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Hamleys to cut more than a quarter of London staff

The toy retailer Hamleys is shedding more than a quarter of its workforce in London as the health crisis prompts shoppers to shun the capital’s world-famous shopping district.

Founded in 1760, Hamleys is the world’s oldest toyshop, with its store on Regent Street a magnet for international tourists in normal times. But the absence of foreign holidaymakers and tightening local restrictions, which mean the number of office workers is once again dwindling, is devastating trade in the area.

Hamleys confirmed that 60 of the 208 staff working in the store and nearby head office building were leaving as part of a redundancy programme. The pandemic has also delayed plans to refurbish the seven-storey shop which is now part of the business empire of India’s richest person, the billionaire Mukesh Ambani.

Known as the “mile of style”, Regent Street is one of the world’s top shopping destinations with retailers paying through the nose for a pitch. But after an initial bounce when shops reopened, footfall has stalled since the summer, with the area attracting half the usual number of visitors, according to the New West End Company, which represents hundreds of businesses in the area.

Last week, the coffee and sandwich shop chain Pret a Manger announced a second wave of store closures in London after suffering a fresh slowdown in sales because of the pandemic.

UK retail and hospitality job cuts on back of Covid-19 crisis

Marston’s – 2,150 jobs
15 October: Marston’s  – the brewer which owns nearly 1,400 pubs, restaurants, cocktail bars and hotels across the UK – said it would cut 2,150 jobs due to fresh Covid restrictions. The company has more than 14,000 employees. 

Whitbread – 6,000 jobs
22 September: Whitbread, which owns the Premier Inn, Beefeater and Brewers Fayre chains, said it would cut 6,000 jobs at its hotels and restaurants, almost one in five of its workforce

Pizza Express – 1,100 jobs
7 September: The restaurant chain confirms the closure of 73 restaurants as part of a rescue restructure deal.

Costa Coffee – 1,650 jobs
3 September: The company, which was bought by Coca-Cola two years ago, is cutting up to 1,650 jobs in its cafes, more than one in 10 of its workforce. The assistant store manager role will go across all shops.

Pret a Manger – 2,890 jobs
27 August: The majority of the cuts are focused on the sandwich chain’s shop workers, but 90 roles will be lost in its support centre teams. The cuts include the 1,000 job losses announced on 6 July.

Marks & Spencer – 7,000 jobs
18 August: Food, clothing and homewares retailer cuts jobs in central support centre, regional management and stores.

M&Co – 400 jobs
5 August: M&Co, the Renfrewshire-based clothing retailer, formerly known as Mackays, will close 47 of 215 stores.

WH Smith – 1,500 jobs
5 August: The chain, which sells products ranging from sandwiches to stationery, will cut jobs mainly in UK railway stations and airports. 

Dixons Carphone – 800 jobs
4 August: Electronics retailer Dixons Carphone is cutting 800 managers in its stores as it continues to reduce costs.

DW Sports – 1,700 jobs at risk
3 August: DW Sports fell into administration, closing its retail website immediately and risking the closure of its 150 gyms and shops.

Marks & Spencer – 950 jobs
20 July: The high street stalwart cuts management jobs in stores as well as head office roles related to property and store operations.

Ted Baker – 500 jobs
19 July: About 200 roles to go at the fashion retailer’s London headquarters, the Ugly Brown Building, and the remainder at stores.

Azzurri – 1,200 jobs
17 July: The owner of the Ask Italian and Zizzi pizza chains closes 75 restaurants and makes its Pod lunch business delivery only

Burberry – 500 jobs worldwide
15 July: Total includes 150 posts in UK head offices as luxury brand tries to slash costs by £55m after a slump in sales during the pandemic.

Boots – 4,000 jobs
9 July: Boots is cutting 4,000 jobs – or 7% of its workforce – by closing 48 opticians outlets and reducing staff at its head office in Nottingham as well as some management and customer service roles in stores.

John Lewis – 1,300 jobs
9 July: John Lewis announced that it is planning to permanently close eight of its 50 stores, including full department stores in Birmingham and Watford, with the likely loss of 1,300 jobs.

Celtic Manor – 450 jobs
9 July: Bosses at the Celtic Collection in Newport, which staged golf’s Ryder Cup in 2010 and the 2014 Nato Conference, said 450 of its 995 workers will lose their jobs.

Pret a Manger – 1,000 jobs
6 July: Pret a Manger is to permanently close 30 branches and could cut at least 1,000 jobs after suffering “significant operating losses” as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown

Casual Dining Group – 1,900 jobs
2 July: The owner of the Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Las Iguanas restaurant chains collapsed into administration, with the immediate loss of 1,900 jobs. The company said multiple offers were on the table for parts of the business but buyers did not want to acquire all the existing sites and 91 of its 250 outlets would remain permanently closed.

Arcadia – 500 jobs
1 July: Arcadia, Sir Philip Green’s troubled fashion group – which owns Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Evans and Wallis – said in July 500 head office jobs out of 2,500 would go in the coming weeks.

SSP Group – 5,000 jobs
1 July: The owner of Upper Crust and Caffè Ritazza is to axe 5,000 jobs, about half of its workforce, with cuts at its head office and across its UK operations after the pandemic stalled domestic and international travel.

Harrods – 700 jobs
1 July: The department store group is cutting one in seven of its 4,800 employees because of the “ongoing impacts” of the pandemic.

Harveys – 240 jobs
30 June: Administrators made 240 redundancies at the furniture chain Harveys, with more than 1,300 jobs at risk if a buyer cannot be found.

