Boots and John Lewis to cut 5,300 jobs

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 9th July 2020) London, Uk – –

The cuts are the latest to hit the retail sector and come a day after Rishi Sunak announced a “plan for jobs” to spur recovery.

High street chain Boots and department store chain John Lewis are cutting a total of more than 5,000 jobs – blamed on the impact of COVID-19.

Boots plans to axe 4,000 workers in a major shake-up while John Lewis said that eight of its shops were set to remain closed after the lockdown, putting 1,300 workers at risk.

The Boots restructuring will affect around 7% of the its workforce, in particular at its Nottingham support office.

Store deputy and assistant manager and customer adviser roles across the country are also facing the axe, while 48 Boots Opticians sites will close.

The John Lewis closures, which include two full-size department stores in Birmingham and Watford plus six smaller shops, were blamed on the impact of the pandemic in accelerating the shift from in-store shopping to online.

Boots pointed to a similar trend.

The cuts add to thousands already announced this week – with logistics firm DHL cutting 2,200 roles at Jaguar Land Rover sites, newspaper publisher Reach axing 550 workers and Pret A Manger closing 30 shops, putting at least 1,000 jobs at risk.

Meanwhile, the UK boss of Burger King warned in a BBC interview that as many as 10% of its 530 stores may not be able to survive – threatening up to 1,600 jobs.

The announcements from Boots and John Lewis come a day after a “plan for jobs” announced by Rishi Sunak which offered measures including a VAT cut for the hospitality and tourism sector.

It was criticised by the retail industry which was not given similar help.

Boots stores were among “essential” retailers allowed to stay open during the lockdown but still saw sales fall 48% over the last three months.

The business, owned by US-listed Walgreens Boots Alliance, said that the cuts represented an “acceleration” of its transformation plans to improve profitability across the business.

Sebastian James, managing director of Boots UK, said: “The proposals announced today are decisive actions to accelerate our transformation plan, allow Boots to continue its vital role as part of the UK health system, and ensure profitable long-term growth.

“I am so very grateful to all our colleagues for their dedication during the last few challenging months.

“They have stepped forward to support their communities, our customers and the NHS during this time, and I am extremely proud to be serving alongside them.”

“In doing this, we are building a stronger and more modern Boots for our customers, patients and colleagues.

“We recognise that today's proposals will be very difficult for the remarkable people who make up the heart of our business, and we will do everything in our power to provide the fullest support during this time.”

Walgreens said in a quarterly update to investors that the impact of COVID-19 on sales in the latest quarter was up to $750m (£584m), mainly reflecting its international division which includes Boots.

It said that footfall was down 85% in April, with customers advised to leave home only for food and medicine.

“While most Boots stores remained open throughout the UK lockdown to provide communities with pharmacy and essential healthcare, our largest premium beauty and fragrance counters were effectively closed,” Walgreens said.

It said the performance of the UK business, together with ongoing uncertainty related to the pandemic, would mean a write-down of $2bn (£1.6bn) on its value – sending the wider group to a $1.7bn (£1.3bn) loss for the third quarter.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said: “Even before this crisis, Boots had issues.

“Many of its stores need investment, its proposition lacks clarity, and it faces growing competition from both specialist and generalist beauty players alike.

“The pandemic and its aftermath will simply exacerbate these problems and have a materially negative impact on the business – which is one of the reasons why Walgreens has been quick to write down the intrinsic value of the division.”

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Chancellor Sunak unveils diners 50% “eat out to help out” discount

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 8th July 2020) London, Uk – –

Diners will get a 50% discount off their restaurant bill during August under government plans to bolster the embattled hospitality sector.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled the “eat out to help out” discount as part of a series of measures to restart the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The deal means people can get up to £10 off per head if they eat out between Monday and Wednesday.

Mr Sunak also said VAT on hospitality and tourism would drop to 5%.

The reduction, from 20%, will be in place for the next six months.

As he announced the discount, the chancellor said the UK was facing a “unique moment” because of Covid-19, adding: “We need to be creative.”

Pubs and restaurants reopened on Saturday after more than three months in lockdown, with safety measures in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Mr Sunak sought to reassure the public that it was safe to dine out. “I know people are cautious about going out. But we wouldn't have lifted the restrictions if we didn't think we could do so, safely,” he said.

The discount will not apply to alcohol, but to food and soft drinks up to £10 per person.

The Treasury said the 50% discount can be used unlimited times during August and applies to participating restaurants, cafés, and pubs across the UK.

Mr Sunak said the plan was aimed at getting “customers back into restaurants, cafes and pubs” and protecting “the 1.8 million people who work in them”.

Businesses that want to take part in the scheme will have to register through a website that opens on Monday 13 July.

Mr Sunak said: “Each week in August, businesses can then claim the money back, with the funds in their bank account within five working days.”

He added that the cut in VAT, from 20% to 5%, would apply to “eat-in or hot takeaway food from restaurants, cafes and pubs; accommodation in hotels, B&Bs, campsites and caravan sites [and] attractions like cinemas, theme parks and zoos”.

The lower tax rate will be implemented next Wednesday, 15 July, and will remain in place until 12 January 2021.

Caroline Roylance, owner of The George pub at Fordingbridge, Hampshire, said she would be applying for the “eat out to help out” scheme.

The pub reopened on Wednesday after being closed since 23 March, when the coronavirus lockdown was implemented.

She said the discount and the VAT cut “will help us make it through the next few months, because trade is unlikely to return to pre-Covid levels for some time”.

“Saying that, it's been surprisingly busy today, which is encouraging, but it's still not July busy,” said Mrs Roylance. “It's a start though.”

‘Challenges ahead'

UK Hospitality, the trade body which represents the industry, “warmly” welcomed the moves, as well as Mr Sunak's plans to stem unemployment through schemes such as creating thousands of job placements for young people.

However, UK Hospitality's chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said: “This doesn't mean we are out of the woods and there are still significant challenges ahead.

“The biggest of these is the spectre of rent liabilities, which many businesses are still facing from their closure period. We are going to need government support on this before too long.”

Meanwhile, the exclusion of alcohol from the “eat out to help out” discount hit some pub groups' share prices.

Mitchells & Butler's share price jumped by 7.3% to 175p towards the end of Mr Sunak's statement, when he revealed the VAT cut for the hospitality and leisure industries, as well as the dining out discount.

But once it became clear it did not include alcohol, Mitchell & Butler's share price fell “just as quickly as it spiked up”, said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

Marston's share price also dropped 6.1% to 48.98p. JD Wetherspoon's share price fell 2% to 986p.

Britains government coronavirus lending rises to £45 billion

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com –Tue, 7th July 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s government has underwritten £45 billion of borrowing by businesses hit by the coronavirus and spent more than £27 billion so far to support jobs, finance ministry figures showed on Tuesday.

Total spending under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which supports 9.4 million jobs and is the costliest government coronavirus measure, rose to £27.4 billion as of July 5 from £25.5 billion a week earlier.

State-backed lending to small businesses – which receives a 100% government guarantee – rose to £30.93 billion. Lending to medium-sized and large firms increased to £11.49 billion and £2.58 billion respectively in two programmes which offer an 80% guarantee to lenders.

