// B&Q, JD Sports, Dunelm, ScS and Games Workshop confirm store closures for lockdown
// PM Boris Johnson said all non-essential shops must close for at least 3 weeks to combat spread of Covid-19
B&Q, JD Sports, Dunelm, ScS and Games Workshop have all confirmed they will temporarily close their stores in response to the government-mandated lockdown announced last night.
They join an already long list of retailers that voluntarily shut their doors before the lockdown was announced, including John Lewis, Debenhams, H&M, Arcadia, Inditex, Ted Baker, Primark, New Look, Waterstones, Clarks, River Island, Ikea and TK Maxx.
Last night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that shops selling “non-essential” goods must close for at least three weeks, as part of dramatic steps to combat the spread of Covid-19.
B&Q chief executive Graham Bell said in statement that he had learned “that the DIY and hardware store sector has been categorised as an essential retailer”.
He added: “We are now working out the safest and simplest way to support communities in providing only essential products moving forwards.”
B&Q stores will be closed from today “as we prepare”, Bell said.
Meanwhile, JD Sports said it has now shut down “essentially all” of its stores across the UK, the US and Europe following the spread of coronavirus.
The sportswear retailer said it was experiencing a “major disruption” to business operations but warned current uncertainty means it is too early to provide financial guidance for the year.
It said that its websites continue to accept and fulfil orders, with a “resilient performance” in most territories, but only represented a “comparatively small mitigation” to the impact of profits.
“Along with everyone else, the group is experiencing major disruption to our business operations as we seek to protect our colleagues and customers from the effects of Covid-19,” JD Sports executive chairman Peter Cowgill said.
“Their safety remains our number one priority and we continue to take all appropriate action in line with government advice in our various territories.
“JD continues to offer a market-leading, multichannel proposition in sports fashion retail and we are confident that we will emerge from the current challenges in a strong position to resume our previous positive momentum.”
The news from JD Sports is a stark contrast to rival Sports Direct, which came under fire last night over its initial decision to keep their stores open during the lockdown.
It has since back-flipped on the decision and confirmed it would close all its stores.
Management had justified keeping stores open on the basis that selling sporting and fitness equipment makes the company a vital asset during a national shutdown.
In the home and furniture sector, Dunelm closed its doors to customers yesterday but had intended to open them up as contactless collection points for click and collect orders.
The retailer also wanted to “perform activities which supported local people”, such as befriending services and local deliveries to elderly and vulnerable shoppers.
However, it said this morning that it had reviewed that approach following Johnson’s announcement last night and would temporarily close down all customer-facing operations.
In the 10 weeks to March 7, Dunelm said like-for-like sales jumped 6.5 per cent, with online sale surging 31.9 per cent.
However, in the two weeks that followed – when the pandemic escalated in the UK – the retailer suffered “a progressively negative impact” on trading, as reduced footfall saw like-for-likes plunge 8.8 per cent.
“These are unprecedented times, but Dunelm is a strong business which has been built over 40 years on the foundations of close relationships with our customers, colleagues, suppliers and shareholders,” chief executive Dunelm boss Nick Wilkinson said.
“Our business principle to ‘do the right thing’ is more important than ever in the current situation.”
Rival chain Scs is also temporarily closing stores during the lockdown and said it was “reducing cash expenditure to protect our liquidity in the short term” – although it stressed that it was still “a resilient business” that is “well positioned to navigate this event and return to growth when the economy recovers”.
The furniture retailer has already agreed with landlords to pay rent one month in advance, rather than one quarter in advance.
Meanwhile, Games Workshop said it had now closed all of its stores, headquarters, factories and warehouses globally and that staff will work from home where possible.
“Our priority is the health and wellbeing of our staff, their families and our customers,” it stated.
While many retailers have not made it clear how they would support affect shop floor staff during temporary store closures, they may take the government up on its recently-announced offer to cover up to 80 per cent of wages for any job that has been affected by the pandemic.