Mar 27, 2020

Coronavirus: Sports Direct boss 'deeply' sorry for virus blunders

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has said he is "Deeply apologetic" for a series of blunders in the way his chain has reacted to the coronavirus lockdown. The retailer lobbied the government to keep his shops open, arguing they were an "Essential service", but backed down after a backlash from staff and media. In an open letter, Mr Ashley also admitted the firm's communications to staff and the public were "Poor". "Many firms"do not know whether to stay open or to close, the director general of...

Mar 27, 2020

Coronavirus: Tesco restricts online orders to 80 items each

Supermarket Tesco has said that online shoppers will have their deliveries capped at 80 items from now on. Tesco has already limited all products to a maximum of three per customer, whether they shop online or in stores. A government database of vulnerable shoppers in England will be used by retailers to help prioritise delivery slots during the coronavirus pandemic. There is concern those most in danger from the virus are going in to stores due to a lack of online shopping slots. Tesco boss...

Mar 27, 2020

Coronavirus: Vodafone offers 30 days free mobile data

Vodafone is offering free unlimited mobile data to half a million of its pay monthly customers. The "Vulnerable" customers who will automatically be upgraded to the unlimited data scheme include those with declared disabilities or mental health issues, "Among other things", a Vodafone spokesman said. Another half a million will be able to apply for the free 30 days through Vodafone's rewards scheme in the company's app. Vodafone's move is not free for the company, he said, since "Any increase...

Mar 27, 2020

Investors Chronicle: Biffa, Ted Baker, Royal Dutch Shell

The group anticipates the cumulative impact on earnings will not be material for the current financial year - which ends on March 27 - but will hit next year. Stricken clothing retailer Ted Baker has sold its headquarters to the British Airways pension scheme for £78.75m in a battle to bring down its debt levels, writes Alex Janiaud. Ted Baker sustained a heavy blow to trading from the coronavirus outbreak, which has forced the temporary closure of 384 of its 416 stores, representing around...

Mar 26, 2020

Barclays waives overdraft fees for customers

Barclays has announced it will waive overdraft fees for a fixed period in a bid to help customers suffering from financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, Barclays said it would not charge any interest on all overdrafts from Friday March 27 until the end of April to give customers extra headroom in times of financial uncertainty. On the same day, Lloyds Group announced that from April 6, all customers with an agreed overdraft would be given the first £300 interest free...

Mar 26, 2020

Opening Quote: Dyson plans to make 15,000 medical ventilators for the NHS

Dyson is planning to make 15,000 medical ventilators for delivery within weeks. Dyson told staff it had received an order from the government for 10,000, but James Dyson will pay for a further 5,000 to be made, 4,000 of which will be donated to other countries. Vacuum cleaner group Dyson repurposing itself as a ventilator maker is only the latest example of companies retooling themselves to meet the new demands of the coronavirus crisis. Landlord British Land has less exposure, with only 41...

Mar 26, 2020

Postmasters 'rejoice' as convictions appeal granted

Dozens of former sub-postmasters and postmistresses will have convictions of fraud, theft and false accounting sent to the Court of Appeal. PA. The finding comes after the Post Office agreed in December to pay almost £58m to settle the long-running dispute with sub-postmasters and postmistresses. The settlement brought an end to a mammoth series of court cases over the Horizon IT system used to manage local post office finances since 1999. The Post Office accepted it had "Got things wrong in...

Mar 26, 2020

Michelin starred meals delivered to homes in lockdown

Several Michelin starred and other high end restaurants have started delivering stripped down versions of their menus in big UK cities as they attempt to find ways to sell fine dining through the coronavirus lockdown. More than 100 restaurants have contacted Supper, the delivery service specialising in upmarket London restaurants, while other operators have set up their own takeaway initiatives as they battle to maintain revenues during the enforced government shutdown. He said the restaurant...

Mar 26, 2020

HSBC to delay ‘vast majority’ of redundancies

Impact of the coronavirus outbreak has forced lender to pause its restructuring

Mar 26, 2020

Coronavirus: NHS uses tech giants to plan crisis response

The goal is to help health chiefs model the consequences of moving resources to best tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Three US tech firms are aiding the effort - Amazon, Microsoft and Palantir - as well as London-based Faculty AI. The plan is expected to be signed off by Health Secretary Matt Hancock. "Every hospital is going to be thinking: Have we got enough ventilators? Well we need to keep ours because who knows what's going to happen - and that might not be the optimal allocation of...

