.

Physical stores are not performing as well as online

BBC business correspondent Emma Simpson told the BBC: “John Lewis has had a whopping half-year loss. But it was mainly down to some big one-off costs, including a £470m impairment charge against the value of its department stores, reflecting the fact that its property isn’t making as big a contribution as it used to.”

Simpson added that John Lewis shops were contributing £6 to every £10 spent online before Covid-19. Now, however, John Lewis believes that figure to be nearer to £3.

She said: “These results lay bare the impact of the pandemic. But the company says this is better than what is expected in April. John Lewis makes most of its profits in the second half of the year. Christmas is key.”

Could Christmas save John Lewis?

Simpson said: “With the outcome still very uncertain, [John Lewis] now thinks the most likely outcome is a ‘small loss or small profit’ for the full year.”

The sentiment was echoed by John Lewis executive director Pippa Wicks, who said that the Christmas period will be the same, if not better, than last year.

Wicks said: “For peak, we are expecting the same demand as last year, if not better than last year. People will want to make it special and be with their families. People haven’t been travelling as much and may have saved some money; that will come into play.

“We are expecting a strong Christmas online, we are adapting our supply chain for that, and we are confident about our online profitability.”

John Lewis will be adding Christmas space into its stores and also introducing “Christmas emporiums” in certain stores, including Oxford Street in London and shops in Newcastle and Southampton.

However, Wicks also noted that fashion sales are likely to be weak during the Christmas period, as parties and events will not be as commonplace as in previous years.

Wicks said: “Sales of clothing will not be what they were in prior Christmases, but good-value gifts should perform well. We will have a capsule collection of appropriate dresses and casual wear and we’re expecting home accessories and tech to be strong.”

4:15 pm

Ocado sees surge in retail sales following M&S partnership

UK-based online grocer Ocado said today that its switch from delivering for Waitrose to delivering for Marks & Spencer (M&S) has seen “success”, with customers booking slots for M&S-branded groceries weeks in advance. 

The food retailer saw a sharp rise in third quarter revenue as a result of higher average spend and increased weekly orders of 9.6% since joining with M&S. Ocado’s revenue in the 13 weeks to 30 August grew by 52% to £587.3m.

Ocado retail chief executive Melanie Smith said: “We can now offer customers more choice and better value than ever before, wider ranges than any traditional retailer, and thousands of products that are only available online through”

Ocado noted that it has benefited from strong demand for online shopping amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, particularly as the UK lockdown drove consumers to shop from home. 

Ocado’s switchover to M&S

Earlier this month, Ocado ended its 18-year commitment to Waitrose and began delivering for M&S.

The new partnership was revealed in February 2019, after M&S acquired a 50% stake in Ocado for £750m. 

The service initially received criticism when it first launched earlier this month due to complaints that customers’ orders were being cancelled. 

Now, however, Ocado said that demand for the new M&S range is high, “driving both an increase in the number of products in customer baskets and strong forward demand”. 

Industry response

Edison Group director Russel Pointon told Retail Insight Network that Ocado’s latest financial update saw success that could be attributed to the M&S takeover.

Pointon said: “Ocado´s third quarter update, which covers the 13 weeks until August 30th was very strong as the online grocery retailer has seen revenue increase by 52% to £587.3m as the company continued to benefit from lockdown as people remained at home due to the pandemic. Quite remarkably, the average number of orders per week rose 9.6% to 345,000.

“Clearly, the new joint venture with Marks & Spencer has started on a positive note as the retailer announced customers are now buying more M&S own-branded products from Ocado than they bought Waitrose own-brand.

“Nevertheless, the growth rate is likely to slow as people are encouraged to go back to work and eat out more, therefore less food will be likely consumed at home. It is also worth highlighting that although the retailer´s CFC´s (distribution centres) have managed to navigate the extra demand, they are running at a high level of capacity.

“Going forward, investors will be keeping a close eye on the company’s level of demand and if it can be sustained, particularly following the extensive advertising campaign ahead of the launch.”

Ocado’s share price

Ocado’s share price has gained 79.91% stock since January, while competitors such as Tesco, Morrisons, and Sainsbury’s are down on the year. 

As of today, the retailer’s share price stands at around 2500p.

3:47 pm

UK retail experiences worst visitor numbers since April

UK shopping destinations have seen a weekly visitor number drop for the first time since late April when retail was in lockdown, according to market researcher Springboard.

Shopper numbers across UK retail fell by 6.3% compared to the previous week, which had recorded footfall at 27.5%.

This decrease in visitors numbers is thought to be due to children returning to school and workers still not generally returning to offices throughout the UK. Springboard said that a weekly footfall drop at the end of the summer holiday season is normal, as families tend to go out to shop less and tourism declines.

The decline of footfall this year has been the largest decline since Springboard began measuring retail footfall in 2009.

Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle said: “The magnitude of the drop has been larger than in any previous year. This signifies the continued impact of many Britons continuing to work from home as offices across the UK remain closed.”

Footfall last week saw a “jump” in London

Last week, footfall figures in central London saw a footfall increase of 4.1% as employees in England’s capital began to return to office work.

Greater London high streets, which sees the largest rate of office-based employers in the UK, had seen a jump of 5.3%.

However, despite these figures, footfall remained down compared to August 2019 by 51.9% in central London.

Wehrle said: “Last week’s result was enough to continue the trend of recovery, delivering the best year on year result since the start of the lockdown in March.”

5:19 pm

How retail unicorns are facing the challenge of Covid-19

Unicorn companies are privately held startup businesses valued at a minimum of £1bn. For example, TradeGala – the B2B online marketplace – is a retail unicorn and an online B2B fashion marketplace which specialises in e-commerce.

Retail Insight Network talked with retail unicorns in collaboration with TradeGala, to see how their businesses have been affected by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and what their future plans entail.

We asked all the retail unicorns the same question: “How has your company handled Covid-19?”

Digital Horizon: “Now is the best time to lay the foundation for future unicorns”

Digital Horizon is an international investment company that combines a venture fund and a venture builder. The Digital Horizon venture fund invests in early-stage start-ups that have working products and promising solutions for the financial industry, e-commerce, education and enterprise software.

Digital Horizon venture builder managing partner Irene Vaksman said: “The pandemic has lasted long enough to create a shift in consumer and business behaviours, to create a different set of needs that have to be fulfilled with a wider set of solutions than those existing today.

“Now is the best time to lay the foundation for future unicorns. It’s the opportunity for early-stage companies and their founders with a deep understanding of the unresolved issues and experience to drive this change.

“We feel that the retail segment, especially small and medium players, forms a great grazing ground for a supply-chain finance unicorn. Covid-19 allowed [us] to re-evaluate and re-prioritise product roadmaps towards even more automated solutions.

“I wouldn’t say that the strategy for big players as well as early-stage startups has changed. It actually became much clearer – we need to move even faster.”

Factorin: “Covid-19 accelerated Factorin’s growth.”

Factorin is a blockchain-powered trade finance platform based in Europe and Russia. Companies that use Factorin’s service include retail chains Dixy and Magnit, as well as banks and other organisations.

Factorin CEO Andrei Maklin said: “Covid-19 has accelerated Factorin’s growth. More than US $100 million was funded on the Factorin platform in April 2020 alone and the volumes have been growing since. Covid-19 has accelerated the shift to digital finance solutions.

“Working closely with the retail industry, Factorin could foresee this shift to digitalisation in trade financing. The platform has literally transformed the highly competitive trade finance market (by) outperforming legacy technology. Today, the platform has more than several hundred active users.”

Ruby Has: “We have seen expansion across all areas.”

Ruby Has is a national distributor and a fast-growing e-commerce fulfillment company. The company was founded seven years ago and provides an enterprise-level end-to-end supply chain ecoystem to omni-channel brands.

Ruby Has president Esther Kestenbaum said: “During this time of Covid-19, Ruby Has have seen expansion across all areas – number of clients, their order volume and warehouse square footage. So, we have had to expand both our warehouse and corporate office staff. But, we know that this is also an uncertain time which can cause added worry for the protection and handling of clients’ products and those responsible for them day-to-day.

“Our biggest priority is providing our clients and staff peace of mind and assurance that we are working diligently to maintain a safe and sanitised environment that can keep up with demand across all of our facilities. There have been a variety of new cleaning procedures and precautions that we have implemented.”

When asked about plans for the future, Kestenbaum said: “The Pandemic has compressed ten years of e-commerce evolution into six months. These newly accelerated behaviors and trends bring so much richness and value to ecommerce that, when the Pandemic ends, they are very likely here to stay.”

TradeGala: “We’re looking to the future with a positive outlook as we work together to succeed.”

TradeGala – ‘The B2B online marketplace’, CEO Mina Melikova said: “As a business owner, you try to prepare for every eventuality, but I don’t think anyone could have seen the current crisis coming or the scale with which it would affect businesses globally. We had to move quickly to adapt to the situation, reassessing our processes, slowing things down and working closely with our suppliers and providers to make sure that no-one was left behind.