Reporting by David Milliken

A full list of countries for which quarantine will not apply published, for those arriving back in England

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 3rd July 2020) London, Uk – –

A full list of countries for which quarantine will not apply to people arriving back in England has been published.

Countries including Greece, Spain, France and Belgium are on the list, which comes into effect from 10 July.

But countries such as China, US, Sweden and Portugal are not, meaning arrivals from those have to isolate for 14 days.

Scotland and Wales are yet to decide whether to ease travel restrictions and described the changes as “shambolic”.

The quarantine rules will also remain in place in Northern Ireland for visitors arriving from outside of the UK and Republic of Ireland.

The restrictions came into place in early June in a bid to stop coronavirus entering the country as the number of cases was falling.

Speaking at the Downing Street press briefing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Instead of quarantining arrivals from the whole world, we will only quarantine arrivals from those countries where the virus is sadly not under control.”

People travelling from the 59 places and 14 British overseas territories on the list will not have to quarantine on arrival in England unless they have travelled through a place which is not exempt.

Passengers will still be required to provide contact information on arrival in England.

Some of those on the list include popular short-haul destinations such as Turkey and Cyprus, as well as long-haul locations including Australia, Barbados, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and Vietnam.

However, some countries will require visitors to isolate on arrival or will bar them from entering at all, such as New Zealand.

The Foreign Office is expected to update its travel guidance on Saturday, including naming which countries will have a reciprocal arrangement with the UK and not require British visitors to quarantine on arrival.

A proposed traffic light system, which would have seen countries marked as red, amber or green depending on the prevalence of the virus, has been dropped, the Department for Transport confirmed.

A list of countries which will be exempt from the Foreign Office's advice against “all but essential travel” from Saturday has also been published.

The advice has been lifted for Portugal but only for the Azores and Madeira.

Portugal's Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: “We are very disappointed with the decision of the British authorities. We think it is senseless and unfair.

“It is quite absurd the UK has seven times more cases of Covid-19 than Portugal so we think this is not the way in which allies and friends are treated.”

His prime minister, António Costa, tweeted comparing the UK's number of coronavirus cases with that of the Algarve, a popular holiday destination, saying: “You are welcome to spend a safe holiday in the Algarve.”

The government said information for travel into Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be published in due course by the devolved administrations.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said finalising the list of countries had been delayed – after scrapping the quarantine was announced last week – in the hope that the four UK nations could reach a joint decision.

He said there was “still an opportunity” for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to co-ordinate and therefore make the changes more simple.

But the first ministers of both Scotland and Wales have criticised the government, with Nicola Sturgeon saying Scotland could not be dragged along by the UK government's “shambolic decision making”.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said the approach had been “utterly shambolic”.

However, he added it was likely the Welsh government would impose the same measures as in England, provided the chief medical officer for Wales gave approval.

Mr Johnson said in a televised coronavirus briefing from Downing Street that the nations of the UK were following “very similar paths but at different speeds”.

Asked if a family from Scotland could drive to England and fly out and back from an overseas country to get around different quarantine rules the prime minister said that while he knew the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales had a “slightly different take” on it the “convoy is very much going in the same direction”.

“I'm sure we'll get there together and common sense will apply.”

The introduction of the quarantine on 8 June was met with criticism from the travel, tourism and hospitality industries and the easing of restrictions on arrivals from some countries has been welcomed.

A statement on behalf of airlines Ryanair, easyJet and British Airways said the move to quarantine people had been “irrational” and had seriously damaged the economy and industry.

It added the carriers wanted clarification on how countries included on the lists were selected.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry body Airline UK, said the lists gave “a clear path to opening further predominantly long-haul destinations in the weeks ahead”.

TUI UK and Ireland managing director Andrew Flintham said the company was pleased the government had confirmed “summer holidays are saved” and said it was a “significant step forward” for the industry.

The chief executive of Booking Holdings, which owns the brands Booking.com and Kayak.com, called for a coordinated effort from governments around the world to set out principles as to why someone can travel from one country to another.

Glenn Fogel told BBC World News current measures were “totally chaotic” but he welcomed England's announcement saying the UK is “an important part of the global tourism industry”.

VisitBritain director Patricia Yates said the lifting of travel restrictions for some of the “largest and most valuable visitor markets” was a “timely boost” for the industry.

Pilots union, the British Airline Pilots Association, said it was an important first step and said it was working with authorities to make sure the return to operations would be safe for pilots, passengers and crew.

An Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) spokeswoman said there was likely to be a strong demand for holidays and it was important people considered how this might affect their plans.

“It is especially important that customers also check the latest Foreign Office travel advice before booking, to establish if there are entry restrictions or self-isolation procedures on arrival, or any other measures they need to comply with, in the destination they are planning to visit,” she said.

A High Court challenge by British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair against the government's 14-day quarantine is set to be withdrawn, their barrister Tom Hickman QC said.

UK should consider increasing its unemployment benefits after lockdown – IMF

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Wed, 1st July 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain should consider increasing its unemployment benefits to help get people into the kind of work that is likely to be in demand after the coronavirus lockdown, the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund said.

Gita Gopinath told lawmakers in Britain’s parliament on Wednesday that the first priority for governments was to scale back gradually their support programmes for workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis, including state job retention schemes.

Then, as governments seek to get people back to work, the focus should be on reallocating resources in the labour market, or moving people into jobs where demand will be strong, which would initially increase reliance on unemployment support.

“In case of the UK, you could make a case for temporarily increasing the support under that because the UK has one of the lower replacement rates among advanced economies in terms of unemployment insurance,” Gopinath said.

Britain’s job retention scheme currently covers more than 9 million jobs – equivalent to around one in three private sector employees – and it is due to expire at the end of October.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Britain is very likely to need a bigger employment support programme.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak is due to spell out the government’s next moves to support the economy on July 8.

By William Schomberg

Chancellor Sunak to expand £500m fund for UK startups hit by coronavirus

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 30th June 2020) London, Uk – –

Chancellor extends Future Fund to include firms that have moved their HQs abroad

The chancellor is expanding a £500m fund for UK startups hit by the coronavirus crisis, to ensure firms that shifted their headquarters abroad can still access the scheme.

The Future Fund will now benefit companies that are seen as British in all but name, having moved their parent company to tap US investors or take advantage of so-called accelerator programmes. Accelerators like US-based Y Combinator often ask firms to set up a US entity in order to access financing, mentorships and expert networks overseas.

Future Fund applicants will still have to prove that at least half of their staff are based in the UK and that they make at least 50% of their revenues from UK sales, the Treasury said.

“This change means that those startups who have strived to be the very best, and taken opportunities to grow their business, will be able to benefit from our world-leading Future Fund,” chancellor Rishi Sunak said.

The changes come amid a surge in demand for the scheme, which will see the government take stakes in British startups that struggle to repay loans due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Future Fund offers convertible government loans worth between £125,000 and £5m to companies that have previously raised at least £250,000 of equity investments. Those loans are matched pound-for-pound by private investors, but the government debt will convert to equity if the loans are not repaid.