Mar 26, 2020

Morrisons non-execs quit over governance concerns

Two non-executive directors at supermarket chain Wm Morrison have resigned in an escalating row over corporate governance at the UK's fourth-biggest supermarket chain. The disagreements are understood to revolve around the role of Andrew Higginson, Morrisons' chairman since 2015, and his perceived closeness to chief executive David Potts. The resignations come as Morrisons deals with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, which has placed huge strain on its stores and online operation as...

Mar 26, 2020

Next bows to staff pressure and halts online sales

Next, one of the UK's largest fashion retailers, has bowed to employee pressure and stopped selling online during the coronavirus pandemic. The distribution centre, near Doncaster, will close from Thursday evening and the company will not take any more online orders "Until further notice". The decision will be a costly one for Next, which employs more than 40,000 people and has been more successful than most retailers in migrating its customer base online. Although demand had fallen across...

Mar 26, 2020

Coronavirus: Next makes U-turn on shutting warehouses

Fashion retailer Next has reversed its decision to keep warehouses open during the coronavirus lockdown. Bosses had faced criticism from staff who felt they were being pressurised into going to work. The Leicester-based firm shut all its online operations on Thursday evening and stopped taking orders. On Wednesday the company, which is one of the UK's biggest fashion chains, offered a 20% pay rise to workers willing to continue working on orders. "Next will not be taking any more online...

Mar 25, 2020

Facebook group calls soar 1,000% during Italy's lockdown

Facebook has seen usage across its platforms surge in countries that have brought in virus lockdowns. Italy - with some of the toughest restrictions - has seen the biggest rise, with group video calls rocketing by more than 1000% in the last month. Facebook outlined steps it is taking to increase capacity during the heightened traffic as people are stuck indoors and working from home. Facebook has lowered video quality in Europe to help reduce demand on internet service providers. The changes...

Mar 25, 2020

Nike turns to digital sales during China shutdown

Sportswear firm Nike has seen online sales rise by more than 30% as it rides out its coronavirus store shutdowns. "We expect the next several weeks to be a challenging period," said Nike chief executive John Donahoe, talking about the US and Europe. Nike reported a rare drop in Chinese quarterly revenues in its financial quarter which runs to the end of February. Nike also saw an "Extraordinary rise" in its personal training apps in China, designed for home workouts. Nike has been promoting...

Mar 25, 2020

Coronavirus: Walsall couple live stream wedding on Facebook

A couple whose dream wedding was thrown into doubt by coronavirus restrictions held the service a month early and streamed it to 100 guests on Facebook. Mrs Groom said they "Took the opportunity while we could". "Richard had seen the situation in the UK was heating up and had floated the idea of bringing the wedding forward," said Mrs Groom, who is the church's administrator. During overhauled preparations, Mrs Groom was living in a shared house with 12 other people, and they all pitched in...

Mar 25, 2020

Coronavirus: Halfords has ‘essential role to play’

Bicycle and car parts retailer Halfords has defended its decision to keep shops open amid the coronavirus pandemic. Its boss Graham Stapleton said that the chain had "An essential role to play in keeping the country moving". Mr Stapleton added that the chain had a part to play "In providing vital support to emergency workers, fleet operations and the general population as they travel for essential supplies". Halfords added said it was offering all NHS frontline workers a free 10-point car...

Mar 25, 2020

Coronavirus: Millions yet to receive UK government's Covid-19 text

Millions of mobile users in the UK have yet to receive the government's text message alert about coronavirus. The Cabinet Office ran trials in 2014 for a system which bypassed the mobile networks and sent messages directly to people's phones, but it was never developed. Ben Wood is a telecoms consultant who helped launch Vodafone's text message service in the early 1990s, when he used to work for the firm. "SMS is attractive to the government because it's a lowest common denominator messaging...

Mar 25, 2020

UK high street chains refuse to pay rent

Fashion chain Primark is among the UK businesses refusing to pay quarterly rent due on Wednesday and has asked landlords for help weathering the downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. John Bason, finance director of parent company Associated British Foods, said the company needed to "Align the rent payments with the extraordinary circumstances we have at the moment". In common with many businesses in the industry, it said it needed to conserve cash to pay staff on Friday rather than pay...

Mar 25, 2020

Coronavirus: London City Airport to shut due to outbreak

AFP London City Airport has announced it will close until the end of April due to the coronavirus outbreak. London City is the UK's twelfth busiest airport, handling 5.1 million passengers last year. Its location in east London puts the airport close to the capital's financial district and it is particularly popular with business travellers. "In a statement London City Airport said:"Following the government's latest instructions in response to the coronavirus outbreak, we have made the...

