UK retail in lockdown

Toy retailers across the nation prepare to close for weeks as Boris Johnson orders closure of all non-essential retailers

Written by Rhys Thomas

Posted 24.03.2020 | Retail

UK retail in lockdown thumbnail

Boris Johnson last night ordered the immediate closure of all non-essential retailers, including toy shops, as part of the UK government’s strictest isolation measures to date.

The Prime Minister told the public that only stores selling everyday essentials such as food and medicine should remain open, and even visits for necessities should be limited.

Of the UK’s biggest specialty toy retailers, The Entertainer and Hamleys had already voluntarily closed stores, while Smyths Toys Superstores imposed strict 20-person capacity limits, a one child per adult policy, and other measures to protect shoppers and staff. As of this morning, Smyths has temporarily closed its doors in line with government guidance.

A statement on the store’s website, which will remain operational and continue to deliver orders, reads: “In light of the current public health concerns, Smyths Toys store locations are now closed for business for the weeks ahead.

“We trust that you will understand that these are exceptional measures for exceptional times as all of us change how we do things so as to protect public health.

“We look forward to welcoming you back instore as soon as we can.”

Mike Ashley, meanwhile, is scrambling to prove that his Sports Direct chain is essential. In a leaked email sent to staff, Chris Wootton, CFO of parent company Frasers Group, said “home fitness is the number one trending topic on social media after coronavirus itself”, and that the group would remain open as “we are uniquely well placed to help keep the UK as fit and healthy as possible during this crisis”.

Backlash from politicians and online saw the group consequently backtrack and close stores, though it is petitioning to be granted essential status by the government.  

B&M has pledged £1 million to local foodbanks to help those who are struggling during the outbreak. The retailer is also offering temporary jobs to students who are no longer attending college or university.

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