The fund is meant to help startups, in sectors like tech and life sciences, that may have otherwise struggled to survive, let alone grow, throughout the coronavirus crisis.

The government initially committed £250m in loans as part of a £500m fund that was equally shouldered by private investors. However, the government has now approved £320m worth of future fund loans to more than 320 early-stage firms.

The Treasury has not confirmed whether there is a cap for the expanded fund, which originally launched on 20 May.

Business secretary Alok Sharma said: “As we restart our economy, it is crucial that our innovators and risk-takers get all the support they need to flourish.

“Our decision to relax this rule recognises the importance of many of the UK’s most cutting-edge startups as we bounce back from coronavirus.”

Unlike other government programmes, such as the bounce back loan scheme (BBLS) and the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS), Future Fund loans are distributed by the state-owned British Business Bank rather than high street lenders.

Figures released on Tuesday showed that the trio of government-backed loan schemes led by commercial banks – covering BBLS, CBILS and the scheme for larger businesses known as CLBILS – hit a milestone, with more than 1m firms granted emergency funding so far.

Government data showed that banks had approved more than 1m loans worth £42.9bn as of 28 June. More than 1.3m businesses have applied.

By Kalyeena Makortoff

Coronavirus: Eased travel restrictions see holiday bookings ‘explode’

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 29th June 2020) London, Uk – –

Travel companies say holiday bookings have “exploded” after the government announced current restrictions will be eased.

Ministers said from 6 July, blanket restrictions on non-essential overseas travel will be relaxed in the UK.

Holidaymakers will be allowed to travel to certain European countries without having to spend 14 days in quarantine upon their return.

A spokesperson for TUI said the move was a “hugely positive step forward”.

“We've already seen bookings increase by 50% this week, versus last [week], with holidays to Spain and Greece looking the most popular this summer,” said Andrew Flintham, managing director of TUI UK and Ireland.

Lastminute.com said it experienced an 80% increase on holiday sales compared to last week, largely attributed to the announcement of Spain lifting the quarantine for Brits.

The list of travel corridors with the UK is due to be published next week and is expected to include Spain, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Turkey, Germany and Norway – but not Portugal or Sweden.

It comes as it was announced a further 100 people had died from the virus in the UK, with a further 890 people testing positive, as of 27 June.

‘Traffic light system'

John Keefe, director of public affairs at Eurotunnel, said phones had been “ringing off the hook”.

Eurotunnel saw an increase of bookings weeks ago, suggesting that many holidaymakers had already started to “discount the quarantine measures”, said Mr Keefe – but bookings “exploded” when the announcement was made on Friday.

Foreign Office advice against all but essential international travel has been in place since 17 March.

Under the new rules, a traffic light system will be introduced – with countries classified as green, amber or red depending on the prevalence of coronavirus. The UK is likely to discuss arrangements with countries over the coming days.

A government spokesman said measures would give people “the opportunity for a summer holiday abroad” while also boosting the UK economy – but stressed the relaxation depended on risks staying low.

The government said it “wouldn't hesitate to put on the brakes” if the situation changes.

While the UK government is responsible for border controls, the Scottish and Welsh governments say that public health and the response to the pandemic are devolved matters.

Both warned they had yet to decide to implement the measures.

Ministers in Scotland said it was “disappointing” that the announcement was made before all four UK nations held discussions.

Tourism businesses in Wales are not due to reopen until 13 July, a week after the travel restrictions are due to ease elsewhere.

In a statement, it said: “The Welsh Government continues to explore the UK Government's proposals for Air Bridges and awaits confirmation of a four-nation ministerial meeting to discuss the issue further.”

Portugal has seen a rise in the number of new cases in and around Lisbon recently, while Sweden is also unlikely to be on the list because the infection rate there is higher than in the UK. They are both likely to be classified as red.

But the government spokesman conceded there would be nothing to stop someone avoiding quarantine by flying into a Spanish airport, driving over the border into Portugal for their holiday and returning by the same route.

UK travellers will still have to hand over the address they plan to stay at on their return from abroad, no matter which country they are coming back from. And they will also be legally required to wear face coverings on planes and ferries.

How do holidaymakers feel?

Jon San Jose, 38, will be travelling to Spain with his wife and two young children in August to celebrate his mother-in-law's 60th birthday.

To minimise risks, they have decided to take the Eurotunnel to France and then drive to Alicante, Spain, where they will be joined in a villa by the rest of the extended family.

Jon and his wife Karleen welcomed the government announcement, after having doubts the birthday celebration would still go ahead, and said they are doing all they can to limit risks.

“We probably won't eat out more than once or twice,” said Jon. “We're probably going to stay in the villa for most of the time. If anything it will be less risk going there than staying [in the UK] at the moment.”

Portugal's Secretary of State for Tourism Rita Baptista Marques told BBC Breakfast her country had been named the most secure destination in Europe by the World Tourism and Travel Council and is a “clean and safe destination”.

She added that the situation is “completely under control”, with significant testing being carried out.

But Greece's Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis suggested that it could be up to three weeks before the country is happy to open up an air bridge to the UK, as discussions with health experts are continuing.

Spain lifted its state of emergency last Sunday, reopening its borders to visitors from most of Europe and allowing British tourists to enter the country without having to quarantine.

Travel industry group ABTA said the travel sector “eagerly” anticipates confirmation of the list of countries, which “should encourage customers to book”.

“The blanket Foreign Office advice against all but essential travel is still a major impediment to travel, however, and we look forward to the government adopting a similar risk-based approach to that advice,” it said in a statement.

The UK introduced rules requiring all people arriving in the UK to self-isolate for 14 days on 8 June. It was widely criticised by the travel industry and MPs of all parties.

What are the current quarantine rules?

  • People arriving in the UK should drive their own car to their destination, where possible, and once there they must not use public transport or taxis
  • Arrivals must not go to work, school, or public areas, or have visitors – except for essential support. They are also not allowed to go out to buy food, or other essentials, where they can rely on others
  • Those arriving in England, Wales and Northern Ireland could face a fine of £1,000 if they fail to self-isolate for the full 14 days, while they face a £480 fine in Scotland. The maximum fine for repeat offenders in Scotland is £5,000

“Our new risk-assessment system will enable us to carefully open a number of safe travel routes around the world – giving people the opportunity for a summer holiday abroad and boosting the UK economy through tourism and business,” said a government spokesman.

“But we will not hesitate to put on the brakes if any risks re-emerge.”

Coronavirus: These are the new rules businesses must implement to reopen

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 24th June 2020) London, Uk – –

Businesses will have to work with each other and transport operators to ensure there is no crowding on streets.

Pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, hotels and historic sites will have to keep customers' details for 21 days under plans to limit the spread of coronavirus.

New guidance for England has been issued to businesses that are allowed to reopen from 4 July so they remain “COVID secure” as lockdown rules are relaxed.

The guidance includes advice on Boris Johnson's reduction of the two-metre rule to one metre if two is not viable – but only with “risk mitigation” such as face masks.