“The community spirit within the industry has surprised me more than anything, as companies have really pulled together to overcome the difficulties we all face. Sales have obviously been affected, but traffic has been improving since June and we’re looking to the future with a positive outlook as we work together to succeed.”

Melikova noted that it is vital for businesses to “keep implementing new ideas” in “turbulent times” by planning for the future and building a strong foundation. She added that the fashion industry, in particular, has changed drastically due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

She explained: “It’s clear the fashion industry has changed completely, as has customer behaviour, and we need to make sure we fully understand our customers’ changing priorities in order to give them what they want, how they want it.

“We’re listening closely to our audience to make sure we stay relevant and in tune with their needs, and we’re investing both time and resources into the latest technologies to improve our customer journey at every step of the way.

“TradeGala was originally created as a digital platform to smoothly connect new and established fashion brands with buyers from all over the world, but we know that after the Covid-19 pandemic, start-ups will need the support and experience of mentors and industry experts more than ever.

“Part of the TradeGala vision has always been to help young and emerging entrepreneurs make their mark in the fashion industry. This strategy will not change at all and the Covid-19 pandemic has only strengthened our corporate vision to work even closer with industry entrepreneurs.”

4:59 pm

UK retailers “hanging by a thread” as high streets remain empty

UK high-street footfall decreased by 34.8% in August and retailers are struggling as September’s quarter rent approaches, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

According to the BRC, however, September is likely to see more job losses in the retail sector, as high-street retailers are seeing low footfall with the quarter rent payment date coming at the end of the month.

Figures from the BRC-ShopperTrak data for August showed that high-street footfall has declined by 47.7% year on year, making it “the worst-performing location in August and falling below Shopping Centres for the first time since April 2018.”

Though still below the longer-term 12-month average decline of 27.6%, overall footfall in August improved by 7.3% from July’s figures.

Sales figures were also up year on year by around 4%, however, this can be attributed to digital spending, particularly from retailers that sell clothes and beauty products.

Though still low, footfall improved towards the end of August

ShopperTrak EMEA Andy Sumpter said: “Footfall in the UK continued to improve throughout August, with a marked upturn in the final week. This can in part be attributed to the last days of the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ campaign, and back to school shopping. Retail parks continued to lead the way for recovery, with shopping centres catching up, while high streets are still lagging. With many people still working from home, high streets in many major cities desperately await the return of tourist and office commuter footfall.

“August also saw the UK recovery climb to second amongst its European peers, behind France. Whilst this is encouraging to see, retailers are dealing with traffic levels that are still around a third lower than the same time last year. As retailers prepare to ramp up stock and promotions for the ‘golden quarter’, this will be a defining period for many retail businesses.”

Low footfall could be attributed to remote working

According to BRC CEO Helen Dickinson OBE, the low footfall could in part be attributed to consumers still working from home amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and avoiding public transport into city centres.

Dickinson said: “Footfall remained well below normal levels in August. In-store discounting and demand for school wear helped lure some customers back to the shops, but with many office blocks still empty and much of the public avoiding public transport, footfall is not returning to towns and city centres and this is having a devastating effect on the local economies in these areas.

“While many businesses have been investing in making workplaces safer, we are unlikely to see significant growth in footfall while government advice remains to ‘work from home if you can.’ Unless this changes, more should be done to encourage people to travel and reassure them that public transport is safe.”

Dickinson also noted that, with the September quarter payment approaching, many retailers are “hanging on by a thread”. She said: “Government should also recognise that, while footfall is so low, many businesses will not be able to manage their fixed costs – rent and business rates in particular – and unnecessary job losses and store closures will follow.”

In-store sales struggle as online shopping thrives

Figures showed that, despite shops reopening in June, online shopping is continuing to boom. In-store non-food items sales were around 18% lower in the three months to August than in 2019. Last month, online non-food sales were 42.4% higher than they were a year ago.

Software company Bloomreach UK MD Michael Schirrmacher told Retail Insight Network: “Once again, we see that in-store sales are struggling to climb back to pre-pandemic levels. While this is unfortunate for the industry, we can attribute it to the fact Britons have become used to a high level of comfort and convenience when shopping online during the height of the pandemic – a behaviour that is now entrenched in the way we buy both essential and non-essential products.

“It’s no secret the retail industry has been under stress during the lockdown and it needs solutions that cater to the new needs of shoppers if it is to endure. Right now, this means convenience and safety, two things that e-commerce provides in spades.”

“This shift in consumer behaviour is impacting traditional retail, with more emphasis put on digital skills, merchandising and delivery. This is an opportunity for the sector to fully embrace a digital-first mindset that responds to the new consumer need for speedy, yet convenient commerce. The message to the industry is clear: investing in online shopping channels is no longer an add-on to a strong high street presence – it’s a lifeline for the future of commerce.”

5:22 pm

Primark post-lockdown sales surpass expectations: Experts respond

UK-based high street retailer Primark has recorded “higher than expected” sales since reopening in June, with the company predicted to hit £2bn by the end of the year according to owner Associated British Foods (ABF).

Reporting the results in its latest trading update, ABF noted that, compared to pre-Covid-19, Primark’s sales performance has been “reassuring and encouraging”, with an increase in footfall driving transactions.

ABF said: “After a period of store closure, we are encouraged by the strength of our sales. In the latest four-week UK market data for sales in all channels, Primark achieved our highest-ever value and volume shares for this time of year.

“Since reopening Primark stores, we have seen increasing numbers of transactions driven by footfall. The average basket size was initially significantly higher than last year, reflecting some pent-up demand, and while this out-performance has reduced in recent weeks, it remains higher than a year ago.”

How did Primark survive the Covid-19 lockdown?

The Covid-19 pandemic lockdown in the UK saw many high street retailers pushed into administration, including Debenhams, Cath Kidston, and Monsoon and Accessorize. Primark raised questions about how it would survive the pandemic, as the store has no online platform.

With high street stores administration being so topical, industry experts began to theorise whether Primark would move to e-commerce following a zero-earning month in lockdown to save itself. However, once Primark reopened in June, it showcased success in both sales and footfall figures.

Engagement platform Loyalize CEO David John says Primark’s success despite having no online platform could be attributed to a demand for value-for-money items.

John told Retail Insight Network: “Primark, one of the UK’s most iconic high street brands, is experiencing a strong recovery since stores re-opened just a few months ago. For a company with no e-commerce presence and sales figures that fell to zero during lockdown, this represents a remarkable turnaround and is testament to their ability to remain relevant to consumers.

“Recent data shows that since re-opening, customers have been visiting less but spending more, with average basket size higher than this time last year. This reflects pent up demand for value-for-money items, and the return to a welcoming, safe environment, especially in a time where consumers are more sensitive about how and where they spend their money.”

John’s opinion is shared by DotcomBlinds SEO manager Buzz Carter, who told Retail Insight Network: “Primark has done well with their in-person retail for a few reasons. Firstly, Primark is still one of, if not the cheapest place for people to buy clothes, so in a time like this people want and need cheap clothes due to a lot of people taking a hit to their disposable income.

“Then you also have the fact they had virtually no online presence, this has led to an increased demand for Primark’s goods and a yearning for their deals, so as they re-opened consumers wanted to essentially catch up on deals they had missed during lockdown or restock on cheap clothes for the return to the office or school.”

“Primark’s post-lockdown success will be short-lived.”

However, UK-based commerce agency LiveArea EMEA commerce consulting director Elliott Jacobs told Retail Insight Network that the success Primark has found since reopening will be short-lived and that it will eventually need to move to online to continue seeing success.

Jacobs said: “Primark’s post-lockdown success will be short-lived. When analysing business performance, you must consider context. Pent-up demand, combined with the shift towards leisurewear, meant consumers flocked to its stores when lockdown ended. While the latter trend may continue, the former simply cannot. The results, therefore, must be viewed as a short-term bounce-back, rather than signs of a successful long-term strategy.

“Over the last few months, Primark has been able to shift more of its unsold stock than expected. However, this will not make up for all the money lost during lockdown, the result of dismissing a digital strategy.

“Consumer behaviour has changed forever, and businesses have to pivot to digital to see growth. Primark’s reliance on high street footfall is unnecessarily risky. While preserving and continuing to appeal to its base, the company should look to improve customer experience and access with digital innovations.”

12:39 pm

Asda bid deadline sees private equity firms finalising takeover offers

UK-based supermarket chain Asda could be under new ownership this week, as the deadline for the supermarkets takeover bids concludes today.

According to national newspaper The Telegraph, private equity firms Apollo Global Management and Lone Star Funds are preparing takeover offers for Asda, which is currently owned by Walmart. If a private equity sale proceeds, Walmart is still expected to maintain a minority stake in Asda.