Mar 25, 2020

Wetherspoon and Sports Direct demand clarity on coronavirus payments

Tim Martin says he will not pay staff unless he receives a firm date for emergency funds

Mar 25, 2020

Coronavirus: Government orders 10,000 ventilators from Dyson

The government has ordered 10,000 ventilators from Dyson to help deal with the coronavirus crisis. Dyson has had hundreds of engineers working round the clock to design the ventilators from scratch. Ventilators can be used to help a person breathe if they have lung disease or another condition that makes breathing difficult. Currently, the NHS has just over 8,000 ventilators, the government thinks it can procure a further 8,000 from existing domestic and international suppliers. The race has...

Mar 25, 2020

Dyson to produce 15,000 ventilators ‘in weeks’

Dyson plans to manufacture 15,000 medical ventilators designed from scratch, following a call from the prime minister for British industry to supply the National Health Service with equipment to fight coronavirus. Ventilators support patients with acute respiratory difficulties, which occurs in severe cases of the Covid-19 virus that has now killed more than 450 people in Britain. The NHS has access to 8,175 ventilators but the government has indicated that 60,000 are needed in total, up from...

Mar 24, 2020

Coronavirus: Sports Direct U-turns on opening after backlash

Sports Direct has said it will keep its stores open, despite new curbs aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus. Under new measures announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, all UK shops selling non-essential goods have been ordered to close immediately. Sports Direct said it would remain open "Where possible" as it was "Uniquely well placed to help keep the UK as fit and healthy as possible". Bicycle shops are on the list of retailers that are allowed to stay open during the...

Mar 24, 2020

US tech giants team up to tackle coronavirus

Amazon is teaming up with researchers funded by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to pick up and deliver coronavirus test kits. The Gates Foundation-backed Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network is learning how the infection spreads. Amazon Care will assist the work by delivering test kits to people's homes and then picking them up for researchers. The partnership could help improve coronavirus testing in the US as it lags behind other countries in getting people checked for the virus. The US...

Mar 24, 2020

Burger King boss: We’re not going to pay our rent

Burger King chief executive Alasdair Murdoch has said that the fast food chain will not be paying rent due on its UK restaurants this week. Hundreds of High Street businesses are set to withhold their quarterly rent payments, which are due on Wednesday, so they can afford to pay their staff. "Mr Murdoch told the Today programme:"We are not intending to pay our rent. He added: "We could add three months on to the end of the lease for those people who are unable to pay in the short-term at the...

Mar 24, 2020

Wetherspoon boss tells staff to get a job at Tesco

The boss of the Wetherspoon pub chain has said its staff can take jobs with supermarkets amid the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Tim Martin told 40,000 workers in a video that they should feel free to take jobs at retailers such as Tesco while Wetherspoon pubs remain closed. The government has said it will pay 80% of salary for workers at firms such as Wetherspoon affected by Covid-19. "We've had lots of calls from supermarkets, Tesco alone want to recruit more than 20,000...

Mar 24, 2020

Sports Direct defends price increases

Sports Direct has said all its stores will remain closed after its plans to keep them open despite a government order to shut all "Non-essential shops" prompted a backlash. Staff were told in a message from Chris Wootton, chief finance officer, that since Sports Direct sold fitness equipment, it was "Uniquely well placed to help keep the UK as fit and healthy as possible" and that its staff should be considered key workers. "Thus," it added, "Our Sports Direct and Evans Cycles stores will...

Mar 24, 2020

Grocers launch hiring sprees as coronavirus spurs demand

Grocers and online retailers are hiring hundreds of thousands of workers to cope with a surge in demand as the industry booms during the coronavirus pandemic while many others fight for survival. Store workers, delivery drivers and warehouse workers are particularly sought after, although many of the positions are temporary or contracted roles - such as the 300,000 being sought by Instacart, the grocery delivery service. While some of the employment is aimed at filling shortages created by...

Mar 24, 2020

Sports Direct misjudges what’s essential to the nation

Mike Ashley's top team at Sports Direct must have missed the memo. As prime minister Boris Johnson closed all but essential provisioners on Monday night, the purveyor of swimsuits and squash rackets emailed staff to tell them Sports Direct and Evans Cycles shops would stay open. Lombard struggles to see why Sports Direct's piled-up stores of hoodies and sneakers could ever be essential to a populace in lockdown, except perhaps as apparel for black marketeers in such luxury items as sanitiser...