The government has provided advice for four different types of businesses: restaurants, pubs and bars, “close contact services” such as hairdressers, spas and tailors, hotels, and “heritage locations” such as churches and historic houses.

All of them must keep a temporary record of customers for 21 days and help NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed.

Restaurants, bars, pubs and takeaways:

  • Businesses in the same area need to consider the “cumulative impact” of many venues re-opening by working together, with local authorities and travel operators to assess the risk and apply “additional mitigations”
  • This could include further lowering capacity, staggering entry times to avoid queues, arranging one-way travel routes between transport hubs and venues, advising patrons to avoid particularly crowded forms of transport or routes
  • Plan for social distancing in the event of adverse weather conditions
  • Ensure customers do not need to “unduly” raise their voices to hear each other by not playing loud music or TV
  • Reducing number of surfaces touched by staff and customers – so ordering food and drinks directly to the table instead of at the counter.

Close contact services (hairdressers, beauty salons, tattoo studios, spas, massage therapy and tailors):

  • Place markings on the floor to show people where to sit
  • Encourage customers to turn up to appointments exactly on time, and on their own, so they do not congregate in waiting areas
  • If there is a queue this should be outside
  • Customers should be seated away from each other and side to side, with at least one metre between them
  • Till points must have perspex screens while doors and windows are to be kept open to increase ventilation
  • Screens should be used, where practical, to create a barrier between work stations
  • Hairdressers must wear a protective visor that extends below the chin, but do not need to wear a face mask
  • Disposable equipment must be used, and if it cannot then it should be washed between clients
  • Customers can choose to wear a face mask but it is not mandatory, and must wash or sanitise hands when entering
  • They must bring their own drinks, and if not, disposable cups must be used
  • No magazines
  • Music must be turned down low so people do not shout
  • Blow drys are allowed.

Hotels and guest accommodation:

  • Private rooms with en suite bathrooms, or one designated shower per guest room, can reopen
  • Outdoor accommodation, such as campsites, can reopen with shared shower facilities if clear use and cleaning guidance is provided but all other shared facilities should be closed
  • Reception areas must be cleaned more and screens placed in between guests and staff
  • Minimise lift usage, drop off room service outside and encourage tips to be added to the bill
  • Housekeeping staff must following handwashing guidance and make a checklist of all hand contact surfaces to be cleaned
  • Guests should be encouraged to wear masks in corridors
  • Clean keys and key cards between guests
  • Make staff accessible via phone, emails and guest apps and encourage contactless payment or pre-payment
  • Business events at hotels are not allowed.

Heritage locations (historic buildings, monuments, sites, parks, gardens):

  • Introduce a pre-booking system, stagger entry times and ensure new guidance is summarised clearly for guests at the entrance
  • Arrange one-way travel routes between transport and the location, as well as in venues if social distancing is an issue
  • Encourage visitors to avoid handling products while browsing
  • Visitors who do not observe social distancing and hand washing measures should be refused services or entry
  • Restrict numbers to avoid overcrowding and limit tour numbers to avoid guides shouting
  • Find out the best way to regularly clean surfaces, this may be difficult for sensitive historic surfaces so they may have to be covered or rooms closed
  • Have temporary markings to stop overcrowding, taking into consideration any possible lasting damage on historic surfaces – free standing signs are best
  • Clean toilets more and have a visible cleaning schedule
  • Clean audio guides between uses
  • Stop repair work if there is no way to social distance
  • Give volunteers extra time to get up to speed with new ways of working
  • No indoor performances
  • Guided tours may have to be stopped if building layout cannot accommodate social distancing
  • Have a test run of new arrangements to make people feel safe and welcome.

Will Rishi Sunak cut shop prices to boost the High Street?

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 22nd June 2020) London, Uk – –

“Timely, temporary and targeted” was the advice given to the Treasury Select Committee on stimulating the economy by the former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers in the depths of the 2008 financial crisis.

These words found their way into the pre-Budget documents to describe the immediate 13-month VAT cut from 17.5% to 15% announced by then Chancellor Alistair Darling.

The same phrase was used by current Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his Budget in March to describe the first steps in pandemic support packages. And, following Germany's temporary 3% cut in VAT, the prospect of a similar tax cut is again up for discussion in the UK.

The policy is certainly timely, because it can be enacted with immediate effect. And because it is reversible, it serves as a temporary stimulus.

Stimulus

In 2008, it was argued that a general VAT cut was targeted because it was aimed at supporting consumer confidence. But that is far more debatable. It certainly was expensive, though. The upfront cost was £13bn over two years, amount to half of the Darling stimulus package.

Most of this shifted spending in time into the cheaper VAT period. The net impact? A 1% increase in retail sales, just shy of the 0.5% overall boost to consumers predicted by the Treasury at the time, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The argument floating around government earlier in the month was that there was little point in stimulating shops, restaurants and pubs that were not open. Physically enabling trade would be a prerequisite.

The thinking in Germany was to incentivise spending and consumer confidence as soon as retail reopened, rather than see those who could not physically spend during lockdown, and were so forced to save, choosing to maintain high savings.

Consumer confidence

The point about the temporary cut is to get money flowing in the economy quickly. It has some interesting quirks as a policy. Back in late 2008, 43% of local shops only changed their prices at the till, leaving shelf prices unchanged. It is a considerable logistical cost to do so.

However, the impact on consumer confidence was marked. There was a significant rise in sentiment towards both buying household goods and making major purchases, according to the Nationwide consumer confidence survey.

The major purchases index went above boom time levels and continued even after VAT went back up, but then fell sharply when VAT was increased again under the Coalition in January 2011.

The considerations here are whether the Treasury chooses to make this truly targeted on particular sectors – such as pubs and restaurants, rather than pass further boost to say mainly online retailers.

The cost may be less than normal, too, given VAT revenues are in any case going to be sharply down. But it is still pricey.

Also, it is unclear how much additional difference a 2.5% cut in prices will really achieve on top of already anticipated reopening sales and price cuts?

Wherever things go, a clear decision will be needed quickly. Speculating that VAT will be cut in the near future will simply serve to delay purchases, as consumers wait for an anticipated saving.

By Faisal Islam

Consumer numbers up 45% as high streets shops reopened in England

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Mon, 22nd June 2020) London, Uk – –

Footfall down 54% compared with 2019, but uplift expected when Scotland and Wales reopens

Shoppers flocked back to the high streets in England over the past week as non-essential stores reopened but numbers remained well down on a year earlier, according to the latest survey of retail footfall.

Springboard, a company that measures the number of potential customers at retail outlets across the UK, found that footfall in the week starting 15 June was up 45% on the previous week.

But with numbers influenced by later reopenings in Scotland and Wales, restrictions on public transport and a shift to online shopping, footfall was down 54% on the same week in 2019.

Footfall indicates the number of people going to high street stores, shopping centres and retail parks and is not a measure of how much each consumer spends. Numbers were at their weakest during April, when they were down 80% year on year, but Springboard said reopening non-essential stores in England had resulted in the biggest change since the start of the lockdown in late March.