TM Lewin – 600 jobs
30 June: Shirtmaker TM Lewin closed all 66 of its outlets permanently, with the loss of about 600 jobs.

Monsoon Accessorize – 545 jobs
11 June: The fashion brands were bought out of administration by their founder, Peter Simon, in June, in a deal in which 35 stores closed permanently and 545 jobs were lost.

Mulberry – 470 jobs
8 June: The luxury fashion and accessories brand is to cut 25% of its global workforce and has started a consultation with the 470 staff at risk.

The Restaurant Group – 3,000 jobs
3 June: The owner of dining chains such as Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s has closed most branches of Chiquito and all 11 of its Food & Fuel pubs, with another 120 restaurants to close permanently. Total job losses could reach 3,000.

Clarks – 900 jobs
21 May: Clarks plans to cut 900 office jobs worldwide as it grapples with the growth of online shoe shopping as well as the pandemic.

Oasis and Warehouse – 1,800 jobs
30 April: The fashion brands were bought out of administration by the restructuring firm Hilco in April, with all of their stores permanently closed and 1,800 jobs lost.

Cath Kidston – 900 jobs
21 April: More than 900 jobs were cut immediately at the retro retail label Cath Kidston after the company said it was permanently closing all 60 of its UK stores.

Debenhams – 4,000 jobs
9 April: At least 4,000 jobs will be lost at Debenhams in its head office and closed stores after its collapse into administration in April, for the second time in a year.

Laura Ashley – 2,700 jobs
17 March: Laura Ashley collapsed into administration, with 2,700 job losses, and said rescue talks had been thwarted by the pandemic.

“Regent Street relies massively on the tourist trade but there is none and the people who work in head offices around here are sitting at home,” said one Hamleys insider, who said retailers in the area were grappling with a devastating slump in trade. “The store has always been the goose that lays the golden egg but it is suffering.”

With shoppers “fearful” about using public transport for shopping trips in the capital, the New West End Company is trying to convince them it is safe by promoting measures such as 24-hour cleaning. The business group is also turning on Christmas light displays earlier than usual to spread out trade during the “critical” eight-week period when retailers there take a third of their annual sales.

While shoppers are reluctant to visit major city centres because of the health crisis, regional shopping centres are faring better.

Hamleys, whose web sales have surged during the pandemic, has also seen stronger sales in stores outside London, which include the Lakeside mall in Essex. To capitalise on the important sales weeks between now and Christmas the toy specialist is also opening 11 pop ups shops. The temporary stores, which include branches in the Metrocentre in Gateshead, and Liverpool One, have created 80 jobs.

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Business

Ireland rejects another full lockdown as growth projections are sharply upgraded

  • The economy is now projected to contract by just 0.4% in 2020 if another full lockdown can be avoided, a significant upgrade from July's prediction for a 9% fall. 
  • Ireland may end 2020 with one of the lowest falls in GDP in the euro area but on the flipside the country has seen one of the largest drops in consumption in Europe.

After the Irish government rejected expert recommendations to return to another full lockdown, the governor of the country's central bank said the economy's recovery has been uneven with Brexit still on the horizon.

The Central of Bank of Ireland published its quarterly bulletin Tuesday morning where it substantially adjusted its full-year forecast for GDP. The economy is now projected to contract by just 0.4% in 2020 if another full lockdown can be avoided, a significant upgrade from July's prediction for a 9% fall. 

"We've seen a rebound from the low points we reached in April but the recovery that we have seen is also uneven, it's incomplete and it's certainly uncertain," Governor Gabriel Makhlouf told CNBC.

Strong exports, buoyed by the country's pharmaceutical sector, helped mitigate some of the pandemic's hit.

"It's proved resilient through the hardest bit of the lockdown so we're certainly optimistic that it can continue, but actually one of the things that's characterized all economic analysis over the last six months is the word uncertainty," Makhlouf said.

Ireland may end 2020 with one of the lowest falls in GDP in the euro area but on the flipside the country has seen one of the largest drops in consumption in Europe.

He added that any projections and forecasts still need to be cautious and will "depend on the path of the virus, it will depend on the decisions that governments make."

On Monday, the Irish government announced that the entire country would move up to level three of its coronavirus plan at midnight on Tuesday. This is in disagreement with Covid-19 health advisors that said the country needed to move to the highest level of five, which would mean a strict lockdown in place with most businesses closing.

Prime Minister Micheál Martin said moving to the strictest level would cause massive economic damage but the chief medical officer, Tony Holohan, said this was the "only opportunity to get this disease back under control." This is the first time the government has eschewed its experts' advice.

"We're certainly all still learning how to manage a pandemic in a way that's sustainable, not just in health terms but in economic terms," Makhlouf said. "At the end of the day, a healthy economy requires healthy consumers and a healthy workforce so the two are interrelated." 

Brexit

The unevenness in Ireland's economic recovery is expected to be exacerbated as the end of the U.K.'s transition period looms and if no trade deal is struck with Britain. The Central Bank of Ireland has now shifted its preparations to the assumption that there will be no deal.

"We have assumed until the publication today that there would be a deal, but we decided that it was wiser to change our assumption and assume that there would be no deal," Makhlouf said.

He said that any scenario is damaging for the Irish, British and European economies but it is working under the assumption that WTO trade terms will soon apply.

This would have an impact across many sectors but particularly food and agriculture where tariffs may be imposed.

"But I think again this is hugely uncertain, the precise combination of Brexit and the pandemic. The most significant thing I think that all businesses can do right now is plan for change," Makhlouf said. "I've been saying this for a while, we have to plan for change. Even if there is a deal, there will be more friction in EU-U.K. trade and we need to be ready for it."

 

 

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