Apollo Global Management called upon former Debenhams boss Rob Templeman to help advise on its bid, while Lone Star Funds called upon former Asda boss Paul Mason for assistance in August.

Fellow UK-based retailer EG Group owners, brothers Mohsin and Zuber Issa, are also rumoured to be interested in making a bid for the supermarket chain.

Why is Walmart selling Asda?

Walmart began talks of an Asda majority stake sale after a proposed merger with Sainsbury’s was blocked by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) last year. The decision to sell the UK-based supermarket chain came as part of Walmart’s plans to revamp international businesses to focus on higher-growth markets.

The Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown then saw a surge in sales for Asda due to the closure of restaurants and cafes and consumers working from home. However, this did not change Walmart’s decision to sell its majority stake.

In July, Walmart said: “The pandemic has demonstrated Asda’s resilience and the key role we play in supporting different communities. We have a clear strategy and a long heritage in delivering value for customers and, with this in mind, we believe now is the right time to explore options for a third party to invest in our business to accelerate the long-term delivery of our value strategy, both in stores and online.”

How much could Asda sell for?

Asda was acquired by Walmart for £6.7bn in 1999, causing the supermarket to be unlisted from the London Stock Exchange. Though its technical value is not publicly known, it was valued at £7bn last year when it had planned to merge with Sainsbury’s.

Walmart has said that it has plans to eventually float Asda on the stock market, but is in no rush to do so due to the current volatility of markets.

4:43 pm

John Lewis adds 30 new brands in an attempt to modernise

UK-based department store chain John Lewis & Partners has announced that it is adding 30 third-party brands to its platform, ready for the autumn/winter season of 2021.

The chosen brands include clothing brands FatFace and Calvin Klein, sportswear brand Fila and accessory brand Longchamp.

These brands are being chosen because they will “help modernise” John Lewis’ offering, especially after early sales across athleisure-wear proved successful for the company, surpassing sales predictions by 102%.

John Lewis fashion director Christine Kasoulis told fashion publication Drapers that the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has caused a shift towards casual wear, as people are working from home.

The announced brands

In an exclusive interview with Drapers, John Lewis detailed the new brands coming to its platform.

The brands that will be included in the AW20 launch are The Fold, Sosander, Athleta, Stella, Isle, Calvin Klein, Ganni footwear, and Kate Somerville.

In September, the brands being launched will be Les Girls Les Boys, Malone Soulier’s footwear, Fila trainers, Fat Face, the Barbour Wilderness Collection by Ben and Marina Fogle, and Apex Bikes.

In October, John Lewis will be launching pyjama brands Their Nibs and Celtic & Co. October will also see the launch of more menswear and sports brands, with launched brands including New Balance, Peloton, and Arcteryx.

Will athleisure-wear successfully modernise John Lewis?

Talking with Drapers, Kasoulis noted that demand for athleisure and luxe-loungewear has increased because of a focus on wellbeing and fitness.

The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has also seen many people either under total lockdown or working from home. Statistics throughout the pandemic have shown fashion retail to be one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, as people have no reason to buy new clothes, especially as there has been a lack of events due to pandemic fears.

Retail figures for July conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), for example, showed that clothing sales were 25.7% lower than February, despite other sectors showing an increase in sales, such as household goods, which increased 6% from February.

While athleisure and loungewear has become more popular in general because of the way Covid-19 has changed working lifestyle, it’s also a trend which has been particularly popular with younger consumers.

In June, news source Insider noted athleisure as in the top eight of popular trends with Generation Z. Celebrity stylist Samantha Brown told Insider that: “Whether it’s leggings or coordinated bike shorts and crop tops or matching sweatsuits, casual and comfortable clothes with a sexy twist are a huge trend for Gen Z shoppers. Gen Z fashion is very, very casual […] social media is definitely responsible for this, as celebrities share these trends with immediate reach.”

With this information combined with John Lewis’ claims that athleisure sales have been successful for the company, it could reasonably be expected that the addition of athleisure brands could successfully modernise the retailer.

4:05 pm

Monsoon Accessorize face administration

Fashion retail group Monsoon Accessorize, which operates retail chains Monsoon and Accessorize, is on the brink of filing for insolvency, putting 3,500 jobs at risk.

With 230 stores across the UK, the group is expected to begin the steps to file for administrators as early as today.

UK firm FRP Advisory has been working with Monsoon Accessorize since March after the retailer was required to close stores due to the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown. FRP was appointed to explore a sale of the business.

According to Sky News, “inside sources” said that Monsoon Accessorize owner Peter Simon intends to buy back a smaller version of the business should it go into administration, reopening many of the stores.

Where did the business go wrong?

Last year, Simon injected £12m into the brand through a restructuring deal, which took the form of a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA). Through the CVA, 40 stores were closed permanently while 135 stores had rent bills cut.

According to Business Sale Report, analysts have suggested that Monsoon Accessorize’s focus on occasionwear means that it has been particularly susceptible to the impact of the pandemic, which has been damaging fashion chains globally. Other fashion chains to be impacted by the virus include Matalan and J.Crew.

Though the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic appears to be largely to blame for the business needing to enter administration, the retailer had already been seeing difficulties beforehand. To the year ending 24 August 2018, the company reported a turnover of £296m, which was a decrease from the £310.9 from 2017.

What are the next steps for the retailer?

Sources indicate that Monsoon Accessorize founder Peter Simon is considering a rescue deal for the company and has also promised to reduce the company’s London head office £5m rent by 50% to reduce costs.

Sky News said that “a person close to Monsoon Accessorize” told the news source that Simon will today be writing to company’s landlords asking for a rent-free deal and that landlords which refuse the request are likely to see shops closed.

Monsoon Accessorize is yet to confirm these claims.

3:25 pm

Aldi is updating its shopping guidelines amid Covid-19 pandemic

Many consumers in the UK have completely avoided going to the shops during lockdowns due to COVID-19, resulting in a heavy reliance on online deliveries instead. In order to ease people’s fears and attract more visitors to stores, therefore taking the pressure off the overwhelmed online delivery services, retailers have introduced strict in-store measures that are updated regularly following government recommendations.

A prime example of this is Aldi. The German-based discount supermarket chain has updated its shopping guidelines to help shoppers and staff stay safe, while also supporting the community and its partners that may be suffering during the pandemic.

Click here to read the full article.

3:30 pm

Superdry’s turnaround plan threatened as Covid-19 dampens clothing demand

Superdry’s woes were amplified in its final quarter of FY2019/20, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic stifling demand for clothing and footwear. While its CEO Julian Dunkerton has had significant plans to revitalise the company, the outbreak has put a major spanner in the works, with revenue declining by 36.9% during Q4 FY2019/20, resulting in sales for the full year falling by £166.2m to £705.5m.

Though the retailer has recorded significant growth in its online channel throughout April, following closures of stores across Europe, USA and UK, this has only been enough to offset roughly a third of its usual offline revenue, so it must increase its use of social media and digital marketing communications to drive website traffic further.

Click here to read the full story.

6:05 pm

The UK now has the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe

The UK now has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus deaths in Europe.

The latest death toll for the UK has reached 29,427, according to the Office for National Statistics, higher than Italy at 29,315 and Spain at 25,613.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK has reached 194,990, with the government due to set out a strategy on how to “unlock” the economy.

According to Johns Hopkins University, the number of coronavirus deaths worldwide has now exceeded 250,000.

5:47 pm

J. Crew Group files for bankruptcy amid Covid-19 pandemic

American clothing retailer J. Crew, known for its preppy-style range of women’s, men’s and children’s apparel, has filed for bankruptcy.

J. Crew Group said that in a statement released today that it had agreed to deleverage its balance sheet with financial sponsors to secure “long-term success” for J. Crew and its subsidiary, Madewell. Under the terms of the agreement, J. Crew’s lenders, including hedge fund Anchorage Capital, will convert around $1.65bn of debt into equity.

Read more here.

11:01 am

Sainsbury’s defers dividends as it braces for Covid-19 profit impact of over £500m

After a successful Q3 (Christmas) trading period, Sainsbury’s was likely feeling optimistic about 2020 but the arrival of Covid-19 has, as with all of its multi-sector rivals, upended plans as it looks to cope with soaring grocery demand (+12% for seven weeks to 25 April) while mitigating losses across Sainsbury’s non-food (-22%) and the clothing (-53%) divisions.

Because of the unprecedented disruption, Sainsbury’s now expects around a £500m+ impact on profit for the year, and has made the decision to forego its full-year dividend. This comes in sharp contrast to biggest rival Tesco, who moved ahead with a £635m dividend following its own recent results.

Read more here.

7:39 pm

Up to one in 17 UK care home residents have died in five weeks since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak

29 April

Nicu Calcea, data journalist, New Statesman

As many as one in 17 UK care home residents may have died during just five week since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.

New data released yesterday show that the number of care home deaths has gone beyond “alarming” and is proving to become a national scandal.