There were smaller weekly increases of 11.5% in Scotland and 8.5% in Wales, with Scotland not due to open non-essential stores – excluding those in shopping centres – until the end of the month and Wales only opening its non-essential shops on Monday.

Footfall in London’s West End remained severely affected by a lack of international visitors to the UK and the difficulties in accessing public transport. Footfall in the West End last week was down 81% on the same week a year earlier, while in Scotland and Wales the year-on-year falls were 67% and 69% respectively.

Diane Wehrle, the insights director at Springboard, said: “The overall result for the UK was subdued by Scotland and Wales where retail reopening is yet to happen.

“We anticipate an additional uplift to come when retail in these areas of the UK also reopens and the hospitality and entertainment industry is given the green light to resume trading in the coming weeks.”

Springboard, which records 70m footfall counts a week at 4,500 counting points across 480 different shopping sites across the UK, said activity had risen by more than 30% each day from the same day in the week before, apart from on Thursday, when the rise was limited to 25% by heavy rain.

UK officials in talks with a number of European countries over relaxed quarantine rules

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 19th June 2020) London, Uk – –

The government is planning to relax its travel quarantine rules in early July for some countries.

Talks are taking place between UK officials and those in a number of European countries, including Portugal.

However, the UK hopes to make an announcement on 29 June that it has secured a number of “travel corridors”.

The government had previously said that the quarantine would be reviewed every three weeks and 29 June marks the end of the first three-week period.

A travel corridor would mean that two people travelling in both directions between two countries would not have to self-isolate after they travel.

A senior aviation source has told the BBC that the quarantine could remain throughout the summer for anyone arriving from countries which do not have a travel corridor with the UK.

Portugal's foreign minister previously said that anyone in the UK thinking of going to Portugal this summer would be “most welcome” despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Augusto Santos Silva said he hoped an “air bridge” between the UK and Portugal could be secured by the end of June.

However, the broader travel quarantine is expected to remain in place.

What are the new rules?

  • People arriving in the UK should drive their own car to their destination, where possible, and once there they must not use public transport or taxis
  • Arrivals must not go to work, school, or public areas, or have visitors – except for essential support. They are also not allowed to go out to buy food, or other essentials, where they can rely on others
  • Those arriving in England, Wales and Northern Ireland could face a fine of £1,000 if they fail to self-isolate for the full 14 days, while they face a £480 fine in Scotland. The maximum fine for repeat offenders in Scotland is £5,000.

Anyone arriving from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man does not have to complete a form or enter quarantine upon arrival in the UK.

There are also exemptions for workers in some industries such as road haulage and medical professionals who are providing essential care.

The travel industry has been vocal in its criticism of the government's quarantine rules, warning that the isolation period will deter visitors and put jobs at risk. Some airlines were in the early stages of legal action.

The manufacturing industry has also highlighted that fewer flights will restrict imports and exports, which will have a knock-on effect for the freight industry, as well as hampering the recovery of some businesses.

Despite criticism from businesses, Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the measures were “proportionate” and being implemented “at the right time” when they came into effect on 8 June.

By Tom Burridge, Transport correspondent

UK debt now larger than size of whole economy after government borrowed a record amount in May

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 19th June 2020) London, Uk – –

The UK's debt is now worth more than its economy after the government borrowed a record amount in May.

The £55.2bn figure was nine times higher than in May last year and the highest since records began in 1993.

The borrowing splurge sent total government debt surging to £1.95trn, exceeding the size of the economy for the first time in more than 50 years.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the figures confirmed the severe impact the virus was having on public finances.

“The best way to restore our public finances to a more sustainable footing is to safely reopen our economy so people can return to work.

“We've set out our plan to do this in a gradual and safe fashion, including reopening high streets across the country this week, as we kickstart our economic recovery,” he added.

Income from tax, National Insurance and VAT all dived in May amid the coronavirus lockdown as spending on support measures soared.

This is the first time debt has been larger than the size of the economy since 1963, but it is not as high as the post-war peak of 258% in 1946-47.

Record high

The deficit – the difference between spending and tax income – for the first two months of the financial year (April and May) is now estimated to have been £103.7bn, £87bn more than in the same period last year, another record.

But the ONS estimates borrowing for the 2020-21 financial year will dwarf that at £298bn. That would be the largest deficit since World War Two.

It cautioned that due to the coronavirus, its official estimates were subject to greater than usual uncertainty.

The Office for National Statistics had previously said that April's borrowing figure was the highest since records began in 1993, but it subsequently revised the figure down to £48.5bn from £62bn.

The revision was due to higher than expected income from taxes and national insurance, as well as the spending on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme being lower than originally estimated.

Alex Tuckett, senior economist at consultants PwC, pointed to the 46% fall in the amount of VAT collected in the month, although it said the biggest issue for the government's finances was the £29bn it spent on the various support schemes for the economy.

“In the near term, there are signs the economy is recovering as the country re-opens, and this should boost tax receipts.

“However, these figures remind us that Chancellor Rishi Sunak faces a difficult backdrop to any summer fiscal event.”

Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Economics said the emergency support measures had placed a “colossal burden” on the public finances.

In a release packed with striking figures, he singled out the fact the government had needed to raise more cash in the first two months of this fiscal year than in total in any prior 10 fiscal years.

Analysis: By Dharshini David

Busting the overdraft, with a borrowing figure nine times as high as a year ago is not an easy thing for any government to swallow. In his first full year as Chancellor, Rishi Sunak is on track for the biggest public sector deficit since World War Two,

But it is, he reckons, a price worth paying to prevent a bigger cost to the economy, in terms of lost jobs and output. Billions have been pumped into supporting millions of jobs, and many businesses, while, on the other side, tax receipts have plunged. Those lifelines will be wound down in the coming months, and the government can borrow cheaply on financial markets to fund them.

But what happens next? As lockdown is eased, the Treasury is watching closely, knowing the recovery may need extra support – perhaps tax cuts or more spending. That will present the government with more bills – but failing to provide more help risks an even higher cost.

The chancellor is to present some sort of statement before Parliament ceases for the summer in July – that won't be a full Budget but may contain some measures to boost the recovery. The tough choices aren't over yet.

DPD and Kingfisher to hire 7,500 UK staff as online shopping soars

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 18th June 2020) London, Uk – –

Delivery firm and owner of B&Q expand to deal with boom in online buying in lockdown

The delivery firm DPD and the B&Q owner Kingfisher are hiring a total of more than 7,500 staff in the UK to cope with surging demand for home deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic.

DPD is to hire 6,000 workers, including HGV drivers, warehouse staff, managers and support staff such as mechanics as part of a £200m investment in expanding its next-day parcel-delivery service.

The logistics firm, which handles parcels for Marks & Spencer and Asos and has also been delivering food boxes for the supermarket chain Morrisons since the high street lockdown began in March, is spending £100m on new vehicles and setting up 15 new regional depots, 10 more than planned for this year.

Dwain McDonald, DPD’s chief executive, said: “We are experiencing the biggest boom in online retailing in the UK’s history.” He said that demand was increasing from existing retail customers and from new clients developing home delivery services so that they could continue trading during lockdown.

