First, the euphoria of retail reopenings after three months in lockdown, and now the misery of job cuts.
Three marquee names in British retail — Harrods, Topshop and John Lewis — have revealed layoffs due to damage incurred from the coronavirus lockdowns and the subsequent social distancing measures now that stores have reopened.
Retailers here are fighting on multiple fronts: Some were already trying to cut costs and restructure their businesses before COVID-19 even hit, others are arguing with landlords over unpaid rent, while others are having to swallow the bitter dram of diminished footfall — and revenue — due to in-store hygiene measures.
Shops here may be open, but there are so many limitations on selling: Clothing tried on in dressing rooms needs to be cleaned and quarantined; some products cannot even be touched; restaurants and bathrooms are shut for now. And makeup counters? Forget about it.
Topshop’s owner Arcadia, which teetered on the edge of bankruptcy last year and was restructuring long before lockdown, said it plans to cut head office jobs due to the impact of COVID-19 on the business overall.
“This restructuring is essential to ensure that we operate as efficiently as possible during these very challenging times,” said the company, adding that about 500 of the 2,500 head office jobs will go.
“We deeply regret the impact this will have on those individuals affected and will do everything we can to support them,” the company said.
There will most certainly be more cuts as businesses — especially in London — grapple with the lack of tourists, social distancing, the possibility of a second spike in COVID-19 cases — and local lockdowns.
The British government’s decision to lock down, and seal off, the city of Leicester, in England’s East Midlands region, until July 18 is a chilling reminder that the coronavirus continues to thrive and threaten lives and livelihoods in certain pockets of Britain, and the world.