That was even before today’s figures from Public Health England, showing that 29.1% of all care homes in England had seen an outbreak of Covid-19 by the end of April.

We need to be clear on what we do – and don’t – know. While there are a number of different official and semi-official counts of how many people have lost their lives because of Covid-19, none is perfect – or perfectly up-to-date.

Counting Covid-19 is a difficult task. It’s even more difficult when it happens in care homes – where many people are already frail and vulnerable, and many have a number of serious existing medical conditions.

Read the full article on New Statesman



3:38 pm

US economy falls by 4.8%

The US economy has contracted at an annual rate of 4.8%, the steepest slump since the 2008 recession. This brings the longest ever period of economic expansion in the US to an end.

It is predicted that gross domestic product (GDP) could drop by 30% in the next quarter, as many “stay-at-home”  measures were only implemented at the end of this quarter, with a sharp rise in unemployment also anticipated.

35 US states currently have stay-at-home orders in place, with eight states relaxing restrictions. According to Johns Hopkins University, there have now been 1,012,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the US.

7:51 pm

Are companies optimistic about growth prospects following COVID-19 stimulus measures?

The COVID-19 outbreak has marred the growth expectations of companies of all sizes globally, across multiple industries.

An ongoing poll being conducted by Verdict to track the optimism/pessimism over the growth prospects of companies has revealed that incremental stimulus announcements have improved companies’ optimism about growth, following a disappointment over the size of the stimulus.

Analysis of the poll results depicts a clear shift in trend in the last week of March, especially after 28 March.

A sudden spike in pessimism was witnessed after 27 March, barely after the US Senate approved a $2t economic stimulus package, hinting of dissatisfaction over the inadequacy of the stimulus even as economic experts have warned of the worst recession COVID-19 would cause to the Western economies following the Second World War.

A number of Asian countries including India, Malaysia, Singapore and Pakistan as wells the Gulf Co-Operation Council (GCC) countries announced stimulus packages around the same time.

The stimulus announcements, although welcomed, left wanting for more as reflected in the poll. The pessimism about growth prospects hit a peak on 28 March.

The pessimistic trend, however, reversed after 02 April and improved gradually to hit a low on 08 April amid expectations that the US Fed would announce additional stimulus. On 09 April, the Fed unveiled an additional $2.3t-worth relief plan committing to buy notes from states and counties and provide financial support to mid-size businesses.

On the same day, news emerged about a potential second stimulus package to be announced by the Indian government in the days to come, aiming to safeguard the interests of micro, small and medium businesses, which account for a significant portion of India’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Launched on 13 March, the poll received 12,622 responses as of 13 April and is still ongoing.

Some of the notable economic stimulus announcements at March-end

  • Among GCC countries, the highest stimulus was announced by the UAE, at $34.3bn, followed by Saudi Arabia ($32bn), Oman ($20.8bn), Qatar ($20.6bn), Bahrain ($11.4bn) and Kuwait ($1.5bn).
  • Malaysia announced $22.5bn to support businesses affected by the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak, while Singapore announced a $33.7bn package to deal with the economic impact.
  • India announced a $22.6bn economic stimulus package, most of which is pumped through direct cash transfers to the poor and in food security measures.
  • Just days before the US Senate’s approval of the proposed package, Australia saw its second stimulus announcement, worth $46bn, by the government providing relief to individuals and businesses impacted by COVID-19.

5:24 pm

Number of Covid-19 cases reaches two million globally

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases has now surpassed two million globally, according to the Johns Hopkins University. There have also been over 120,000 confirmed deaths.

The US is now the epicentre of the pandemic, with 609,685 cases, followed by Spain and Italy. US President Donald Trump has said that he will withdraw US funding to the World Health Organization (WHO).

As of April 15, over a fifth of the global population is under lockdown.

7:54 am

Covid-19: Consumer daily update

UK newspaper sales hit hard by Covid-19 lockdown
With advice being that people should only shop for essential products and with social distancing measures in place in stores and supermarkets across the UK, footfall has fallen. This has resulted in thousands of independent newsagents closing, while supermarkets are expected to reduce the number of newspapers they stock.

Weak online capacity will intensify Covid-19’s damage to Irish home market
Before the onset of Covid-19, GlobalData forecasts the Irish home market would grow by 2.6% in 2020. However, given the complete closure of major retailers, and part-closure of others, GlobalData now anticipates a decline of 13.0% in 2019. Lending to this decline is the fact that Home retailers in Ireland have been notoriously slow to develop their online capabilities, leaning heavily on store sales that will now be decimated as stores close due to Covid-19.

Panera Bread starts offering groceries as part of takeway delivery service
Panera Bread is the next big brand shifting its offerings to meet the needs of consumers as American citizens are under lockdown.

The fast-casual soup and sandwich spot has recently launched Panera Grocery, which allows customers to order cooking essentials such as milk, fruits and vegetables. The company has already established a supply chain and network of drivers to deliver meals.

The newest edition of pantry essentials will add on to what they currently offer, giving consumers the opportunity to buy a couple of those household essentials with their next takeout.

Major names in fast-food share their secret recipes with consumers
Digitalization is bridging the gap between consumers and operators like never before, fiercely driven by the Covid-19 outbreak, which has forced operators to change-up long-running strategies and enter a new, digital era. The latest example of how social media is being used in this way comes from Nandos, which has shared the secret behind its peri-peri rice bowl recipe.

12:07 pm

Covid-19: Consumer Daily Update

Debenhams to file for administration following coronavirus pandemic
Debenhams has voluntarily entered administration for the second time in a year to fend off a collapse into liquidation following the coronavirus outbreak, which has adversely affected retailers. Following the recent government announcement of a furlough scheme, the majority of Debenhams staff are currently being paid under the coronavirus job retention scheme, which pays 80% of a worker’s salary up to £2,500 a month.

Covid-19 comfort eating to bring health awareness that will shape 2020s
The second wave of stockpiling that is for the ‘new essentials’, anything from cheap booze to fatty foods, is creating a bigger global trend in comfort eating and takeout.

It should be noted that this is not for all consumers. There has equally been a rise in home gym equipment and home cooking, which is generally perceived as healthier, as well as ‘positive movements’ like rooftop raves and dancing on balconies as communities’ support one another.

H&M’s China performance reveals how Covid-19 impacts retail post-peak
On Friday 3 April H&M published revealing weekly sales figures for its China division, providing other fashion brands with insight on how sales will be impacted in particularly hard hit Covid-19 markets over the next few months. The key takeaway highlights how retailers must carefully consider their store reopening schedule post quarantine and isolation measures, and whether consumer demand post peak-pandemic will be sufficient to support the cost of operating all stores or if reopenings should be phased more gradually.

Tesco well placed to deal with Covid-19 disorder following renewed UK focus
Tesco has suggested a 30% uplift demand over the “first few weeks” of the crisis as shoppers panic bought, in line with our view of an updated UK grocery market growth forecast of 7.1% for 2020. At this point, Tesco should be praised for its quick introduction of reactive measures: improving instore safety; financial support for employees where needed; special resources for NHS and other key workers and the hiring of 45,000 new colleagues since 20th March.

Demand for Tesco delivery slots continues to outpace supply
UK supermarket giant Tesco said that while it was increasing its online grocery delivery capacity by more than 20%, it was still unable to meet demand for a nation staying home. According to the company’s chief executive, Dave Lewis, 85%-90% of all food bought will require a visit to a store, despite its weekly number of home delivery slots increasing from 660,000 to 805,000 (approximately 22%).

ASOS is better positioned than many to face impact of Covid-19
Sales over the past three weeks, since lockdown and isolation measures have been implemented across many of its key markets, have declined 20%-25%, as customers struggle to justify making new purchases. However, ASOS’ broad product offer across casualwear, loungewear and athleisure puts it in a better position than some of its competitors that rely heavily on occasion and partywear, such as boohoo and Quiz.

5:43 pm

Covid-19: Cath Kidston and Debenhams appoint administrators

Fashion retailer Cath Kidston and department store Debenhams are to file for administration amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Cath Kidston will appoint advisory firm Alvarez & Marsal as administrators. The company recently furloughed 820 employees after forced store closures. The store is continuing to operate online.

According to the BBC, a Cath Kidston spokesperson said that the company is in an ongoing process to explore options, as the store was in the middle of a turnaround plan before the pandemic began affecting UK high streets.

For Debenhams, this marks the second time in two years that the store has had to enter administration. In doing so, the department store is putting around 22,000 jobs at risk.

Over the last two weeks, Debenhams has had to close all 142 stores across the UK. It was already in the process of a restructuring effort due to its administration in 2019.

According to news source Forbes, Debenhams described its current administration as a “light touch move” to protect it from legal action from creditors during store closures.

Debenhams CEO Stefaan Vansteenkiste said last week: “We have taken this step to protect our business, our employees, and other important stakeholders.