Meanwhile, Kingfisher, the owner of B&Q and Screwfix, said it would be taking on 3,000 to 4,000 workers, about half of whom would be in the UK, after online sales soared more than 200% in April and May.

Thierry Garnier, the chief executive of Kingfisher, said staff would be working in stores that are being used to process online orders. He said demand for DIY goods had surged while families had been stuck at home but admitted trade may slow as the economic downturn hits jobs. “These are temporary roles across the summer but we will continue to watch what happens,” he said.

Online sales in the UK, not including food, rose by a third in May, according to the digital retail body IMRG, after a rise of nearly a quarter in April.

The lockdown has prompted particularly strong sales of home, gardening and electrical goods. Garden sales rose 288% in April and more than 162% in May compared with last year, while electrical sales doubled and homewares rose 84%.

Online clothing and footwear sales dived, however, falling by nearly a quarter and a third respectively in March and April and continuing to drop in May.

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, said retailers had been coping with a surge in demand similar to the peak trading periods of Christmas and Black Friday but with a skeleton staff – partly because of the need for physical distancing in warehouses. He said the drop in demand for clothing and footwear – usually a very significant part of the non-food market – had meant some resources could be diverted to manage demand from other sectors.Advertisement

Mulcahy said about two-thirds of the websites IMRG monitored were warning customers that there would be delays with deliveries. “They don’t have enough staff to deal with this,” he said.

By Sarah Butler

Coronavirus: UK abandoning existing contact-tracing app to move to Google-Apple model

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 18th June 2020) London, Uk – –

The move marks a huge U-turn from the government which has asserted for months that it would not be changing the app's model.

The UK is abandoning its existing contact-tracing app and switching to the technology provided by Google and Apple, Sky News has confirmed.

The news will be announced at a briefing later today.

The move marks a major U-turn, after the government insisted its own centralised model was more effective than the model being proposed by the technology companies.Contact tracing apps explained: The problems and potential

In particular the government believed that by holding the data on contacts in a centralised manner they would have been able to develop valuable epidemiological data about how the virus is spreading.

The centralised model would also have helped prevent against people causing mischief with the system by giving the authorities an edge in detecting false positives.

Google and Apple collaborated to allow mobile devices to use Bluetooth in the background and register when they come within close proximity of another mobile phone.

But the collaboration required health authorities' apps to utilise a decentralised model of data storage – keeping the list of contacts on each device, rather than uploading it to a central authority – which they said would protect users' privacy.

As the iOS and Android mobile operating systems are run on 99% of the world's smartphones, the companies' technical designs have a fundamental say in how contact-tracing apps work.

For months the government had asserted that its app, designed outside of the requirements set by Apple and Google, would be more effective than what could be achieved within those requirements.

Despite being initially promised for mid-May, a health minister has now said the app would not be ready before Winter.

Lord Bethell confirmed the government still planned to introduce a contact-tracing app, describing it as “a really important option for the future”.

The app has been the subject of a trial on the Isle of Wight, where the Department of Health says it has been downloaded by 54,000 people.

Lord Bethell said the trial had been a success, but admitted that one of its principal lessons had been that greater emphasis needed to be placed on manual contact tracing.

“It was a reminder that you can't take a totally technical answer to the problem,” he said.

Problems with manual contact tracing have been apparent in NHS statistics which today revealed that at least a quarter of people who test positive for COVID-19 in the UK are being missed.

UK banks told to prepare for pandemic debt pile

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 16th June2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British banks need to accelerate preparations for dealing with businesses unable to repay money borrowed to bridge the coronavirus pandemic, the national financial sector regulator said on Tuesday.

Over 800,000 businesses have taken out state-backed loans worth around 34 billion pounds under schemes introduced by the government as lockdowns forced companies to shutter temporarily.

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Chair Charles Randell said some of the debt incurred will turn out to be unaffordable and will need to be tackled fast to avoid dragging on recovery.

“Lenders will need to scale their arrears-handling functions quickly, and invest in training and controls,” Randell told an online meeting with the chairs of Britain’s banks.

“There needs to be an appropriate dispute resolution system, and we are working with the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Business Banking Resolution Service to ensure that there is capacity to deal with the volumes we may see.”

Banks were criticised for being slow initially in building up capacity to dole out loans, sparking complaints from small companies struggling to stay afloat.

“We can’t allow this to become a replay of the 2008 crisis where the treatment of some small business borrowers did such serious damage to people and to trust in financial services,” Randell said.

The pandemic’s impact on markets has added to questions about the value of some high cost and risky investment products, including those sold through “long and expensive distribution chains”, he said.

“We will be saying more about the issue of high risk investments in the near future.”

There is also a need to “redesign the system” so that “polluting firms” that break the rules pay for the consequences, rather than being mutualised across the industry, he said.

Reporting by Huw Jones

Covid lockdown saw 612,000 UK workers lose their jobs

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Tue, 16th June 2020) London, Uk – –

The number of people on company payrolls takes another sharp fall in May but the rate of decline eases on the previous month.

Early estimates suggest 163,000 people lost their jobs in May, on top of 449,000 the previous month, as the coronavirus crisis lockdown took its toll on the UK economy.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) data covering the number of paid employees showed a fall of 2% since the country entered effective hibernation in March.

It released the experimental data as its own figures showed a leap in the so-called claimant count – jobless claims applications through Universal Credit.

The ONS recorded a rise of 528,000 – or 23% – last month to 2.8 million.

It meant the total had risen by 1.6 million since March.

The figures will make grim reading for the government which has, up until last weekend, spent £59bn propping up businesses through various support schemes and paying wages to furloughed workers.

Bounce Back Loans continued to account for the bulk of corporate borrowing at £26bn – with almost 864,000 businesses helped to date.

Separate HMRC figures, released on Tuesday, showed there were 9.1 million people getting 80% of their monthly wages from the Treasury at a cost of £20.8bn so far.

The ONS said its data demonstrated the impact the Job Retention Scheme had inflicted on workforce output.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics, said: “The slowdown in the economy is now visibly hitting the labour market, especially in terms of hours worked.

“Early indicators for May show that the number of employees on payrolls were down over 600,000 compared with March.

“The claimant count was up again, though not all of these people are necessarily unemployed,” he said.

Wider ONS figures, covering the three months to April, suggested the jobless rate remained at 3.9% as the furlough scheme got in to gear.

Economists had expected to see a surge to 4.7%.

The ONS reported the steepest quarterly decrease in vacancies on record of 342,000 to 476,000 in the period while total pay, when bonuses were included, fell in real terms for the first time since January 2018 – down by 0.4% after inflation.

The statistics body suggested that it remained to be seen whether surging Universal Credit claims and evidence of plunging payrolls would translate into actual jobs lost when official data, covering May, is released next month.

Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, said: “These numbers show that unless the Government acts, the UK is likely to face mass unemployment on a scale not seen for decades once the furlough scheme is withdrawn.”

Minister for employment, Mims Davies, responded: “Today's figures are starting to show the impact of COVID-19 on our economy, but our furlough scheme, grants, loans and tax cuts have protected thousands of businesses and millions of jobs, setting us up for recovery.

“Already our nationwide network of Work Coaches have moved in to support jobseekers across sectors and match them with employers who are recruiting.”

Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, said: “The headline figures may not show it, but a lot has changed since April – with the claimant count rising to 2.8 million, the unemployment rate is likely to be much higher than 3.9% now.

“But with the lockdown being eased and the economy opening up, hiring should grow.”

Winding down of furlough scheme risks flood of unemployment – by Paul Kelso, business correspondent

On every metric except the headline unemployment figure, which lags behind events, the figures are grim.

Already, despite the government furlough scheme paying the wages of almost nine million people, around 600,000 workers have been removed from payrolls – likely made unemployed.

The number of benefit claimants, those claiming Universal Credit or Jobseekers Allowance, not all of whom will be out of world, has more than doubled, increasing by 1.6 million since March to 2.8 million.

Total hours worked saw a record annual fall between February and April 2020, decreasing by almost 9%.

And vacancies, a measure of how easy it might be to find work, continued to slide, with the March total of 476,000 down 342,000 than in the three months to February 2020, the largest quarterly decrease since current records began in 2001.

The only thing holding up the jobs market is a wall of government support, built with the intention of allowing economic activity to recover before it is dismantled.

But when the furlough scheme is withdrawn, starting in July when employers will have to start contributing, the trickle may become a flood.

And if the wave breaks unchecked, it may devastate prospects for a generation.

By James Sillars

Shops Reopen in England After Three Months Lockdown

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 15th June 2020) London, Uk – –

Pent-up demand has prompted queues at some shops as rules are relaxed in England after a three month lockdown.

Long queues were reported outside Primark shops in London and Birmingham ahead of their 8am opening time.

The chain, which like other clothing shops has been closed since 23 March, does not offer online shopping meaning customers can only buy in the store.

All shops in England are allowed to open, although retailers have had to introduce strict safety measures.

Jaydee Darrock, from Warwickshire, was one of the first inside Primark's Birmingham store after queuing from about 07:00. She described it as “surprisingly calm”.

“We thought it would be chaotic, it's not, it's quite nice,” she said.

In Manchester, people waited for almost an hour for some shops. Big queues formed outside Primark,TK Maxx and Foot Locker.

Although food shops, pharmacies, banks and other essential retailers have stayed open, vast swathes of the High Street, from bookshops to clothes outlets, have been closed since 23 March.

What are people shopping for?

Shantel Brown, 35, was shopping in Milton Keynes with her daughter Tee, who is 16.

Shantel said: “I bought nightwear and baby clothes because Primark was open. I'm pregnant and I've been waiting to get some baby stuff.

“Everyone keeps their distance. They've got sanitiser at the entrance. As long as we've got our masks on we're fine.”

Tee added: “I bought tops, shorts and summer clothes. I came because Mum forced me.”

Greg Dulson, 68, was shopping for a new watch strap.

“The strap on my favourite watch broke and I brought it in to the watchmaker's the day before lockdown,” he said.

“They said come back tomorrow, but it was closed!”

Katie Kirby, who is 18, from Windsor, was shopping with 21-year-old her boyfriend Zac Hopkins.

“I bought a jumpsuit because Primark was open and the weather's getting better again,” said Katie. “I did go just to get some essentials like pants and socks, but I when I saw the jumpsuit I had to treat myself because the shops haven't been open for so long.”

“We do keep out distance in the store. We thought it would be a different shopping experience but once we were in there it was just the same.”

Zac Hopkins added: “I bought a skipping rope, so I can do some exercise at home.”

‘It's rather normal'

Business reporter Vivienne Nunis in Milton Keynes

There were socially distant queues outside Zara, Primark and TK Maxx this morning and a steady crowd of shoppers are now browsing in the centre. Lots of young people are here, mothers with strollers and some older shoppers too. Some people are wearing masks, but not many.

Lots of stores remain closed and all the lights are off in the locked cafes and fast-food restaurants.

The shoppers say they're glad they came. Many are here for a quick visit only, leaving soon after they've got hold of what they wanted: baby clothes or summer sandals. One man came to pick up a watch that he brought in to be fixed the day before lockdown. Others are leaving stores with their arms loaded with bags – they came expecting bargains and they've found them.

The shoppers are mostly sticking to the new rules and staying socially distant – when they remember. Floor markings indicate a one-way system, every second toilet cubicle is closed, touch-screen maps have been powered down and seating areas are roped off. But apart from those changes – and a growing queue outside Primark – everything feels rather normal.

HMV owner Doug Putman told the BBC's Today programme that he expected a rush in the first week of trading after his shops open their doors. But he said retailers could be faced with a problem if shoppers do not return in the same numbers as before the lockdown.

“If you've got the same cost structure to run the business but sales are down even 20% it makes a lot of companies unviable.”

“We're being very hesitant, we believe that it is going to be a tough year.”

Retailers are required to introduce plastic screens at the tills and floor markings to keep shoppers two metres (6ft 5ins) apart – measures that are already a regular fixture in supermarkets.

Other measures will include pleas not to touch items unless customers intend to purchase them and decontaminating shopping baskets after each use. Retailers are promising there will be plenty of sanitiser on hand for customers. Toilets will remain closed in Primark's shops but facilities in other stores, including John Lewis and Selfridges, will be open.

In most clothes shops, fitting rooms will be closed. Bookshops including Waterstones intend to put items in quarantine if browsed but not bought, while some jewellers are introducing ultraviolet boxes that can decontaminate items in minutes.

Government guidance suggests shops put some items aside if they have been extensively handled by customers.

Not all stores will throw open their doors immediately. John Lewis will reopen just two outlets on Monday – in Kingston upon Thames and Poole – as part of a phased approach, with 11 others to follow on Thursday.

Major High Street chains start to unlock

  • John Lewis will start by opening 13 branches in stages
  • Next will reopen just 25 of its 500 stores at first
  • Debenhams will reopen 50 stores in England and three in Northern Ireland
  • Marks and Spencer will open all its shops in England and Northern Ireland
  • JD Sports is reopening all 309 of its stores in England
  • Primark is reopening all 153 of its stores in England
  • Argos, which has kept outlets in Sainsbury's stores open, will reopen 145 standalone stores for click and collect
  • Topshop is reopening all its stores in England and selected ones in Northern Ireland
  • Music retailer HMV is reopening 93 of its 113 stores
  • Currys PC World is reopening 131 of its outlets

Some other retailers selling products classed as essential – such as DIY, furniture and bicycles – have also been reopening. Furniture giant Ikea opened 19 of its stores across England and Northern Ireland recently, prompting long queues.

Many stores are encouraging customers to make purchases by contactless card payments, with limits increased to £45. Arcadia, which owns the likes of Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins, has said it will not accept cash.

London's West End, which includes Oxford Street, is expecting about 80% fewer visitors when it reopens on Monday.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), the trade body representing the sector, warned that the unlocking was unlikely to provide any immediate boost for the sector. It wants the government to help stimulate demand with a short-term cut in VAT or a temporary income tax cut for lower-income workers.