“We are striving to protect jobs and reopen as many Debenhams stores for trading as we can, as soon as this is possible.”

Arcadia Group, which owns brands including Dorothy Perkins and Topshop, are reportedly uncertain over the future of its Debenhams concession stores. Arcadia stores that feature in Debenhams include Evans, Miss Selfridge, and Wallis.

1:16 pm

Coronavirus search trends revealed by Redscan

In some parts of the world, internet usage is up by 50% as many people work remotely and use the internet to keep in contact with others or pass the time indoors during lockdown.

In light of this increase in online activity, cybersecurity company Redscan has analysed the most-searched for security and technology terms, based on Google Trends global search history data.

According to the data, searches for “business continuity plan” spiked between 8 March and 21 March.

Redscan also revealed that searches for coronavirus related scams were more frequent in the UK than those linked to Apple and Amazon.

Searches for “remote working”, “collaboration tools” and “remote access” also reached record highs in March.

Read more here

4:50 pm

Global number of coronavirus cases exceeds one million

The number of recorded coronavirus cases in the world has now exceeded one million, according to Johns Hopkins University.

So far, approximately 53,000 people have died from Covid-19 and over 210,000 have recovered from the virus. Europe accounts for half the number of cases.

According to the New York Times, roughly half the world’s population, or four billion people, is now under lockdown.

10:42 am

No, 5G does not cause coronavirus: 3 reasons why this theory is wrong and dangerous

It may sound bizarre, but this rumour has been circling for some time, and has been gaining considerable ground as the coronavirus outbreak spreads around the world.

The rumour suggests that the installation of 5G equipment causes health issues that are being attributed to the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Not only does 5G not cause the coronavirus, but encouraging theories that it does or might will result in more people dying.

Here’s some reasons why this theory is completely and utterly without merit.

Read more here

5:34 pm

Cybercriminals are using bots to feed coronavirus fears

The ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in malicious bot activity online, according to research by cybersecurity software company Radware.

Bad bot traffic grew by 26% in February, with 58.1% of these bots able mimic human behaviour.

27.7% of traffic on media sites was from bad bots, as malicious actors look to scrape genuine content and republish it on their own sites that can then be used to dupe users into clicking on malicious links or falling for scams.

Read more here


5:38 pm

Could the coronavirus pandemic see drone deliveries take off?

It is now estimated that around 20% of the world’s population is in isolation, with 29 countries imposing a total or partial lockdown, as of March 26.

With many now only permitted to shop for food or medical supplies, and all non-essential retailers in locations such as the UK instructed to close until further notice, many are turning to e-commerce to buy goods.

As a result, there has been a renewed interest in the use of drone deliveries during and beyond the coronavirus crisis.

Drone deliveries have been promised for some time, but could the Covid-19 pandemic finally make them a reality?

Read more here

5:34 pm

UK records largest daily increase in Covid-19 deaths

The number of coronavirus deaths in the UK rose by 563 between 5pm on Monday and 5pm on Tuesday, bringing the total number to 2,352. This is the highest increase in the number of coronavirus-related deaths in a 24-hour period the country has experienced.

As of 9am this morning, 4,324 people tested positive since the previous day.

According to the Department of Health, there have now been 29,474 confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK out of the 152,979 people that have been tested.



6:06 pm

South Africa begins mass coronavirus screening

South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Monday that the country will embark on a mass COVID-19 screening programme.

He announced that 10,000 workers would be visiting citizens’ homes in order to carry out screenings for coronavirus symptoms. Those who are found to have symptoms will be instructed to quarantine.

As of March 30, South Africa has 1,326 cases, with 3 deaths and 31 recoveries. The country is currently under a 21-day lockdown.

5:54 pm

80% of scams, hacks and cyberattacks now coronavirus themed

According to cybersecurity firm Proofpoint, 80% of scams, hacks and cyberattacks are now coronavirus-themed.

Since the security firm began monitoring for coronavirus scams on 29 January, it has observed over 500,000 messages, 300,000 malicious URLs and 200,000 malicious attachments with coronavirus themes.

And as the virus has spread, the volume of coronavirus scams has exploded.

Read more here

10:36 am

Five ways the world will be changed by coronavirus

Coronavirus is probably the largest crisis of our generation. In the short term, quarantine protocols and fear of contagion has led to food shortages and panic buying, as well as the reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere.

The decisions made by politicians now may shape the rest of the 21st century in terms of culture, economics and policy.

From remote working and unemployment, to sustainability and mass surveillance, here are five ways the COVID-19 pandemic could impact the world.

Read more here

3:57 pm

Planning digital transformation during a pandemic

We are now entering a time of unpredictability and volatility for businesses, triggering the imagination when it comes to the impact of technology on private life, business and society.

In many cases, the coronavirus pandemic will bring into question how we use and engage with digital technologies, which have now become intimately entwined with business change.

To this extent ‘digital transformation’ has become a pleonasm and the next twelve months will be defined by businesses’ ability to survive in a time of uncertainty and a renewed quest for simplicity.

Simplicity is what is needed – in the form of simple messages, instant action, zero friction and a continuous stream of exciting and rewarding signature moments.

Read more here


3:52 pm

US overtakes China in number of COVID-19 cases

The US has overtaken China as the country with the most COVID-19 cases, as the number of confirmed cases reaches 86,000. The number of deaths in the US has reached 1,300.

US President Donald Trump has attributed this spike in cases to an increase in coronavirus testing. Despite this, the president has publicly said he hopes to have the country reopened by Easter Sunday.

22 states have now instructed residents to stay at home, only leaving to buy food or medical supplies. These measures are thought to affect 49% of the US population, according to Business Insider.

10:08 am

Value to put market competition on hold to combat Covid-19 virus

According to GlobalData’s 2019 Q3 consumer survey, 36% of consumers globally claim that they find living a less complicated lifestyle very important. GlobalData forecasts more consumers to find this aspect of lifestyle more important as grocery shopping experiences have become complicated and stressful since the Covid-19 outbreak.

In response to ease consumer choice and to ease the complication of brand loyalty, government bodies are starting to introduce policies for supermarkets to work as a collective in the duration of the virus outbreak. The UK Government has requested supermarkets to exchange information on pricing and temporarily hold off their market competition in order to keep on top of staff availability and inventory in consideration of serving the public.

This collective act of social responsibility plays a critical role at the time of crisis such as Covid-19, as putting people’s interests first instead of focusing on market competition is needed to align with consumer demands for a less complicated lifestyle. Looking forward, a social responsibility strategy would serve brands well in the long term as consumers would more likely engage and be loyal to the brands that go the extra mile to combat a global crisis.

3:12 pm

Coronavirus cybersecurity: Ten tips for secure remote working

As the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect numerous aspects of daily life, workers and employers are adapting to new ways of working.

Although social distancing and social isolation are key to slowing the spread of the virus, they have tested organisations’ infrastructure and remote working practices.

“Remote working on a scale we’ve never seen before has now become a fact of life; doing this without compromising security will be more important than ever,” says Jeremy Hendy, CEO at cybersecurity firm Skurio.

Here are ten key pieces of advice from experts from the cybersecurity industry to help organisations maintain robust security while remote working.

Read more here

12:20 pm

Ireland to increase contactless limit from €30 to €50

Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) announced yesterday that banks, retailers and technology companies are working together to increase the contactless payment limit from €30 to €50.

BFPI expects the new limit to roll out across all retail outlets by 1 April.

BPFI head of payment schemes Gill Murphy said: “The rollout is well underway and BPFI is working in collaboration with all the various parties involved, to make sure the new limit is available across all retail outlets by 1 April.

“We are working together to make it happen as a matter of urgent priority in order to facilitate consumers’ ability to make some payments without the need for physical contact.

“Due to the many technicalities involved, there is no central method by which this can be delivered but, rather, it is a case of all parties working together to ensure consumers can avail of the new limit of €50.”

Murphy assured retailers that the change “is already well underway and progressed by the industry”.

She added that BPFI is encouraging consumers to follow the advice issued by UK government agency the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) when inserting PIN in card terminals. The advice includes washing the hands and face properly and often, cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces, and for people not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth.

In Ireland, the demand for cash has reduced by around 20% due to decreased overall spending and preference for using cards amid the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak. Non-essential retail stores in Ireland have temporarily closed increasing demand for online shopping and home delivery.

10:19 pm

Global GDP may drop by 1% in 2020, says Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs expects global real gross domestic product to contract by about 1 per cent in 2020, a sharper economic decline than in the year following the 2008 global financial crisis.

“The coronacrisis or more precisely, the response to that crisis — represents a physical (as opposed to financial) constraint on economic activity that is unprecedented in postwar history,” the investment bank said in a note to its clients published late on Sunday according to India Today.

9:12 pm

Japanese consumers use imagination to combat Covid-19 crisis

Far East Asia has been experiencing the Covid-19 outbreak ahead of Europe – observing the regional challenges, such as Japan cases, can help identify what comes next or where to move on.

When consumers cannot buy what they want, they tend to try to find products that can be used as a substitute. One of examples is high alcohol spirits. People who cannot buy sanitizers are now trying to create their own version of sanitizers with spirits. According to Million Trading, a wine and spirits importer, Polish vodka Spiriytus that has 96% alcohol by volume has been suddenly seeing high demand from February; the demand is more than twice compared to its usual pace and its supply is not keeping up.

When the effect of Covid-19 has become prolonged, consumers are also searching for products that protect their health in general. Particularly, to improve their immunity, consumers are more actively buying probiotic products. An example from Japan is natto, fermented soybeans, which have been lacking in stock consistently since the outbreak; natto is known for its health benefits, particularly in terms of lowering cholesterol, and is filled to the brim with fibre, probiotics, and vitamin K2. Similarly, yogurt, generally associated with gut health and immunity, are selling well.

There will not be natto panic buy in Europe, but spirits and probiotic products claiming to improve immune system are likely to grab the UK, as well as European consumers’ eye.

7:36 pm

OECD expects economic fallout to be felt ‘for a long time to come’

Speaking to CNBC, the OECD’s secretary general, Angel Gurria, stated: “What you have is an economic effect now that, very clearly, is going to be prolonged beyond the period of the pandemic.”

“We’ll hopefully get rid of the pandemic in the next two or three months and then the question is how many unemployed (will there be), how many small and medium-sized enterprises will be in a very, very severe situation if not disappeared by that time.”

“Life, and economic activity, is not going to be normalized any time soon,” he said. “We’re going to have the impact of this crisis for a long time to come.”

2:58 pm

Bigbasket and Grofers urge people to stop panic-buying

Visit our Covid-19 microsite for the latest coronavirus news, analysis and updates

Follow the latest updates of the outbreak on our timeline.

Online grocery platforms Bigbasket and Grofers have reportedly urged customers to refrain from panic-buying amid the increasing coronavirus (Covid-19) scare in India.

As consumers gave into panic-buying of daily food essentials such as flours, milk and vegetables, Bigbasket’s online traffic and revenue increased by two times in the last three days, IANS reported.

The online grocery platform witnessed a 15%-20% increase in the basket value.

Grofers reported a 45% surge in orders and 18% hike in the order value.

Several consumers pointed out that essential items are immediately going out of stock for certain hours during the last three days.

However, Bigbasket said, except in the case of sanitisers, it is not facing shortages in FMCG-branded products. The basic staples are reportedly restocked within 12 hours. quoted BigBasket buying and merchandising national head Seshu Kumar Tirumala as saying: “Order volumes have almost doubled in the last two weeks alone. We are trying to predict demand for each item that is going out of stock.

“There are 2-3 SKUs (stock-keeping units) that go out of stock on a daily basis like hand sanitisers, and other kinds of hand wash items, and third is basic staples like rice, dal, etc.”

Meanwhile, Grofers is taking a hard approach to the existing panic-buying orders of essential commodities.

Grofers co-founder and CEO Albinder Dhindsa told IANS that it stopped promotions for essential commodities.

The retailer is seeking the help of additional manufacturing partners to scale up the supply basis demand and requested customers to opt for considerate shopping.

2:52 pm

Rapid response and creativity vital for non-food retailers to survive coronavirus crisis

Next’s guidance on how it expects to be impacted by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic indicates that retailers have plenty to contend with over the next few months. As many retailers operating in affected countries have already experienced, revenue will drop off a cliff, stores will need to be closed and staff potentially let go. Retailers will also need to deal with excess stock and adjust marketing strategies quickly in an attempt to safeguard at least some revenue while trying to keep business development plans on track.

Reporting its FY19/20 results this morning, Next gave a sobering outlook for the year ahead with sales (primarily generated in the UK) expected to decline between 10% in a best case scenario and up to 25% at worst – equivalent to lost sales of £1bn. The main cause of this will be significantly reduced demand as worried consumers cut right back on discretionary spend, given the threat of unemployment and the unknown duration of the pandemic, but sales will also be lost unless retailers quickly react by making changes to their assortment and marketing communication.

Although spring/summer stock will be on its way from suppliers, retailers will need to cancel orders wherever possible, particularly on holiday and high summer products such as swimwear, suitcases and inflatables. Even countries that normally experience prolonged warm weather are unlikely to see much demand for these products as consumers make do with what they already have without the usual reasons to purchase, such as holidays, weddings and other summer occasions. Home products such as BBQs, outdoor furniture and paddling pools will be more protected as consumers spend more time in their gardens, however, stocks should still be reduced given the lower propensity to spend in general.

Retailers will also need to think creatively about how to market their products during the crisis, with many campaigns normally centred around key occasions that are unlikely to take place this year. Consumer mind sets will shift towards focusing on wellbeing, communication and relationships, and there is likely to be more interest in the home environment. Planned marketing campaigns will need to be reworked in response to how consumers are behaving and engagement will be even more important than before. Retailers who can find ways to provide social interaction for their target audience will stand out. For example, Sweaty Betty has introduced free online workouts. Other retailers such as John Lewis & Partners and Hobbycraft could partner with influencers to run live crafting sessions online where items needed could easily be bought online beforehand.

All retailers’ first priorities at the moment will be confronting the crisis caused by the coronavirus, but Lord Wolfson made clear that Next will not be standing still during this uncertain period and will be pushing ahead with its plans to improve the business. Other retailers will be using all the resources (staff and capital) that they have to survive the pandemic, but those that are able to continue innovating amongst the chaos will be well positioned to gain market share when demand returns to normal.

1:28 pm

Dixons Carphone to close 531 standalone stores in UK

UK-based electrical and telecommunications retailer Dixons Carphone is set to close its 531 standalone Carphone Warehouse stores, which is expected to result in 2,900 job cuts.

The move comes as part of the company’s plan to turnaround its UK mobile business.

Representing 8% of Dixons Carphone’s total UK selling space, the affected stores will be closed by 3 April.

Dixons Carphone will continue the sale of mobile devices and connectivity through its shop-in-shops in 305 Currys PCWorld stores and online.

These stores allow customers to interact with products and are said to be 20 times larger than Carphone Warehouse standalone stores.

Dixons Carphone group chief executive Alex Baldock said: “We remain committed to Mobile, as we’re showing by developing a new offer for customers, retaining as many Carphone Warehouse colleagues as we can, and making Mobile a core category in our big stores and online.

“As such, Mobile will be part of the one, joined-up business that customers want and that’s essential for our transformation.”

The mobile business is expected to make a £90m loss to Dixons Carphone this year. The shift in consumer behaviour is cited by the company as a reason for the revamp of its mobile business.

Meanwhile, the company stated that it has not yet seen a material impact from the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak and was maintaining its full-year profit forecast.

Moreover, it noted a considerable increase in sales of fridges and freezers, small domestic appliances and laptops during the outbreak.

Dixons Carphone is set to temporarily close its Greek stores due to the pandemic.

10:35 am

Blow for landlords as global fashion chains demand rent holidays

Global fashion players operating stores in Europe’s shopping centres and high streets will be demanding, even enforcing in some countries, such as Spain, rent holidays over the next few months as Covid-19 continues to take greater hold.

Landlords will be at the mercy of retailers with scale, as they will be forced to rely on these tenants to bring shoppers back post-crisis, providing the centres can survive following a challenging 2019.

Intersport, KiK, Deichmann, H&M and Sport 2000 all had over 2,000 stores across Europe in 2019, making them the most exposed to quarantine restrictions and mall closures caused by the spread of Covid-19. With annual sales of over €2bn each, these players have the scale to negotiate new terms with landlords and will be working hard to cut costs throughout the supply chain to protect profitability.

Following fashion retailer demands in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, European landlords will now face requests for three or six-month rent cuts, rent holidays and rent rebates from its biggest tenants to aid survival as consumer spending severely drops off. This trend will escalate with smaller players following suit once the benchmark has been set by those with influence. The likes of Intu, Hammerson, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield and Kleppierre will, therefore, be under even more strain to raise funds, reduce debt and protect the performance of their assets.

Largest fashion specialists in Europe by revenue, 2019. Credit: GlobalData.

Note: the chart shows the annualised 2019 revenue in Europe for the top 15 fashion specialists. All of these players had more than 970 stores in Europe in 2019, with Intersport having more than 4,000 and H&M have just over 2,500. Revenue is in euros and includes sales tax.

We expect the steps to reduce rent and close stores temporarily or reduce daily trading hours, will make retailers with a large physical store presence consider long term store closures and portfolio rationalisation, particularly as online penetration continues to build across Europe. This will lead to higher vacancy rates through European towns and cities, and the shrinkage of the indoor shopping centre / mall channel over the next few years as major anchors withdraw from underperforming locations.