Zoos, safari parks and drive-in cinemas were also allowed to open from Monday.

On Monday morning, queues formed outside London Zoo, which has reported financial struggles during the pandemic.

In Northern Ireland, non-essential shops reopened on Friday, but there is still no date for Wales and Scotland.

In England, pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, hotels and cinemas will not be allowed to open their doors until 4 July at the earliest – and even then, only if they can meet social distancing measures.

Key to a successful reopening of the economy is the two-metre social distancing rule, the hospitality industry says. Pubs and restaurants have warned that they cannot make money if customers are required to keep two-metres apart, and have urged that the distance limit be reduced to one metre.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has commissioned a review into two-metre distancing, saying there was “margin for manoeuvre” as the number of coronavirus cases falls.

The government is under intense pressure to get the economy moving as fears grow of a new wave of job losses as furlough scheme that has supported eight million workers is wound down.

UK likely to be the hardest-hit by Covid-19, among major economies says OECD

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 10th June 2020) London, Uk – –

The UK is likely to be the hardest-hit by Covid-19 among major economies, a leading agency has warned.

Britain's economy is likely to slump by 11.5% in 2020, slightly outstripping falls in countries such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy, it said.

If there were a second peak in the pandemic, the UK economy could contract by 14%.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development described the impact as “dire” everywhere.

It said that in what it called a “single-hit scenario”, with no second peak, there could be contractions of 11.4% in France, 11.1% in Spain, 11.3% in Italy and 6.6% in Germany.

In its latest assessment, the OECD found that the trade, tourism, and hospitality sectors, which make up large parts of the UK's service-based economy, have suffered under lockdown restrictions introduced by the government.

In response to the think tank's report, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the UK was not the only one to suffer: “In common with many other economies around the world, we're seeing the significant impact of coronavirus on our country and our economy.

“The unprecedented action we've taken to provide lifelines that help people and businesses through the economic disruption will ensure our economic recovery is as strong and as swift as possible.”

Global impactThe Paris-based organisation says that five years or more of income growth could be lost in many countries as a result of the pandemic.

The OECD has looked at two scenarios for how the pandemic might unfold.

In the more severe case, the global economy could shrink by 7.6% over this year.

Although the report says that the pandemic has started to recede in many countries, and activity has begun to pick up, it does not expect a convincing recovery. It sees the outlook for public health as extremely uncertain and that is reflected in the decision to assess two alternative scenarios.

In the more moderate scenario, the virus continues to gradually recede. In the alternative, there is a second wave of contagion which erupts later in 2020.

The report describes both outlooks as sobering. In neither can economic activity return to normal within the period the OECD considers. The deep recession now underway will be followed by a slow recovery.

In the gloomier of the two possibilities, the decline this year could be very severe.

In that scenario two countries – France and Spain – would suffer even deeper declines in economic activity than the UK this year.

That 7.6% global forecast is significantly worse than what was foreseen by other agencies – such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank – who have warned about the high level of uncertainty attached to their forecasts.

By the end of 2021, the report says that five or more years of income growth could be lost in many countries. It says the impact on livelihoods will be especially severe among the most vulnerable groups.

The OECD also says the pandemic has accelerated the shift from what it calls “great integration” to “great fragmentation”. That is essentially a setback for globalisation, reflected in additional trade and investment restrictions and many borders that are closed at least while the health crisis persists.

Travellers arriving in the UK must self-isolate for 14 days from today

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 8th June 2020) London, Uk – –

The home secretary insists the measures are “backed by the science” and is “essential” to save lives.

Travellers arriving in the UK must self-isolate for 14 days from today under new rules being described by some airlines as “unlawful” and “ineffective”.

British Airways has begun legal proceedings after sending a pre-action letter, which is the first stage in a judicial review, to ministers on Friday.

Backed by Ryanair and EasyJet, a statement released by all three airlines said: “These measures are disproportionate and unfair on British citizens as well as international visitors arriving in the UK.

“We urge the UK govt to remove this ineffective visitor quarantine which will have a devastating effect on UK's tourism industry and will destroy (even more) thousands of jobs in this unprecedented crisis.”

The quarantine rules mean all passengers – bar a handful of exemptions – will have to fill out an online locator form giving their contact and travel details and the address of where they will isolate.

Regulations for England include fixed penalty notices of £1,000 or prosecution for anyone who breaches the rules, with police being allowed to use “reasonable force” to make sure people comply.

Border Force officers will carry out checks at the border and may refuse entry to a non-resident foreign national who refuses to comply with the regulations.

But the airlines argue the measures are more stringent than the guidelines applied to people who actually have COVID-19, if you live in Scotland to date the rules will not apply, and it will affect people from countries with lower R rates than the UK.Controversial border plans are ‘essential' to save lives, Patel says

Willie Walsh, the chief executive of BA's owner IAG told Sky News on Friday: “We do believe it is an irrational piece of legislation.”

And the letter, seen by The Sunday Times, argues the restrictions are disproportionate.

It said: “In our view, the government has failed to identify a valid justification for the blanket nature of the regulations, especially given the extremely severe nature of the self-isolation provisions that apply.”How the UK's 14-day travel quarantine will work

Meanwhile, Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said the quarantine rules put a third of the airport's 75,000 workforce at risk.

“I don't want to see that happen. But we'll have to make that decision, within the next couple of weeks.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel has insisted the rule is “backed by the science” and is “essential” to save lives.

“We know they will present difficulties for the tourism industry, but that's why we have an unprecedented package of support, the most comprehensive in the world, for both employees and businesses,” she said.

“But we will all suffer if we get this wrong. That's why it's crucial that we introduce these measures now.”

Ms Patel confirmed the first review of the quarantine measures would take place in the week beginning 28 June, with the government considering “international travel corridors” to allow future quarantine-free travel from destinations deemed safe.

They could be in place for a year, when the legislation expires, unless the government decides to scrap it sooner.

By Ian Collier

UK’s unprecedented slump in the construction industry eases only partially in May – PMI

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 4th June 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – The unprecedented slump in Britain’s construction industry caused by the coronavirus lockdown eased only partially in May, according to a survey that showed that building companies remained downbeat about their future.

The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI rose to 28.9 from April’s record low of 8.2, still a long way below the 50 dividing line for growth and the third-worst reading in the survey’s 23-year history.

A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to a slightly stronger reading of 29.7.

“A gradual restart of work on site helped to alleviate the downturn in total UK construction output during May, but the latest survey highlighted that ongoing business closures and disruptions across the supply chain held back the extent of recovery,” Tim Moore, economics director at IHS Markit, said.

Business expectations in the construction sector were still in the red, in contrast with manufacturing and services companies who are already looking forward to better times, the report showed.

“Survey respondents often commented on the cancellation of new projects and cited concerns that clients would scale back spending through the second half of 2020, especially in areas most exposed to a prolonged economic downturn,” Moore said.

The all-sector PMI, which combines Britain’s construction survey with those for the manufacturing and services sector published earlier this week, rose to 29.9 in May from 13.4 in April.

Reporting by Andy Bruce