2:22 pm

Killing germs may become consumer priority after coronavirus

In late 2019, GlobalData found out consumer’s attitude towards maintaining their home, asking their view on killing germs and tidiness.

The majority of consumers globally say they try to keep their home both germ-free and tidy while consumers who prioritise killing germs over tidiness stood at 16%.

Figure: GlobalData Q3 2019 global consumer survey. Credit: GlobalData.

However, GlobalData is expecting that this consumer attitude is likely to change following the pandemic coronavirus outbreak. Its recently published report `Top Trends in Household Care and Laundry Products 2020` predicts the rise of the “super sterilised society” trend in which there is an escalating obsession with hygiene, cleanliness and immunity among global consumers. Minimising germs and viruses is likely to become of high importance for many consumers.

12:50 pm

COVID-19: US retailers urge leaders to coordinate on operations

Visit our Covid-19 microsite for the latest coronavirus news, analysis and updates

Follow the latest updates of the outbreak on our timeline.

US retailer associations have urged state governors and mayors to inform retail leaders before issuing decisions to close or reduce business operations as they work to contain the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and the National Retail Federation (NRF) sent a letter to Governor Larry Hogan, Chairman of the National Governors Association and Mayor Bryan Barnett, president of the US Conference of Mayors seeking communication and coordination from the elected officials in the current circumstances.

NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said: “This is an unprecedented situation that demands an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach, and community retailers are eager to do their part.

“Whatever the challenge, retailers have prepared in advance to serve the critical needs of their customers and employees. They can quickly and thoughtfully adjust a wide variety of practices, including supply chains, stores, and policies impacting communities they serve.”

The retailers noted that notice and consultation in advance can avoid causing disruption from consumers overwhelming stores and exhausting available supplies quickly.

Furthermore, retailers will prepare their supply chains to handle customer needs both before and after recommended, or even mandatory, government officials’ store closing orders.

RILA president Brian Dodge said: “Families are counting on retailers right now and retailers are determined to be there for them. We encourage elected officials to make every attempt to communicate with retail leaders to discuss recommendations on whether to close or curtail business operations.”

The associations have also sought sufficient time for employers to create and put in place contingency plans for employees and impacted communities if the government moves to minimise business operations.

Meanwhile, many retailers have closed their stores in locations and countries hit by the coronavirus.

The COVID-19 virus has currently affected more than 150 countries worldwide.

9:50 am

How FMCG brands can respond to rising stress and uncertainty over Covid-19 outbreak

The Covid-19 outbreak has created an uncertain long-term global outlook. Ongoing developments surrounding coronavirus raises a key question – how can fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands respond to this increasing stress and uncertainty in consumers’ lives? One example is found in Japan.

Kao is one of the largest household care and personal care manufacturers in Japan. Its recent tweet has made a buzz among consumers with positive views. The company released a tweet about how to wash a fabric face mask under its laundry brand Kao Attack.

In Japan, disposable paper-based face masks have been in shortage for quite some time since the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Thus, people have started to use reusable fabric masks. However, consumers were unsure about effective washing for these masks. The tweet leads consumers to Kao’s special webpage, which then demonstrates how to wash and sanitise the masks step by step.

Kao also has its body and hand wash brand Biore U, and under this brand, the company created a handwashing song accompanied by a video for children. Kao’s handwashing instruction is not only for the length of time but also how to wash the hands in detail, between fingers and nails.

Kao’s handwashing video was made several years ago and was not intended for the virus outbreak. But the brand tweeted this song and video in response to the current crisis, and since then, several media outlets have reused it as useful information that helps to encourage children to wash their hands properly.

When the period of uncertainty continues, consumers tend to be overwhelmed by information that can be right or not and many of them draw comfort from the traditional and the familiar. The information provided by a company like Kao, which most consumers in Japan are familiar with, will be powerful, and potentially this can be an opportunity for established brands to gain loyalty. However, these brands must be careful to present their information and marketing to reduce stress rather than to exploit consumer anxiety about uncertainty.

8:00 am

Covid-19: Amazon to hire additional workers to deal with coronavirus demand

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Follow the latest updates of the outbreak on our timeline.

Online retailer Amazon has announced plans to hire 100,000 additional workers in its fulfillment centres and delivery network across the US to meet the surge in online orders amidst the rapidly growing coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak globally.

The online orders are witnessing a surge as shops are being shut down and more people become home-quarantined in order to contain the spread of the Wuhan virus.

The retailer will invest more than $350m across the globe to increase pay for employees and partners by $2/hour in the US, £2/hr in the UK, and around €2/hr in many EU countries. It currently pays $15/hour in the US.

They are currently working in the company’s fulfillment centres, transportation operations and stores.

Furthermore, the company said that the newly opened part-time and full-time positions are open to people whose livelihoods have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Amazon said in a blog post: “We also know many people have been economically impacted as jobs in areas like hospitality, restaurants, and travel are lost or furloughed as part of this crisis. We want those people to know we welcome them on our teams until things return to normal and their past employer is able to bring them back.”

The company further added that it is consulting medical and health experts and is taking all recommended precautions in its buildings and stores to keep the employees healthy.

As part of the precautions, Amazon has taken measures to promote social distancing in the workplace and enhanced frequent cleaning, among other things.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 cases are continuing to increase across the globe. The death toll due to the virus has crossed 7,100 globally in 155 countries.

In the US, the death toll has surpassed 100 while positive cases continue to be reported.

The situation is grim in the UK and Italy with an increase in the fatality and reported cases each day.

2:42 pm

Covid-19 is driving a stock market rise for ‘stay at home’ providers

The coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic is affecting the global economy in strange and unpredictable ways. Stock markets have been in freefall for weeks with the FTSE 100 dropping between five and ten points as markets open each day.

Panic buying has seen supermarket shelves empty. Toilet rolls, antibacterial spray, and hand soap have been snapped up as COVID-19 has progressed. This is against the advice of governments and the stores themselves, who say it is unnecessary.

Confusion about risk of Covid-19 infection

Amidst the widespread confusion about the risk of infection, there has been a renewed focus globally on personal and household hygiene. Reflecting this, sales of Dettol, Calgon, Finish, and Cillit Bang are on the up. All of these brands are part of the Reckitt Benckiser family.

Aside from the positive of an increase in sales, the wider stock markets’ behaviour could present the company with a chance to take the lion’s share of investment in the coming months. With most consumer goods suffering as a result of the outbreak, hygiene products will be seen as a safe bet. Owning so many of them provides Reckitt with a golden opportunity to dominate a rare rising market.

Home entertainments rising in popularity

Netflix has been steadily climbing in share price since the start of the outbreak, with stock up 1.4% since the WHO signalled a global health emergency at the end of January. As public gatherings are being avoided, and in some cases banned, in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19, other ‘stay at home’ stocks are also expected to rise.

Disney+, in its audacious attempt to break into an already established streaming market has perhaps entered at the best possible time. With self quarantined consumers exhausting online content, the demand for new entertainment has never been higher.

The implications for Disney also have a consumer dimension, as one of the largest merchandising companies in the world, their shows are the key driver of sales of toys and video games.

A rise in streaming holds implications for other consumer goods too. Alcohol and snack food deliveries are rising, with Uber-eats’ latest acquisition of Bargain Booze in the UK fuelling the living room party trend.


2:18 pm

Covid-19: UK food retailers urge customers to buy responsibly

UK-based food retailers have come forward to reassure their customers regarding rising coronavirus (Covid-19) fears around the world and have urged them to buy responsibly.

In a joint letter, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl, Coop, Waitrose, M&S, Iceland, Ocado and Costcutter urged their customers to be considerate in the way they shop.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents supermarket groups, quoted the retailers as stating in the letter: “We understand your concerns but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left without. There is enough for everyone if we all work together.”

The letter also noted that the retailers are working closely with the government and the suppliers to make more deliveries and to ensure the shelves are stocked up at shops.

Reuters quoted the UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock as saying that the government was confident that food supplies were secure, but everybody had to act responsibly as part of a national effort.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Retailers are working incredibly hard to keep shops well-stocked and deliveries running as smoothly as possible.

“In the face of unprecedented demand as a result of coronavirus, food retailers have come together to ask their customers to support each other to make sure everyone can get access to the products they need.”

British supermarkets reportedly witnessed intense trading in the last few days. Some shop owners said that it can only be compared with the pre-Christmas rush.

Meanwhile, the UK is witnessing an increase in the number of coronavirus cases. The government is planning extreme measures, including home quarantining elder citizens, to restrict the spread of the disease.

11:27 am

Covid-19: Vineyard Vines closes stores over outbreak

Follow the latest updates of the outbreak on our timeline.

US clothing and accessory retailer Vineyard Vines is closing retail stores and outlets from 16 to 27 March as part of its efforts to protect communities against the coronavirus (Covid-19).

The closures are also aimed at limiting the spread of the virus.

Vineyard Vines co-founders and brothers Shep and Ian Murray said: “The safety and wellness of our team, customers and community is our #1 priority. Given the current state of Covid-19, we have decided to close all stores and encourage you all to take the precautionary measures recommended by the CDC and WHO.

“This unprecedented time leaves us incredibly thankful for the support of our team, loyal customers and communities. Together, we have shared so many Every Day Should Feel This Good moments and, in times like this, we know that the strength and character of our communities will see us through.”

The retailer noted that it will continue to pay store employees for the previously scheduled shifts during this time.

Vineyard Vines office employees, whose jobs allow them to work remotely, will work from their home until further notice.

The retailer will also continue to serve customers through its website.

Founded in 1998, Vineyard Vines offers a variety of clothing and accessories for men, women and children.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 cases worldwide have crossed 169,300. 6,500 coronavirus deaths have been reported globally as of 15 March.

In the US, the death toll has risen to 69 while the total number of cases stands at 3,774.

10:18 am

Covid-19: Edible to cancel fee for same-day delivery amid outbreak

Follow the latest updates of the outbreak on our timeline.

US-based fresh fruit franchisor Edible has announced plans to cancel same-day delivery charges as more citizens become home-quarantined to combat the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

In addition, the brand is set to start home delivery of fresh fruit and produce in several locations.

Edible president Cheikh Mboup said: “Even though large gatherings are not happening, we recognise that many smaller events and celebrations like birthdays and anniversaries are still going on. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to continue celebrating special occasions, even during this stressful time.”

Free same-day delivery is provided for any orders placed until 3pm.

Depending on what is available in each market, the varieties of fruit and other produce available for delivery will vary between stores.

Edible also stated that no timeframe has been set for how long these changes will be in place.

The move to slash delivery fee and provide customers with home delivery of fruit and produce is intended to alleviate the concerns of citizens who are staying indoors due to the current coronavirus situation.

Mboup added: “Right now, we are like everyone else. We are monitoring the situation, remaining flexible and doing what we can to help our friends and neighbours lead as normal a life as possible.”

A subsidiary of Edible Brands, Edible has more than 1,100 locations worldwide.

Meanwhile, the US is taking extreme measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The country has reportedly witnessed 64 coronavirus related deaths so far.

9:51 am

Small cap UK retailers hit hardest by Coronavirus fears

The coronavirus crisis has had a devastating effect on share prices of UK-listed retailers, down by almost a third on average over the last month, with the smaller firms suffering the most as investors worry that the virus could push weaker retailers under.

Already the impact of coronavirus has seen Moss Bros agree on an acquisition by the owners of Crew Clothing for just £22.6m, and though this was a 61% premium on its share price before the announcement, it only brought it back to pre-coronavirus levels.

When the coronavirus crisis began investors were mainly focused on retailers with high exposure to China, either in terms of sales or supply, but as the virus has spread, concerns have moved to the threat of recession and, in the shorter term, the impact on demand of self-isolation and a possible shutdown of non-food stores, as has occurred in Italy.

While the possibility of isolation and shop closures does point to a greater negative impact for physical retailers, there had been little difference in the impact between the share prices of pureplay online and multichannel retailers, up until last Thursday (11th March). Since then there has been a major shift in investor sentiment.

In terms of sectors, there is a clear difference between the investment sentiment in food retailers and the rest, with food retailers down on average 10.9% compared to 35.5% for the rest. Food is, of course, essential, and there are some aspects of the crisis that will drive sales such as people favouring eating in rather than going out to restaurants. But panic buying of ambient goods is really only a short term sales gain that will level out as shoppers destock, and ensuring that supplies are maintained will bring additional costs.

Retailers concentrating on non-essential purchases have been hit harder, with the hardest hit being stationery, books and card sellers which were down 53.3%. It should be noted though this includes the impact of WHSmith’s profit warning on 12 March, which was driven by its high exposure to the travel sector.

While mid-market retail has had a torrid few years as shoppers have traded down to value players, their share prices have, on average, not been hit as hard. Premium retailers, with exposure to demand from China and Korea, have fared even worse on the stock market, as have value players, who rely on suppliers in China to a greater degree than the mid-market.

*Data taken from share prices of 45 UK listed retailers on close of 12 February and close of 12 March 2020. All results are weighted by market capitalisation.

3:04 pm

Consumer germ-avoidance boosts popularity of chlorine-based cleaners

Consumers who prioritise germ-killing find chlorine to be more appealing than the average global consumer, which may suggest that, with growing health concerns around Covid-19, a surge in popularity for harsher cleaning chemicals is on the horizon.

The perceived ‘naturalness’ of ingredients in cleaning products is seen as important, as demonstrated by the 80% sales growth Tesco, one of the UK’s largest supermarkets, experienced in its vegan / plant-based cleaning products last year. This is driven to a large degree by eco-consciousness and questioning the safety of the ingredients when it comes to direct skin contact and air pollution. One affected ingredient is chlorine, which is considered the least appealing in a list of household care / laundry product ingredients. Consumers generally prefer more natural-sounding ingredients such as lemon, oxygen or plant extracts.

However, consumers who prioritise germ-killing over tidiness rank chlorine as a much more appealing ingredient compared to the global average, with a 10 percentage point increase, according to GlobalData’s 2019 Q3 global consumer survey. Hand sanitisers and cleaning products are selling out in a variety of stores globally, illustrating that germ-killing is on the forefront of the average consumers’ mind, which may cause ‘harsher chemicals’, such as chlorine, to be seen as more appealing by the general public. The perceived efficacy of harsher chemicals in cleaning products underpins this, and may present an opportunity for brands. Marketing how effective cleaning products are in eliminating bacteria and germs is more crucial now than ever, as global concern over the coronavirus grows.

12:23 pm

How the coronavirus is emptying supermarket shelves

With news of increasing cases of Coronavirus (Covid-19) reported around the world, some consumers have been stockpiling key supermarket products such as hand sanitiser, frozen goods and toilet roll. Pictures of empty supermarket shelves have become commonplace, circulating in the media and being shared online.

This consumer behaviour has been slammed as irrational and unhelpful by many who say that they fail to understand why shoppers are feeling so panicked by potential shortages, especially of products such as toilet roll, which has no specific links to a cure or prevention of the Coronavirus.

The rationale behind those failing to understand this behaviour is that there is not yet any supply-induced scarcity. However, it is evident that the real motivation behind this panic buying is a demand-induced scarcity, driving consumers to react to potential product shortages that they are seeing online.

In its Q3 2019 consumer survey, GlobalData found that over one-third (35%) of millennial consumers are actively buying products that are trending on social media and in a world where online and social platforms are purposely designed to create and promote trends, is it really any wonder that consumers are going bonkers for bog roll?

Retailers and brands now regularly include features on their online sites that show consumers how many products are left in stock, as well as low availability of certain products that consumers may be interested in, in real-time, in order to encourage them to buy. Brands and manufacturers are also aware of how limited editions and FOMO (fear of missing out) can contribute to the hype around certain products and drive sales.

Consumer’s reactions to rare or scarce products are purposely nurtured and exploited to encourage sales on a daily basis, the only difference this time is that it has not originated from a marketing ploy.

12:05 pm

Proximity Systems and ENS Group to develop self-disinfecting retail POS products

Proximity Systems and ENS Group have formed a collaborative partnership to develop self-disinfecting retail point-of-sale (POS) products.

The new solution will use Proximity’s next-generation UV-CLEAN disinfection technology, along with ENS’ tablet, kiosk, payment terminal, self-checkout and POS solutions.

Proximity Systems OEM sales vice-president John Deutsch said: “I’m very enthusiastic about the opportunity to partner with ENS as we expand UV-CLEAN into new markets.

“We really believe in the combination of our thorough understanding of UVC disinfection and ENS’ unmatched reputation for developing innovative, unique solutions across all industries.”

John Deutsch added that the company has engaged with ENS as its primary partner for UV-CLEAN technology in the POS and retail environments.

Recent studies conducted in common public places like grocery stores, airports, restaurants, pharmacies and healthcare facilities, found that people are at risk of exposure to harmful bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus (MRSA), Bacillus, E Coli, and C difficile.

This highlights the need for individuals to be protected from germs on high-touch public surfaces.

ENS Group president Joe Mach said: “Retailers are focused on enhancing their customers’ experience by crafting a digital interaction. Over 800 million is spent annually by retailers on touchscreen technology.

“As we focus on the retail experience, we also have to ensure the safety and health of customers and store employees. UV-CLEAN uniquely balances the customer experience with wellbeing.”

UV-CLEAN technology is claimed to be effective at terminating harmful pathogens found on high touch surfaces.

Proximity Systems and ENS Group will roll out the new solutions for retail, hospitality, financial, petro and convenience, grocery and healthcare industries later this year.